I love the satisfaction and pride that I feel when I breastfeed my daughter. But there are times when being a breastfeeding mum can be an isolating experience, particularly when breastfeeding in public. While I was nursing my daughter at a cafe one time, a woman actually said to me, “Ma’am, shouldn’t you be doing that in private?” Then, there are the people who stare. A friend recently shared that while breastfeeding her baby in a park one time, a man sat down on the bench across from them, cup of coffee in hand, and just watched the baby eat. “I didn’t want to interrupt my daughter’s feeding, so I resisted the urge to hightail it out of there, but I felt uncomfortable the entire time,” she remembers.
If you’re a breastfeeding mum, chances are you can relate. Unless you have wonder boobs that let you pump litres at a time and a wonder child who quietly sits around and lets that happen, there are probably times when you’ve had to breastfeed away from home, too. Maybe you’ve even encountered some weirdness while breastfeeding in public. But here’s the thing: Making the choice to breastfeed your baby shouldn’t mean hiding out at home. It’s totally legal to breastfeed in public, so you have every right to breastfeed your baby while out and about.
I’m on a mission to make breastfeeding in public a more comfortable thing to do, so I’ve talked to mums from around the country to get their tips and tricks. Check out what they have to say — and feel free to add your own tips in the comments section!
1. Pick a familiar place to practice breastfeeding in public. “Mum-and-baby yoga classes, mothers’ group and the parents’ room in a store are all great places to start,” says Joanna C. “Once you get your routine down, you’ll feel a lot more confident feeding your baby in a new place.”
2. Focus on your baby, not your surroundings. “Just remember that it doesn’t matter what other people think, all that matters is that your baby comes first,” says Jennifer N.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up in restaurants. Heather S. was at a pizza place with her family and friends when her baby decided it was time to feed. Her 10-month-old was getting too distracted at the table with everyone else chatting and having a good time, so Heather asked if she could nurse her baby at a quiet table in the back instead. The manager was incredibly friendly and accommodating.
4. Look for out-of-the way benches at festivals and parks. Breastfeeding in a crowded park, festival or playground can be intimidating. Instead, look for a patch or grass or bench that’s off-the-beaten path, where you can nurse in private, without distractions or spectators.
5. Try the buddy system for extra support. That’s what Jessica O. did after she was criticised for feeding her 4-week-old baby in a museum. By moving to an area where she could sit with her husband and other children while breastfeeding, she felt supported, rather than ostracised.
6. Use a nursing cover, if you want some privacy. Choose a cover that’s light and breathable.
7. No cover? Use the baby’s muslin wrap. I always have at least one in my nappy bag, and if I need to I can tie it and slip it over my head to create a bib-like cover.
8. Invest in some clothes that are easy to nurse in. Trying to discreetly get your top undone while holding a starving, flailing, probably screaming baby is not easy. Especially when you have an audience. I’ve been loving button-down and cowl neck shirts and dresses!
9. Breastfeed your baby in her carrier. I have successfully nursed my daughter in both in her carrier and in a self-tie wrap (our paediatrician gave me the OK to do so when my daughter was about 8-weeks-old). Not only is this a discreet choice for breastfeeding in public, but it lets you do so hands-free.
10. Get creative if your baby doesn’t like his cover. Some babies, particularly older ones, just don’t want to be covered up while they’re eating. If your baby falls into this category, try covering up with his sun hat or even a spare onesie once he’s latched on.
11. Keep her focused with a baby-safe necklace. There are plenty of distractions when out and about, so consider investing in something your babe can focus on and play with while nursing. We like Bubba Chew (also great for teething).
12. Have a sense of humour about accidental flashing. “Once my babies were around 7 or 8 months, feeding them in public became a whole new struggle because they would be distracted by EVERYTHING!” shares Caitlin R. “Sometimes I ended up accidentally flashing anyone watching when the child I was feeding would pull away unexpectedly.” Her solution: laugh it off.
13. Say to h*ll with the rude people. “Know that people who say negative things or give you nasty looks are completely in the wrong,” says Emma T. “What you are doing is not inappropriate.”
14. Trust that you’ll feel more confident over time. “It got easier the longer I did it,” says Jen M. “At first, I was extremely worried about someone seeing my breasts or tummy, if I had to pull my shirt up. I also worried about offending people. By my third child, I didn’t worry about those things so much.”
Remember, you’re not alone. When you’re out and the need to breastfeed your baby arises, go for it; in fact, you might be inspiring another breastfeeding mum. And when you see another mama nursing on the sidelines of your older child’s soccer game or wherever life has planted her for that moment’s feeding, make sure to give her a supportive smile. The best and strongest ally we have in this is each other.
More stories for breastfeeding mums:
- 11 Stunning Photos of Mums Breastfeeding Their Babies
- PHOTOS: Celebrity Mums Breastfeeding Their Babies in Public
- I’m Going to Breastfeed in Public (& I Don’t Care if You’re Offended)