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How to breastfeed in public | 10 easy tips

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?

how to breastfeed in public

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.

 

Breastfeeding is something to be proud of (if that’s the choice you’ve made and your body allows), and learning how to breastfeed in public will be freeing for you if you give it a chance.

Want more?

Read also: 7 breastfeeding tips for moms-to-be and KellyMom: my favorite online breastfeeding resource.

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.

 

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About Adriel

Adriel Booker is a writer, speaker, and difference-maker living Down Under with her Aussie love and littles where they serve in full-time ministry (and full-time parenting) together. She writes about celebrating motherhood, building families, strengthening faith, enjoying life, empowering women, changing the world, and telling the story.

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31 Responses to How to breastfeed in public | 10 easy tips

  1. Mandy August 8, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    I never really breastfed Bennett in public. I always just timed everything around his feedings, or would bring a bottle. I tried a few times but he could never get comfortable and was too distracted. Ha ha. But I applaud all Mommies that do!

  2. JIll August 8, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Love this! I am currently breastfeeding little B and having already done this with O I am out and about. When I first started though I have to say I did use a fitting room if I needed to.

  3. Angel Armogida August 8, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    I wish I was able to breastfeed. I simply had no milk at all :(

    Angel x
    High Heels & Lipgloss

  4. The Planet Pink August 9, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    I would use the hubs as a buffer if possible. If I needed to nurse while in a restaurant, I would slide into the inside of the booth and the hubs would sit on the other side of me. Not only would his body partially block the view, but most curious onlookers are not too keen to have to stare PAST a husband to try to get a good look at his wife's boob.

  5. Getrealmommy August 9, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    I tried to be discreet when I nursed, but after a while, I was just over it. I felt like the world would just have to deal with my nursing in public. I needed to be out and about, my baby needed to nurse and hated my hooter hider, and so that was that. Babies need to eat!

  6. A Little R&R August 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    This is excellent! There is really nothing to add here. Its sad that our society has come to look at breasts as only "s*x" items…and look on nursing as something to be shooed away. Sure, we don't need to "bare it all" when we nurse – we ought to be civilized, but as geterealmommy said, babies need to eat. And the restroom (as some places have relegated nursing mothers to) is not a place to feed a baby.

  7. LauraCYMFT August 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    You can breastfeed anywhere in Scotland so to be honest nobody batted an eyelid when I was breastfeeding in public. Babies need to eat and a screaming baby will probably draw more attention that a feeding one! You look amazing for someone who had just given birth 2 weeks before in that picture!

  8. Cameron August 12, 2010 at 1:58 am #

    I have to admit, I am 7 months in to breastfeeding & I'm still not good at doing it in public. The only place I've really done it are in the nursing room in the Macy's bathroom at the mall – it's really nice with couches & chairs & it's pretty & clean!! I did do it once in my booth at Panera bread, but I wasn't crazy about it & haven't done it since then. Other than that, I end up finding private places & sometimes going out of my way to do so.

    I really need to work on this!!!

  9. Heather August 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    I have to admit that it's taken me quite a while to feel less self conscious while nursing in public. I always worried about having one of those confrontations that I've read about, but I've been lucky so far. It's also never been enough of a concern that it stopped me from going out, living my life, and feeding my son. I live in NYC and so far nobody has batted an eye when I've been nursing. I've nursed everywhere…the mall, Coney Island, at church during my son's christening, in restaurants, the playground…anywhere that I happen to be when my son is hungry. My son's needs comes before anything else, including someone else's ignorant feelings that breastfeeding should be done in private.

  10. Rachel August 16, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    This is excellent! Way to encourage breastfeeding. I was lucky because my boys were born in Brazil where there's no negative outlook on breastfeeding in public. I had a great experience breastfeeding my boys anywhere and everywhere. It broke my heart when I'd come back to the states for a visit and people would give me dirty look when I breastfed, even when I was covered up!

