Breastfeeding in Public

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated February 24, 2013.

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iStock_000020593454XSmallBreastfeeding in public can be totally daunting for a new mother.  So intimidating is public breastfeeding that this is a reason given by new moms for either not breastfeeding or not exclusively breastfeeding their baby.  The media reports of incidences where mothers are asked to leave public places for nursing their babies.  And then there’s the issue about how to nurse modestly.  With so much to consider, it’s no wonder so many moms choose to purchase a breast pump and give their milk in bottles while out in public.

Below are 7 tips to help make nursing in public a piece of cake:

  1.  Plan to spend some time learning how to breastfeed in privacy.
    The first few days after having your first child are not the time to plan to shop around town and visit everyone in your community.  You are recovering from childbirth (no matter how wonderful your experience) and falling in love with a new life.  Enjoy this time, enjoy being able to relax at home, and let others serve you.  Don’t plan major outings for a little while and instead concentrate on getting breastfeeding off to a solid start.  What seems so strange and challenging in the beginning will get easier every single day.  Perhaps you can’t imagine ever leaving your house again?  Don’t worry!  A few days later you will probably feel different and have much greater confidence breastfeeding.  Practice makes perfect…and you will begin to feel comfortable and confident quicker than you might think.
  2. Wear the right attire.
    Make sure to have a tank (vest) top under your shirt so your stomach is not exposed. When it comes to nursing in public, it is usually very easy to modestly latch a baby on your breast and nurse as far as not exposing your nipple. . . the problem comes in revealing your entire stomach or backside due to having to pull up your shirt.  If you wear a tank top underneath then your midriff is covered and you won’t be exposed.  It’s much easier to relax and enjoy breastfeeding in public when you have the right clothes on!
  3. Have a nursing cover, burp cloth, or baby blanket in diaper bag at all times.
    If you are concerned about exposing your chest, especially as you latch on your baby, you can easily whip a cloth out of your diaper bag, drape it over you and baby, and focus on attaching him to the breast.  Once he is latched on, you may be able to remove the cloth (or, once your baby is a few months old he may squirm and remove it for you J).  But, having something with you will give you confidence if you find yourself in a place where your baby is hungry and you want to cover a little more while breastfeeding.
  4. Get a sling.
    Many slings allow you to nurse your baby while they are in them.  This makes breastfeeding easier in public because you can nurse while walking around or on the go.  It won’t matter if you have a place to sit and relax.  Or, your sling can double as a nursing cover in a pinch.
  5. Plan ahead.
    Though you never for sure when your baby will want to eat, you can be wise in thinking through your outing.  If you have four stops to make and two seem much easier to breastfeed in, then try to nurse your baby while you are there, before heading to the next stop.  This is another advantage of a sling, too.  Sometimes, just being held close will help your baby wait a little longer to nurse, possibly giving you time to get to a more comfortable nursing environment.
  6. Get involved with a breastfeeding support group. Nursing in public will turn heads sometimes.  Unfortunately, it even brings some women comments.  So, having friends who also breastfeed will help you know you are normal.  It will give you a place to vent and encourage one another.  And many times it is just the support you need to keep you going.
  7. Realize that you are not doing something obscene – you are simply feeding your baby.  You should not have to run and hide.  If someone has a problem with breastfeeding perhaps they are the ones with an underlying issue?!  You wouldn’t want to eat your meal in a bathroom; your baby shouldn’t have to either.  Hold your head high, do the best you can to feed your baby modestly, and don’t worry so much what that stranger across the room thinks.  You can be a part of helping normalize breastfeeding in our culture.