Mothers and their babies shouldn’t feel they have to stay home—hey, they want to enjoy the same activities as anyone else! Current recommendations are to breastfeed exclusively for six months and to continue breastfeeding with added complementary foods for two years and beyond. If you’re not comfortable breastfeeding in public, you can find your life becomes very restricted.
Many mothers are already perfectly comfortable breastfeeding in public. That’s great—not only for you and your baby, but for those women and girls who are not yet mothers, who learn about breastfeeding when they see you. But maybe that’s not you. Maybe you are feeling pretty anxious about nursing in public. You worry about what people will think, and how much skin you’ll be showing.
These tips may help:
- Know your rights. Breastfeeding in public is legal and a very good thing. You are feeding your baby with the most biologically appropriate food, and—as a great side benefit—you are educating any young men and women who might happen to see you.
- Practice at home in front of a mirror.If you’ve been concerned about showing a lot of skin, this will probably reassure you that it’s not likely to be an issue. A nursing baby covers your breast rather efficiently. You can try nursing in different outfits to see which ones work for you and your baby. Some babies can’t stand any fabric touching their faces as they nurse, others are less bothered by it, so experiment to find your best options.
- Choose clothes you’ll feel comfortable in. You can buy (or sew) specially-made nursing clothes that have hidden openings to make breastfeeding easier, or you can put together nursing outfits from ordinary clothes. A loose-fitting T-shirt is often a good choice in casual situations, because you can simply lift up the shirt on one side to feed the baby. If it’s loose, the extra fabric will cover most of your belly and breast. in most l and the fabric of the baby carrier will cover the baby and your breast.
- Choose an easy-access bra.Many mothers find a stretchy sports-type bra works well for them; rather than having to undo a snap or other fastening, they can simply pull the cup of the bra down under their breasts to feed the baby. If you are using a bra where you need to lower the cup, it might help to practise undoing it one-handed at home (and doing it up again after) so that you’re confident about managing it out in public.
- Pick your spot.You’re looking for two things: 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.
- Turn away to latch.The time when the most skin is likely to be shown is when the baby is first latching on. So let’s say you are sitting in a restaurant booth, next to the wall, but still visible to other diners. Before you latch the baby on, try turning so you are completely facing the wall. Latch your baby on in this position, then turn back to face the table and your dining companions. You can do the same if you need to unlatch the baby.
- Consider a cover-up.If you feel really uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, you may want to try covering your baby and breast with a blanket or a commercially available cover-up. Be sure to practice at home, because many babies dislike having a blanket over their heads while nursing and will pull it off or fuss.
- Smile!If you notice someone glancing in your direction as you breastfeed your baby, even if they are frowning or looking horrified, give them a smile! You know you are doing something very important for your child, and that’s a good thing. If you show your confidence with a friendly smile, you may defuse the situation.