  11. Becca August 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    I love the Bam! Flower design.
    Amen on the soothies. Those were lifesavers for me. I wish I had known more stories from other women about how difficult it could be. I thought it would be so easy and natural, so more realistic expectations would have been helpful. I’m just glad we made it out of the woods and are doing well now.

  12. Becca August 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    Oops, meant to leave that comment on the other post. Not sure how that happened.

  13. Judy C. Newman November 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Thanks for the tips for breastfeeding. Though you didn’t tackle on issue. There will be times when we’ll encounter pervs who would really stare with mouth wide open. I encountered this one time when I had to breast feed on a bus. I had all the covers I can use but the perv just kept staring. During that time I didn’t knew what to do and got scared. My baby was hungry so I couldn’t do anything. During these times what can you suggest?
    Judy C. Newman recently posted..Find a School for Bartending in Winfield, West Virginia, WVMy Profile

    • Adriel Booker November 4, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

      It’s not your responsibility to make someone stop perving. If you are uncomfortable then I suggest you go and find another place to feed your baby. But it’s up to you – you and your baby. I’m so sorry that you had to deal with that – that’s so rude and very unfair.

  14. Dan February 23, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    This is all very good advice that I am passing along to my wife. She wants to breast feed but thinks she will be very self-conscious doing it. So, we’re reading everything possible that will help her. Thanx.

  15. samantha March 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    What helped me was taking my husband or a group of girl friends out when i was first trying it out. it made me feel protected and supported. they were my training wheels, a buffer between me and what i thought at the time to be a mostly disaproving world.
    samantha recently posted..Danny Dimple Dares to Dream – Possibly the cutest kids app yet! (And a #giveaway)My Profile

  16. Jordan March 26, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    By the time I had my 3rd child I became a pro at nursing anywhere and still maintaining modesty. A mom as confidence goes a long way in what people think.
    What I struggled with is how long I nursed. I believe in self-weaning and therefore my babies were 21, 18 and 22 months when they weaned. THAT gets people riled up for some reason so I did become somewhat of a “closet nurser” after my babies turning 1–sad!

    • Adriel Booker March 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

      yes, for me that’s harder too. my second-born is 18 months and still nursing a bit. i know people think it’s really weird!! usually i don’t care, and then other times i do (but try not to). i find now that it’s more people i know – “what? you’re still nursing? wow. how old is he now?” i just smile and say, “yup, he’s a boob man – loves his mama’s milk.” that usually stops them in their tracks. ;)

  17. Kelsey February 12, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Great post! My baby is seven months old and sadly enough I’ve been too nervous to breastfeed in public. Maybe it’s the area I’m in but I’ve never once seen someone breastfeed in public in the three years I’ve lived here. Is there a particular sling you use? I’ve tried using mine, but it just doesn’t work. Thanks for the post! It gives me some confidence to try feeding in public!

    • Adriel February 13, 2014 at 10:40 am #

      Hi Kelsey, I’m sorry it’s so intimidating for you. I realize that in some areas is much more “normal” than in others. I dream of a day when women (and men!) won’t bat an eyelid of babies being fed by their mothers!!

      I used a Peanut sling, but only when my baby was a newborn. I find any type of ring sling (hammock style sling) easier than the other carriers (like Ergos, etc) for breastfeeding.

      I would suggest you start practicing somewhere non-threatening – like a park bench where there aren’t many people around. Or even just practice at home “imagining” you are in public. Do you have any other breastfeeding friends that you could practice together with in public? Perhaps that could help you gain some confidence if you’re both learning (gaining confidence) at the same time.

      I’ve found general new moms are far more subconscious about it and think people around them think it’s a bigger deal than they really do. Sometimes it’s our perceptions of things that are blown out of proportion, even more than people around us disapproving. I don’t know where you’re from or what it’s like there, so this is a very generalized comment of course… but something to consider as you address your nervousness.

      Hope that helps Kelsey! Good luck mama! :)
      Adriel recently posted..Little hearts walking around outside your bodyMy Profile

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