Zoe McLellan: ‘I Felt Bad’ About Covering My Son Up While Breastfeeding

06/09/2016 at 03:00 PM ET

Every mom parents differently, but Zoe McLellan is doing it right in regards to what works for her family: She’s choosing her son’s happiness.

The NCIS: New Orleans actress, 41, dished on PEOPLE’s Mom Talk about why she has preferred breastfeeding uncovered to worrying about whether people are looking at her.

“I tried to do the cover, but I felt bad — I didn’t want to cover him up,” she says of breastfeeding son Sebastian, now 2½. “He would move his hands and try and get [the cover] out of the way, and I was like, ‘I think I care more about him than my nipple hanging out.’ ”

Zoe McLellan Mom Talk 1

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McLellan admits not covering up was hard for her because she’s “a little shy about” it even though she respects and admires women who can do it without hesitation. But she got over her reservations quickly when Sebastian wasn’t into the cover.

She also confesses that she just wants her son to “be able to breathe,” and wishes breastfeeding in public wasn’t such a taboo subject.

“I wish it wasn’t so awkward in public because it’s just a beautiful thing,” she says.

“It is beautiful,” agrees Bordertown actress Jacqueline Piñol, 37, who welcomed son Atlas in February with husband Jonny Blu.

“There’s judgment if you breastfeed, but then there’s judgment [if you don’t],” she adds. “It’s like you can’t win, and all you’re trying to do is feed your baby.”

Jen Juneau


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Showing 67 comments

Sally on

Some people just don’t want to or aren’t comfortable seeing breastfeeding in a public place. I’m a mom, and it makes me uncomfortable!

I don’t understand why this is still being debated. Most places have a family room you can use to nurse.

emy on

It makes you uncomfortable Sally ? Turn your head and don’t look !

Madison on

This Mom of three wonders why women want to breastfeed in public. The statement you’re trying to make is stupid. Pick a topic worth fighting about and find somewhere quiet to nurse and spend that quality time with your baby.

Ginger on

I breastfed both of my daughters and didn’t have to uncover myself in public even once. I fed them before we left home, knew how long it would be before they were hungry again, and stayed out that amount of time. With a little planning, it’s not necessary to expose yourself and make other people uncomfortable.

shandy on

Geez ..Cover up ..aint no one wants to see your boob hanging out

KHL on

I breast fed three children and managed to do so without showing my boobs in public. People are trying to make a statement about this right now just like everything else.

Stacey McRae on

Ginger, wish women did it like you. This has become an issue because some women want to make it about whose rights are more important. The law says you can breastfeed in public – the public says cover it up. Why can’t breastfeeding women just do it this way, cover up and live their lives and let everyone else live theirs?

Myriam Francoeur on

@Shandy – except if I’m a VS model and I’m used to turn you on, right? Just look somewhere else… I breastfed anywhere I had too. I did try to plan ahead, but you know, sometimes, the check out line at the grocery store is longer than expected, I didn’t want the icecream to melt and actually needed to buy the groceries in my cart, so I fed my kids where I had too…

mooo on

Emy, you look? lol. Don’t be so nasty.

bugsforever on

Ginger, How convenient for you that your breastfed children were so regular in their eating habits.
How convenient for you that you evidently didn’t ever venture far from home.
Everyone should have such a convenient life.

Anonymous on

First of all, it’s considered good manners to cover up when you are breastfeeding. No one wants to see someone whipping out their boob. And, why is she still breastfeeding at 2-1/2? The child should be drinking out of a sippy cup.

Momof2 on

These discussions always perplex me. Who in the world “whips out” a boob to breastfeed? I breastfed everywhere without a cover and no one gave me a second look. You only expose the nipple, and the baby’s head covers it entirely. I used to sit and nurse in public all the time. People would walk right up to me cooing at the baby and I’d have to shoo them away because she was latched on and nursing. Even up close they couldn’t see any boob or tell what was going on. (I can recall a couple of them being startled after the fact, but it was at the idea of what I was doing, not that they could see any part of my actual boob.) So what’s up? It only takes a teeny bit of finesse and some strategic wardrobe choices to cover the boob sufficiently and let the baby nurse without a blanket over her head. Get someone to teach you how to do it discreetly and carry on with your lives.

