Nursing Covers are a curious invention. If you've read many of my breastfeeding articles, you know that I am completely unapologetic about the need of babies and mothers to nurse in public. I don't believe that there should ever be any restrictions on where or how a baby should nurse, regardless of what part of a breast may ever be exposed and to whom.
I would never recommend using a nursing cover simply out of concern for the misguided sensibilities of others – in fact, the more of us that visibly nurse, the more used to it the public-at-large will become. That said, there are some women that simply too modest for their own comfort to nurse in public, especially when their babies are small and still inexperienced, and their newly-milk-filled breasts are still especially large. If nursing women are simply too embarrased or overwhelmed to leave the house, particularly if they are leaning towards giving up breastfeeding because of it, then I'm all over the need for the nursing cover!
This type of personal modesty is what led Jorie Cohn-Wisnefsky to invent the Private Dining Nursing Cover. Now it's not like she invented the nursing cover, shawl or poncho (Private Dining is most accurately a "poncho" style) – you can get them anywhere these days from Target to trendy baby boutiques to handmade varieties at local arts and crafts fairs. But I'll admit, after looking it over, and comparing the features of alternatives, I haven't really seen one that offers quite this combination. So is Private Dining for you?
On the pro side, it's made of a heather gray sweatshirt fabric, with a velboa-type inner edge. It's soft and comfy, and the velboa is nice and absorbent for wiping milk or spit up. It's easy-machine washable on regular settings. When I pulled it out, and from the photos on the Private Dining site, I expected it to look frumpy, but surprisingly, it really doesn't. I think our eyes are so used to seeing "standard heather gray sweatshirt," that it sort of streamlines the poncho aspect. I am pretty small, so it's swimming on me compared to how it might fit others, but I still didn't feel like it was huge or tentlike.
I like the possibilities for using it to nurse in colder weather, when it's sometimes tricky to keep the breasts accessible, but also keep the body warm and unexposed to the elements. The poncho style makes it nice to be able to just draw the whole arms inside to deal with the baby without a whole lot of commotion. I was able to get it on one-handed while holding a fairly small and young baby, and while standing or sitting. The plastic stay in the collar isn't stiff enough to provide a fully hands-free view, but I think with some practice it wouldn't be hard to make it work with minor arm and body adjustments. Finally, I like that it's useful as a floor blanket or blanket wrap for the baby, in addition to, or when you are done with it as a cover-up (which many women are when baby has a larger more in-control head and a confident latch, and women aren't as much experiencing overactive letdowns or needing to change nursing pads).
On the con side, the thing is big. It comes with a nice nylon drawstring sack, but it wouldn't fit inside any diaper bag or purse that I'd want to carry and isn't exactly light either. It's also hot, even just in my reasonably heated house. Here in California, I wouldn't even consider using something like this most of the year. Both of these things could probably be solved with a variety made from a more lightweight fabric. I'd also love to see an organic, unbleached cotton variety, as this is important to many consumers for health and eco-friendly reasons. It also currently only comes in the one color and style. While this no doubt keeps production simpler and less expensive, fabric choice is becoming increasingly important to women as the baby products marketplace offers more and more. You also have to really want the poncho style, as opposed to the common alternative which drapes the front of the body.
Private Dining is primarily available online, but only as best as I can tell, from the inventor's website, with payment via paypal (and as of the writing of this review doesn't appear to accept credit cards). The price of $29.99, which appears to include shipping (it's not entirely clear, but the paypal screen didn't appear to add anything on), seemed high to me at first, but when I looked around it's actually a bit lower than average, especially because you are paying for function and good quality materials, more than just mark up for style and brand name.
Over all, it's a nice, quality product. If I were to use a cover-up, I'd personally need something smaller and more lightweight, but the combined features of this product may outweigh the size for some. It's also nice to support an independent, mom-owned business.
View or purchase Private Dining at www.privatedining4baby.com