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5 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public

Breastfeeding is highly intimate and private experience for many new mothers. It’s a time to connect with your baby while nourishing their bodies and minds. But as a busy mom on the go, it’s sometimes required for you to breastfeed in public. Though breastfeeding is an extremely common and accepted practice, it can be both difficult and sometimes uncomfortable to breastfeed in public places. But there are certain tips and tricks that can help breastfeeding mothers feel more secure and relaxed while doing so.

1. Practice

If you’re unsure of how to breastfeed in public without accidentally exposing yourself, practice makes perfect. Trying to hold a figgity and hungry baby, while also helping them latch on and remaining covered up can be quite a tricky task! So, when you’re breastfeeding at home, treat the situation as if you were out in public. Sit in a chair at your kitchen table or somewhere that resembles the same seating arrangements you might encounter in public. See if you can successfully breastfeed your baby while also remaining covered. This is a great time for trial and error. Perhaps the blanket you anticipated on using is made of a smooth fabric that keeps slipping off your shoulders, or the shirt you thought would allow for easy access isn’t nearly as easy as you thought. Practicing at home will make the transition to breastfeeding outside the home a smooth and relaxed one.

2. Choose Accessible Clothing

As it was mentioned above, certain clothes are much more conducive to breastfeeding than others. Don’t make things harder than they need to be. There are countless bras and shirts available that are specifically designed with breastfeeding mothers in mind. You can purchase breastfeeding bras and tank tops that are designed for this purpose. They are often made with clips or hooks that allow a piece of fabric to fall, exposing your breast for feedings without compromising the structure of the garment. When you slide a regular bar aside, you can not only stretch out the material but it can also be extremely uncomfortable. You can also wear a regular tank top under your blouse or sweater, this will allow for additional coverage if you need to remove part of your shirt. The straps of the  tank top underneath can easily be pulled down or pushed aside without much additional exposure. You can also try using a button-down shirt. This way, you only need to unbutton the top few buttons, to access your nursing bra or tank. The bottom portion of your shirt will remain closed, providing coverage and privacy.

3. Start in a Warm and Welcoming Atmosphere

If you’re new to breastfeeding in public, it’s suggested you choose a welcoming and quiet atmosphere for your first few times. You want to ease into the process, so perhaps choose an intimate and unpopulated area like a park bench, mellow coffee shop, or even a lounge or mother’s room at your local mall. Don’t place added pressure on yourself by trying to breastfeed for the first time in a highly-populated area like a busy restaurant or amusement park. Once you feel comfortable breastfeeding in these more discrete areas, you can branch out into more public places. You want the initial experience to be calm and relaxing. If you’re stressed, your baby will feel it, which can make the actual process of feeding even more difficult. With a little practice, you won’t think twice before breastfeeding anytime, anywhere!

4. Be Prepared for People’s Reactions

So, the whole reason we’re even having this discussion about breastfeeding in public is because some people still view this beautiful, natural occurrence as inappropriate. You need to be informed, aware, and prepared for people’s reactions to breastfeeding in public. You may or may not get looks from strangers. Some glances might be adoring, as many people embrace and understand the beauty of this experience. While others might stare with a look of disgust on their faces. There are two ways to handle these latter types of people - you can either smile kindly at them, or look away. When you look away, turn your attention to your baby. After all, they’re the main focus of this interaction, not the onlookers. By meeting a stranger’s negative gaze with a smile, you’ll likely make them feel equally as uncomfortable as they’re trying to make you feel. If you’re breastfeeding your child while covered up, you’re not harming anyone and no one has a right to make you feel badly about it! In addition, it’s actually illegal in the United States for a woman to be discriminated against for public breastfeeding. Know your rights and don’t let anyone intimidate you.

5. Bring an Appropriate Cover-Up

Of course, you want to be respectful of people’s comfort levels, just as you want others to respect your choice as a breastfeeding mother. This means that breastfeeding in a way that makes everyone feel at ease with the process is always a good idea. Wearing the proper clothing and practicing before heading out in public is a great way to start. Something else that might help protect your privacy and the feelings of others is to bring along a small blanket or cover-up to use during your child’s feeding time. A nursing cover just allows you more freedom and flexibility when trying to master breastfeeding in public. If your child is struggling to latch on, or you’re still fumbling with your nursing bra or tank, a cover-up adds an extra layer of privacy as you get things “situated”. Carrying your child in a sling or other front pouch can also help conceal yourself while publicly breastfeeding. Slings and carriers help keep baby close and keep yourself covered, so much so that you can easily feed your infant while standing in line at the grocery store or walking around the mall.

Embrace Your Choice to Breastfeed in Public

Breastfeeding in public is not only a mother’s choice, but it’s her right! No one should make you feel badly about your choice, and in fact, it’s against the law for them to do so. Don’t let anyone make you feel uncomfortable or wrong when it comes to providing your baby with the nourishment he/she needs when they need it. These few tips can help ease you into breastfeeding in public and help you feel more comfortable doing so. Just remember, this is about you and your child. Do what makes you feel good - a mother’s instinct is a powerful thing!

April Sutphen

I am a 32-year-old mother and wife of a police officer living in NJ. I have my MFA in creative nonfiction and 10 years writing experience. When I'm not writing I enjoy hot yoga, cardio kickboxing, running, and camping.

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