Anonymous on

Women, enough already. Nobody cares if you breastfeed. Just do it in private or cover up. Better yet, pump it and put it in a bottle like other women do. GEESH!!! The women that are hollering that they want to feed in public for all to see are just the exhibitionists. HELLO!!!

Lynn on

Women, nobody cares if you breastfeed, just do it in private or cover up. Better yet, pump it and put it in a bottle for when you are out & about. Simple solution just like a lot of women do. The women that are hollering about wanting to breastfeed in public for all to see are the exhibitionists. Hello!!! Enough said. Be private about it. No one wants to see you do it.

Kathy on

People are not against someone feeding their baby, but if you know it is making those around you uncomfortable, a light cover should be used. Why is that so hard to understand?

Tin on

Most hang there boobs out daily. So what’s the deal?

sally on

COVER up, no one wants to see our nipple!
Come on tree huggin women. GO home, if you want to sit naked and feed your baby. Otherwise throw something over your boobs- no one wants to see that. Stop saying- oh turn your head. Show some respect for yourself. USE common sense. Feed them before you go out in public. This topic is OLD and getting irritating.

RST on

The ONLY person who finds it beautiful is YOU the mother. No one else cares, nor wants to walk by and see your baby sucking on your tit. COVER up. These women sitting around and talking about breastfeeding is getting BORING. Stop it for God’s sake! Go home and feed your kid.

Really? on

I call anyone women breastfeeding a toddler a psycho mom obsessed with breastfeeding. They can’t let it go. I would imagine, MANY of them have to hold their toddler tight to force them to feed. Toddlers with teeth do NOT need to suckle any longer. Poor obsessed mom’s just cannot LET IT GO! It is time to start giving cut up foods- that’s why they HAVE teeth. Time to teach drinking out of a cup! Squeeze your breast milk in the sippy cup if it’s all about good health. It’s all about the obsessed mother.

jessiemaystorm on

It really isn’t anyone’s place to say but the mother’s. If you’re uncomfortable seeing a breastfeeding woman just keep moving and don’t look. Believe it or not, she’s focussing on feeding her hungry baby, not worrying about whether or not an adult stranger is feeling mildly uncomfortable. If the sight of a child being fed makes you feel weird that’s your problem to worry about and no-one else’s.

CanadianBoob on

It’s hilarious that Americans get so up in arms over a woman feeding her baby. Nobody would ever think to bat an eyelash about this in Canada. I’ve had only positive comments said to me while breastfeeding in public- so many words of encouragement when I’ve struggled to feed my baby while also trying to feed myself. Not everything needs to be so complicated, there’s no big second meaning- were just trying our best at parenting.

Geez on

Ooh, poor victim, I’d feel bad for her but I don’t have even a minute to spare for this kind of whining and attention seeking.

Carina on

I don’t care if someone is uncomfortable. They wouldn’t be uncomfortable at all if they minded their business and kept their eyes on their own agenda.

It’s just as simple to avert your eyes with respect.

But the giant Victoria secret poster with her cleavage all out doesn’t make people uncomfortable right? -___-

Carina on

Like toddlers don’t suckle from a sippy cup?
Just cause some of you are, no doubt, religious up tight prudes doesn’t mean its weird or wrong to breastfeed in public nor is it odd to prolong breastfeeding as long as you have a supply and a child who willingly wants it.
I’m not even expecting yet and I’ve never batted an eyelash at breastfeeding mothers. Nipple and all. It’s beautiful. Our bodies are beautiful. I respect my temple above all else and if I’m leaking milk for my baby aka the true purpose of breasts- I respect that enough to feed my child without shame.

ah on

Carina you and your temple are just silly and self absorbed. Its not all about you silly woman.

Carina on

@Ah but its about everyone else’s comfort level though right? Yeah ok lol like I care about your opinion. Call me silly. Won’t stop me or many women from breastfeeding right in front of the prudish likes of you with a smile on my face. Not at you, but my baby.

That’s the point. No one cares how uncomfortable grown ass adults are. They only care for the hungry babes. Get over yourselves.

guest on

It may be beautiful for you but it’s not beautiful for the rest of us who have to see you. If you want that so called beautiful experience, go somewhere and enjoy it privately. People enjoy sex but they don’t do it in a shopping center for all to see. Same goes for you pulling your boobs out. Go somewhere privately.

