10 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public Without Fear
I remember clear as day the first time I nursed in public. I was at a mall, and Alex started crying and headbanging against my chest. I quickly ran to a lounge chair near the entrance of Nordstrom that was out of the way of heavy traffic but still very visible to any passerby. I chose that spot purposely, because I wanted to really experience nursing in public, and not hiding in a corner where nobody would see me. I put on my cover, laid Alex down in my arms, and took out my boob. I distinctly remember the blood rushing to my face and sweating like crazy from the adrenaline rush, and I tried to the best of my abilities to act like I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. After Alex was full, he tried to kick off the cover and sit up, and I panicked momentarily as the cover was slightly lifted while my boob was still out of my bra. I stuffed my boob back in a hurry and proudly took off my cover. I did it!
To many moms, nursing in public is a very scary thought. I was truly petrified at the thought of it as a new mom, but after nursing my son for 2 years and still currently nursing my 1-year-old daughter, I have gotten very comfortable breastfeeding my baby in a public setting. I have breastfed at Disneyland, in an airplane, at the mall, at a movie theater, at a wedding, on the beach, etc. Don’t let your fear stop you from feeding your child! Now, no one is forcing you to nurse in public – it’s completely up to you. But if you decide to commit to it, here are some tips on how to nurse in public and conquer your fears:
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- Join a breastfeeding support group.
You don’t have to dive right in and nurse with tons of stranger walking by you. Start slow and join a breastfeeding support group to get comfortable nursing your baby while surrounded by other breastfeeding moms. I remember attending a support group for the first time and seeing other moms taking out their boobs and nursing their babies without a cover. I was shocked that they could be so comfortable and confident with their bodies to show their boobs to the rest of the room. After a few sessions, I was happily nursing my baby while chatting with other moms… and one of the topics we talked about was nursing in public!
- Nurse with other breastfeeding moms.
Go out with other breastfeeding moms and nurse the little ones at the same time. Trust me, when a whole group of moms is sitting in a restaurant together, trying to eat with one hand while holding a nursing baby with the other, you almost feel left out not breastfeeding your baby. Come on, everyone is doing it!
- Wear the right outfit.
I personally like to wear shirts with a stretchy neckline and so the breasts are easy to pop out and use a cover in public. Other people like the layered approach, where you wear a nursing tank top on the inside and a shirt on top of that. This way, you can just unlatch the tank top, pull up the shirt, and pop on the baby without showing any breast or tummy. Recently, I have seen some moms wear a halter top and take out their breasts from the side. Wear whatever works for you, because the last thing you want to do is fumble with your clothes while a demanding baby is trying to gain access to the motherload. I have ripped more than one shirt doing just that… oops.
- Choose the right nursing cover (if you choose to use one).
Most moms start off with a nursing cover that pretty much is like a reverse cap. The problem with that type of cover is that you baby can easily grab it and you end up fighting to keep yourself covered while nursing. Some people use a blanket and tuck the blanket into their bra straps to keep it in place. I didn’t discover the multi-use infinity stretchy shawl until my daughter was born, and I regret ever using anything else. The shawl covers you and your baby all around your body so your baby can’t just kick it off. It’s easy to put on and on cold days I just wear it around like a scarf. I have seen moms use it as a car seat cover as well when the baby was young to shield the baby from the sun. I feel completely comfortable nursing with the shawl anywhere because of its coverage.
- Try nursing in a carrier.
Nursing your baby in a carrier is great because you have both of your hands-free while nursing, so you can run errands or do house chores while feeding your baby. A carrier also acts like a cover, so you don’t have to worry about people seeing your stomach or your boob. If you want extra security, you can also throw a cover on while nursing your baby in a carrier.
- Pick the right spot for YOU.
I started off at the mall because I am the push me in the pool so I have to figure out how to swim or die type of gal. You may choose to start off in a quieter place with fewer people around, such as a park bench in the middle of the day or a restaurant mid-afternoon. Wherever you choose, just make sure that you are comfortable mentally and physically.
- Feed the baby before “hanger” sets in.
Gauge your baby’s hunger level and nurse before the baby gets frantic and “hanger” sets in. Trying to get a screaming, starving baby under a cover is like trying to catch a fish out of water while its flopping around everywhere. Watch for early hunger cues or check the clock to see if it’s about time for a feeding so ensure that your baby is calm during the nursing session.
- Make eye contact and smile at the haters.
If you see people staring at you or talking about you, make eye contact and smile back at them. They will probably just turn around and walk away quickly. Or they may be just curious because they never saw it done before, and your calm smile will reassure them that breastfeeding in public is as normal as a kid eating an ice cream cone in public. No big deal.
- Focus on your baby.
If you still feel nervous, just focus on your baby. Smile and play with your baby while nursing and forget about the rest of the world. Who cares what other people think as long as your baby is happy?
- Practice makes perfect.
Still feeling uncomfortable? Try practicing at home in front of a mirror. You will be assured that you actually can’t see your nipple (provided your baby is latched on correctly) and even much of your boob because your baby’s head is blocking it. Then start going out to parks, malls, restaurants, or wherever your heart desires to practice. The more you do it, the more comfortable and confident you are going to feel and before you know it, you will be the one inspiring new moms to nurse in public.
Remember, 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have laws that allow breastfeeding moms to nurse their babies anywhere they are legally allowed to be, so the law is on your side. Don’t let your fear imprison you in your own home, and don’t let anyone discourage you from doing something that is so natural and beautiful. So go out and paint the town red – though don’t get too crazy because you do have a baby with you who you need to nurse from time to time!
Do you have any other tips for breastfeeding in public? Do you remember how it felt the first time you did it?