Does the thought of breastfeeding in public make you nervous, intimidated, or self-conscious?
If so, you are not alone.
Many women deal with fears and anxieties related to the opinions of others (and assumed perceptions of the opinion of others) in relation to breastfeeding in public.
It not only prevents them from feeding their sweet babes on-the-go, it robs them of their confidence to do what they desire.
But the reality is adults eat out… So is there any reason our babies shouldn’t be “allowed” to as well?
If you’ve been hesitant about public breastfeeding (and you desire to), I hope these simple tips will help you find some confidence.
10 easy tips for how to breastfeed in public:
1. Be informed.
In countries like the US and Australia, it is illegal to be discriminated against for breastfeeding in public. Know your rights – a knowledgable woman is a more confident woman.
2. Practice at home.
Some new mom-and-baby pairs struggle with latch more than others. There’s nothing wrong with that. Any experienced mom knows that breastfeeding, as natural as it is, is a learned skill for both of you. The art of arranging yourself “just right” in public the first few times can be tricky. The good news is that with some practice it can soon become second nature! When first starting out, practice a couple of times at home in “public mode” just as you would if people were watching.
3. Wear something easy to breastfeed in.
I like to wear nursing tank-tops (with built-in bras) under my clothes. This turns almost any top into a breastfeeding-friendly top. Just lift your outer shirt up and unhook the fastener of the nursing tank-top/bra. The undershirt can stay tucked in so that you don’t have to expose your boob or your belly, while just enough of your breast is free for bubs to latch onto.
4. Use a nursing cover or a blanket.
Especially when you’re first beginning, try using a nursing cover. This gives you more freedom to fumble without flashing the world if you and bubs are still getting the hang of things. Once your baby is older he may not like to be covered, but while he’s tiny it won’t make a difference to him at all. Although I rarely use one any more, my nursing cover helped me build lots of confidence my first few weeks and months.
5. Start in a non-threatening place.
Don’t make your first attempt at breastfeeding in public in a crowded mall food court or in the grandstands of a baseball game. Start with a place that is quieter and less chaotic – a park bench or a mellow café or even a “mothers room” in the mall. Once you get the hang of it, you can breastfeed in line at Disneyland. (I’ve breastfed often while standing in line, going for walks, and even grocery shopping.) Until then, cut yourself some slack and start off someplace that’s low-stress.
6. Stay OUT of the toilet stall.
You wouldn’t eat your lunch while sitting on a toilet, so why should your darling, vulnerable little bub? Keep it clean, mama. If you feel you need more privacy than you can find, then try the backseat of your car. (Just make sure your car is parked someplace safe and well-lit.)
7. Take a deep breath and relax.
Although there are still a few people “out there” that may not understand why you think it’s appropriate to breastfeed in public, know that they are the minority. (Please note I’m writing this from an American/Australian perspective. I understand that this is also a cultural issue.)
8. If people stare at you, smile back at them.
Don’t assume they are starting in disapproval. Instead, assume they are staring in admiration or curiosity. Smile and go about your business. You have nothing to be ashamed of and your confidence will deflect most—if not all—gawkers. And if by chance they really do disapprove, remember that it’s their problem, not yours, and that your (genuine) smile just might help them change their mind.
9. If you still get nervous, look at your baby.
Nothing brings more peace than looking at your newborn baby while he nurses and seeing how happy and contented he is as you’re both doing what you were designed to do. (Zero in on his bliss and enjoy it while you can, because at four or five months he’ll have the attention span of a nat while nursing… Dealing with this is a whole separate post!)
10. Try using a sling.
I loved when my babe was a newborn and could easily fit into my sling. Even if roaming the isles of Target with a friend or on an evening walk with my hubs, I could breastfeed on-the-go in my sling and no one would be the wiser. I think hammock-style slings work best for this, but other moms also nurse in wraps and front carriers. Once you get the hang of it, it’s much easier than you’d think.
Dear friends, was is difficult for you to breastfeed in public? If so, and you overcame your nerves, what helped you the most? Can you think of anything I’ve not considered? Moms-to-be, do you have more questions about breastfeeding? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer or point you to a resource that can.
P.S. I’m a big advocate for breastfeeding… but I don’t have my head in the sand either. I realize that not every woman who desires to is able to breastfeed. There are many things that can factor into whether or not it will work like we hope for it to. And just like I’m a member of the Moms Who Give Birth Club, I’m also a member of the Moms Who Feed Their Babies Club. There’s no judging here… as long as we’re all feeding our babies. Ok, glad we’ve got that straight.