Rachel on

@Sally – MOST places do not have a family room to nurse in, at least where I am from. The ONLY two places I’ve ever seen one is in Babies R Us and at the mall food court. With a son that simply would not eat while covered (he flailed and flailed until he was uncovered), the limited options to feed while out were in my car or sitting on a toilet in the restroom. Mother and child should not have to suffer because of a small chance someone else is uncomfortable with the human body.

kitty62862 on

Momof2 is exactly right.

The hard part for me was being very chesty to begin with. Once filled, it was just really difficult.

I used to get my daughter set up and feeding, then drape a very light shawl over us. This was 1993. It was much less common.

It truly is about manners.

Not shame at all.

Manners, and discretion. I know they’re out of fashion, but there’s too much trend the other way now. Way too much.

Mandy on

I am all for breastfeeding, and #3 never even took a bottle of breastmilk, let alone a supplemental bottle of formula. She was a feisty baby who thought everything was her business, but to be honest, from day 5 of her life, when company dropped by, I either slipped her inside my shirt (designed to be used for nursing, or used a lightweight receiving blanket when nursing around visitors or while shopping. She was, therefore, used to being nursed, with or without a light cover, so it was acceptable to her. I had no difficulty feeding myself and my baby, and frankly, like I said, she was #3, so I also had a barely 4 year old, and a 16 month old to work with, as well. I didn’t choose to make it a nightmare, so it didn’t become one. There was no need to drag those children around all day, nor did I have to feed the baby every hour. Get a grip on your baby’s schedule, pay attention to organizing yourself a bit, then off you go. What do you do if you and your spouse go out to dinner, or to some event? Drag the poor baby and make everyone miserable? Never go anywhere, in case your little tyrant demands to be fed incessantly? No baby needs a breast in their mouth every hour, unless your supply needs to be built up for whatever reason…stay home and build it up…that’s not the time to shop. BTW, I was also a lactation consultant, and part of La Leche, so don’t assume I was, or am, anti BF in any way. I just don’t see the need to make a show of it, at home or out in public. If you “just want to feed your baby, why make a production? Feed the little angel, and move on. The first time my daughter BF, she ripped her entire shirt off, as well as her bra, grabbed a gigantic pillow, and let her size 48 DD hang out in front of her father, and everyone else in the room. Wow. Do NOT tell me that was needed, and she is not an exhibitionistic person as a rule…she just bought into what she was reading or seeing on TV from people who said the same thing this panel, and some of you, are saying. “BF is hard, and needs a lot of understanding from the public, I can’t help having to expose my self, I’m just feeding my child”….. Her BF didn’t last long, either, since she thought it was so much work, and just too hard.

Oh, and Carina, I have news for you…most of the highly-driven-to-BF moms I worked with were doing so because they believed it was the was God designed their bodies to be used, so the “uptight, religious nut” comment is just plain nasty and rude! Doesn’t do much to make your argument seem worth listening to if you feel the need to insult a group of people, when none of those who have suggested a light cover or a bit of modesty would be nice, has done so in the name of religion of any kind.

Clare on

I like how she said “Senastian isn’t into the cover”. He is already dictating how she is going to do things for him. You don’t have to cover the baby up so he can’t breathe bit you can discretely pull the blanket or whatever over your shoulder and partially cover their head so to make a partial shield to cover up their head and your breast. That is how I covered up. As other people said there are also alternatives.

Carole on

I breastfed 5 babies and I was very active outside of my house. Soccer games, school functions, etc. I did not whip out my nipple, but I used discretion while feeding my children. Yes, I agree, it is natural but it is also natural for someone to view a nipple as erotic. A boy who is dealing with his hormones when his body is changing due to puberty. A person who secretly fights perversion. This is not a perfect world, there are many who would get excited at the sight of a nipple. My decision to breast feed was my right , it is the natural and healthiest for my children but I used my sense and realized that others could be offended. I didn’t agree with them but I showed respect and it really was not hard. I compromised.

mer on

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with public breastfeeding. Babies eat from breasts, simple biology, get used to it!! No mama should ever feel ashamed and try to cover. You feel uncomfortable? Look away, it’s that simple.

