When I had my first baby, I didn’t really think about breastfeeding in public or how I would feel about it. I had this idea that I would feed the baby at home, be able to take baby out for a few hours, go shopping, do chores and then feed him when he we got back home.
How wrong was I?
I remember the first time when baby was crying to be nursed and I panicked. I am quite a private person so although my baby was hungry I wasn’t comfortable enough to sit in a corner lift my shirt and feed him.
I soon realized that if I didn’t become confident breastfeeding in public, my life would become super restricted.
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1. Know your rights as a breastfeeding mother
In many countries you’re legally entitled to breastfeed in any place open to the public, and there are laws to protect breastfeeding moms.
If you’re unsure about what the breastfeeding in public laws are where you live, try doing some online research – government or public health websites are a good place to start – or speak to your healthcare professional.
Otherwise, you could ask local moms or nearby friends and relatives about what their experiences have been. Their responses may surprise you.
2. Practise at home
If you have never breastfed in public before it’s a great idea to practice in front of a mirror. You can easily see what someone opposite sitting you would see. You will also see how much flesh is exposed and how much you are comfortable with showing.
This is also a great way of practicing what position or latch works for you and your baby when you are breastfeeding outdoors.
3. Take support
The first few times I initially took baby out was with my husband ; it felt great having the support and made me feel comfortable while I got used to breastfeeding my baby away from home.
I also joined a local mother and baby breastfeeding group. We would meet in a café once every two weeks, swap tips and enjoy being around other breastfeeding moms, this made confident in my own breastfeeding journey.
4. Choose clothes you’ll feel comfortable in
Whatever you choose to wear, make sure you are comfortable and that it allows easy access for feeding. There is a now a large range of affordable and stylish nursing clothing available worth investing in if you plan on breastfeeding long term. I practically lived in this top and this nursing top here.
I also loved these nursing tanks because your baby can access your breast without revealing your entire mid-section. This leads me onto my next point.
5. An easy access nursing bra
Even if you choose not to buy tops designed specifically for nursing, you will still want to invest in some good nursing bras. This nursing bra that I used had a clip mechanism that I could easily do with one hand for when I was nursing. The nursing bras I used were affordable, super comfortable and you get three different colors in one pack.
6. Consider a nursing cover
I love using nursing covers, for me it gave me confidence and the freedom to be out with my children while I was breastfeeding, it also made breastfeeding easier when I was out in public.
Depending on you and your baby, there are many styles to choose from; simple scarfs to ponchos to specially designed aprons there should be something to suit you both.
Ultimately, however, you may find your little one makes the decision for you. Some babies hate being covered while feeding, while others get distracted if they aren’t.
RELATED: BEST 5 NURSING COVERS IN 2019
7. Use a sling or wrap
With practice, you can also breastfeed your baby in most slings or wraps and the fabric of the baby carrier will cover the baby and your breast.
You can even walk around while breastfeeding! However, this takes practise for most people, breastfeeding in a sling isn’t actually hands free especially at the beginning. You will usually need to support either your breast or baby’s head. This is why I preferred using a nursing cover instead.
To be able to breastfeed effectively in a sling, your baby’s head needs to be supported but not restricted. Just as much as there should be no hands pushing baby’s head into the breast, there should be no fabric doing it either. Baby’s head needs enough space to tilt back for a deep latch and easily unlatch when required.
8. Choose where you will nurse your baby
When choosing to nurse your baby, look for two things: firstly a place where you can sit comfortably, ideally with some support for your back, as well as a place where you are less visible to the general public.
Some malls have specially designed family rooms where you can breastfeed your baby, but this isn’t always an option if you are midway through a meal. You can opt to sit in a booth if you in a restaurant or a seat that faces away from other diners, on public transport opt for the back of the bus or next to a window.
Secondly, you will also need to breastfeed in a place where the baby will not be distracted. The whole point of nursing in public is, of course, feeding your baby so find a spot where you know your child will be likely to focus on nursing. If your baby is easily distracted, block the activity around you with a blanket or nursing cover.
Don’t panic if you can’t find the right place to nurse your baby. Find a place where you’re comfortable and where you have enough room to organize yourself and don’t worry too much about who might see you. There’s no point in walking around with a crying and hungry baby as you look for a place where you won’t be visible. Feeding your child takes priority.
9. Turn away to latch
The time when the most skin is likely to be shown is when the baby is first latching on. If you are not comfortable with showing too much skin, turn around and face the wall or the side to latch your baby into the right position. This is especially true when you have a newborn or younger baby who can not latch themselves.
You can do the same if you need to unlatch the baby. Breastfeeding is not always easy at first, but you get better and better at it, until you’re so quick and subtle nobody realises you’re doing it anyway
10. Plan your tips
If you’re nervous or anxious about breastfeeding in public I would advise to make a list of good places that are breastfeeding friendly near you, so you don’t panic when baby needs to be nursed.
Shopping malls, department stores and mother baby shops usually have baby feeding rooms, many cafes also welcome breastfeeding mothers.
Ask other local mums for advice on the best places for public nursing nearby.
11. Do not use the bathroom
I wasn’t confident enough to nurse my baby without a nursing cover and when I would ask to use a room or a quiet corner to breastfeed I would sometimes get told to nurse my baby in the bathroom.
I would politely respond with ‘Do you eat next to a toilet?’ I was usually met with an embarrassed silence and shown a room or area where I could nurse.
If you are told to nurse in a toilet, look for any other option, whether it’s a lounge near a bathroom, a quiet corridor, or a bench outside. There’s always a better option than sitting on a toilet.
12. Plan your responses and be confident
Let us be honest not everyone is going to be happy to see a breastfeeding mama. Although attitudes are slowly changing you will have the odd person who will say something to upset you or knock your confidence.
If you’re breastfeeding your baby in public and someone complains, you could politely remind them of your legal rights. If you feel that a business, such as a shop or cafe, has discriminated against you by asking you not to breastfeed, you may be able to make an official complaint, again depending on how you feel and the laws where you live.
Nursing your baby is one of the best things you can do. Be proud of what you’re doing and enjoy the nursing experience. You’ll be on to the next phase before you know it. n
Need more help Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is definitely natural but far from easy. Anything that can make breastfeeding easier and help you get on the right track from day one is definitely vital. As a new mom – there is just SO much to know about breast feeding a baby!
From my experience it’s a great idea to prepare for breastfeeding by taking, simple and affordable breastfeeding class. I like the Milkology Course as it is run by a certified lactation educator, is video based, and comes with a troubleshooting guide – that’s important.
The Bottom Line
The great thing about breastfeeding is that everything you need to feed your baby is always with you, readily available wherever you are.
While breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, it’s not unusual to feel a bit nervous about nursing in public, particularly if you’ve never done it before. Whether you’re worried about other people’s reactions or really don’t care what they think, I hope these tips will help you be prepared.
You have to also do what’s comfortable for you. If you’re comfortable nursing in public, go for it. If you’re uncomfortable, but still willing to give it a try, find ways that will make you more at ease. There are a number of carriers, and nursing covers available to shield you. Find what works best for you and your baby.