Friendly on

@Sally I agree with you….

New Orleans on

So, so tired of this subject! Move on…

susan on

Oy. There’s nothing more intimate than a mother nursing her child, which is why I think it absolutely should be covered and/or mom should be escorted to a private room. Not because I don’t want to see nipples, but out of respect for the action taking place.

Ginger on

Ok, we get it. We’ve seen this story for a week now and it’s time to move on.

TC on

I’m so tired of Hollywood pushing this issue. It is called manners and tact and class. Some don’t want to eat with a boob out. Cover up it is polite. Show some class.

Anonymous on

emy, Sally is right!

TC on

Emy Sally is right! It is called respect for other’s around you. Not everyone wants to see her hanging out. The feeding of the child is beautiful, but not in a public arena.

Truth on

I saw a women do it in church in front of me. She was very well mannered. Took her breast out under a bib, and proceeded to feed the child, no one knew and she did it with class.

Kar on

OH please! No one wants to see a woman’s boob hanging out. Cover yourself or go somewhere private. The new thing these days — find something to b*tch about. Give me a break already.

Court on

@ Carina — sounds like you get some kind of sick enjoyment out of publicly displaying your boobs. Get over yourself saggy.

Joy on

I am 100% positive that Our Blessed Mother breast fed Jesus. But I am also 100% positive that she did so with discretion and respect for herself and her son. Should a woman breast feed her infant, YES! Should she do so in a respectful modest manner, YES! Can this be done, absolutely YES! It can and should be done and should not bother anybody.

Mom from Montana on

I have breast fed all three of my children, it’s uncomfortable for me to have my nipple out. I cover my babies, it’s only 10-15 minutes. And if you don’t want to cover, go somewhere in private. I am very proud to have breast fed my babies, it’s very health for you child, but cover up.

Tamsyn on

I breastfed 3 healthy kids and never once had to do it in public. I didn’t run away and cover my head I just knew when to feed my children lol I did it at home, in extreme leisure and comfort for both of us. What i consider beautiful is MY decision, I’m not going to force everyone else to look at it. Most times I feel it’s the mom’s issue, not the baby – the baby won’t die if it eats 15 minutes later. But some women like to “prove” what a good mom they are and the more watching the better

Heather on

I didn’t get to breastfeed my boys, due to low milk production, but if I did, I wouldn’t give a rats a** what other people had to say about me feeding my child in public. Don’t like it?? Go complain to your family/friends who care about your opinion. I don’t care, nor will I change myself/life to fit your needs. I’ve not been put on this planet to service you and your issues.

Marcella on

Wow! I can’t believe how many people feel that their opinion matters when a mom is feeding her child. ‘Use a cover, pump a bottle, hide because I can’t control my feelings about your breasts’ Get over yourselves you sanctified judgemental people. We mothers are going to feed our children where, when and how it works for us and you, you are going to have to grow up and deal.

Just a Duck on

Just breastfeed at home. Covers all the bases. You don’t have to cover your baby, you don’t have to be embarrassed, and the rest of the world doesn’t have to get nauseous. Win-win.

lorraina on

I nursed all four children without exposing myself. I do not understand this new trend of exposing yourself and demanding people accept it. A baby can be nursed in public discretely.

Liz on

Guess what John from high school who is my FB friend but a person I haven’t talked to in 20 years, some guy flipped out when my entire breast was exposed in a busy store! First of all, why share this? Second, has she heard of the family restroom or perhaps covering up if she is in public? We don’t walk around braless and shirtless for a reason. No one needs to and wants to see your stuff. Ridiculous that this is an issue.

jsut saying on

So tired of the histrionic about breast feeding The baby will not be scared for life if you cover while you feed. And now the pumping …now that is an issue.That is a legal right I for one am tired when women leave their desk to pump for 20 minutes two and three times during their shift The do not make up the time Not fair to the rest of us who work with you When do we get to go for 20 minutes They do not offer to let us take a break or pick up the slack They act like it is their right and God forbid you raise an eye brow … We are women and mothers just like them Just have some consideration to other others time others feelings others space

Kathy on

Woman have breastfed since the beginning of time. A light cover has not killed even one baby in all of those years. There is no reason what so ever a light cover can not still be used. Just do it and shut up about it already.

Emma on

LOL I watched the video and this mom sounds ridiculous. C’mon now. If you don’t want to cover, just say so. There are soooo many different types of covers and sooo many different ways to use covers, to suggest she had to chose between covering herself or suffocating her baby is just ludicrous. I don’t know what kind of cover she was using or how she was using it, but if her baby was unable to breathe she was definitely doing something wrong. You definitely do NOT have to pick between letting your nipples hang out and wrapping your baby in a thick wooly blanket and restricting the baby’s ability to move and breathe. Lmao.

Just Saying on

Just respect that others aren’t asking to see your breasts and cover up or find a private area. There was a woman breastfeeding at Starbucks and you could tell people were uncomfortable!

Anonymous on


Anonymous on

Just a flat our disrespect for others in public. Cover up a bit… Be respectful.

Candi on

Great. The bi-weekly Militant Breastfeeding Brigade is here for their regularly scheduled shove a tit down everyone’s throat news nugget. You can almost set your clock by these people. They have nothing to complain about, so they’ve made something up. Throw a blanket on and put some duct tape on your mouths.

mer on

@Marcella, I’m totally with you. I can’t believe how prudish most comments here are. WHY on Earth should the mother cover is beyond me. Just – WHY?? Because you are uncomfortable seeing a breast doing it’s natural function? JUST LOOK AWAY.

Sarah on

So everyone needs to be uncomfortable while you feel comfortable breastfeeding your baby – huh? Got it!
I breastfed both my kids. Did it at home or in privacy – not really for everyone else but for myself. It was a private experience between me and my child. Urinating is a natural act but I won’t be doing it in public either. I’m sick of this debate.

TC on

I’m so over this showing your breast in public. It is only Hollywood pushing the issue. We are not saying, don’t feed your child, but be classy and show some class and tact for other’s around you. This on and on about a subject that is so easy to fix is silly. I don’t want to see it, and you know they sell a special bib to cover them. It is called manners and polite to others around you. It is beautiful, but not for the world to see your big breast in our faces at a dinner table.

SLP on

Emy let her cover up, why should we leave, we don’t shop or eat naked now do we. Get a clue.

Lynne on


As a women I would cover up also, it is respectful, expect in Hollyweird.

Tammy on

Be Discreet When Breastfeeding

I mentioned being discreet earlier. There are lots of other things we do in life that are best when we use discretion, but it’s not always easy to do something so personal in a discreet way. So practice discreet nursing at home in front of your partner or a mirror. Your partner will usually be made uncomfortable by any part of you being seen by someone else so they can be a good barometer of your success at being discreet. Plus, when in public this will help you have confidence that you are not causing anyone any discomfort. For great tips on how to discreetly breastfeed in public, check out The Mighty Mommy’s breastfeeding episode.

Breastfeeding Etiquette

Manners are important– but manners aren’t how others treat you– they are how you treat others.


Chels on

I don’t know why because this is the internet, but I’m shocked by all this hate. I breastfeed in public and I use a nursing cover for my own preference and comfort, but if other moms don’t feel the need to use a cover then that’s fine too! All of this, “just do it at home” nonsense…when a baby is feeding on demand, that would have meant that I could literally never leave the house. Of course, it sounds like some of you would argue that in that scenario I should have done just that which is completely ridiculous. I’m not going to become a hermit because I might make someone slightly uncomfortable for a brief moment.

By the way, for those who are ranting about not having sex or peeing in public, those acts are ILLEGAL. Breastfeeding in public is legal. Don’t like it? Get over your own issues.

w on

Are you truly worried about what’s best for the child?…having a routine, nursing in the quiet comfort of his own room/home and being able to be put down to sleep in a quiet familiar environment after finishing. A mother who really is putting her child’s needs first and what’s best for them, wouldn’t have them out. They’d be home. Sorry it’s boring for you, mom…maybe should have waited to have children until it’s ALL about them, including feeding and napping and having an uninterrupted routine at home. Seems like this would be a basic parenting rule to brush up on: you take your children out running around in the car/public in between, eating/nap times, not during, because it should be about WHAT’S BEST for the children, right?.

Sinn on

When i see a breast feeding mom, i stand 5 feet away and just watch.