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No-Fear Nursing

5 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public

Breastfeeding is a beautiful part of being a mother, and it should not be a hindrance to your daily life. The most recent recommendation from the World Health Organization encourages mothers to breastfeed exclusively for six months before introducing foods. That means, sooner or later, you will likely breastfeed in public.

For some mothers, nursing in public is as natural as at home; for others, public nursing takes them beyond their comfort zone. The good news is there’s no one “right” way to breastfeed in public. The law is on your side, so a breastfeeding mother may nurse wherever the mother is allowed to be, and nursing mothers are exempt from indecent exposure laws. Pick and choose outfits, accessories and locations, talk to other moms, and find the best strategy for you.

Wondering where to start? Here are five tips for nursing in public:

1. Dress

Two-piece outfits tend to be the most popular and easiest option, but a wrap dress can also allow for easy access when it’s time to nurse. Some mothers prefer to buy nursing tops while others like to customize their own. A loose t-shirt can easily be lifted up, and buttoned tops are also very adjustable. If you’re worried about coverage, your baby will shield most of your midriff, but some moms like to wear bellybands to cover the stomach. Ultimately, the best outfit will be what makes you feel most comfortable.

2. Accessorize

Slings, shawls and light blankets are popular accessories for nursing mothers. Slings make for hands-free nursing – even while walking – and most babies love to ride in them. The sling can also keep your body and your baby covered. Shawls or excess material can be used to shield you while nursing if you’re interested in added privacy – just know it is by no means a requirement to cover up while nursing in public.

3. Practice

Many mothers find it useful to do a trial run before nursing in public for the first time or before using a new strategy. If you’re curious about your exposure, you can practice how you adjust your clothes or how your baby latches in front of a mirror at home. Exploring different outfits or strategies can help you determine what you’re most comfortable with before you’re out in public. And don’t be afraid to mix it up – what you like for the pool may not be your favorite for the restaurant or the department store. Adapt for ease and coverage as needed.

4. Scout

Before it’s time to nurse, a quick canvass of the area can help you determine where you’ll feel most comfortable breastfeeding. At a restaurant, you may want to ask for a booth or an out-of-the-way table. While shopping, you might look for a dressing room, special nursing room, or just a quiet corner. If you’re interested in more privacy, it’s useful to identify a suitable option before you’re rushed. Finding a good spot is much easier when you’re not consoling an increasingly hungry – and possibly noisy – child. As always, it’s all about your comfort. Don’t let the location stress you out; you’ll be well within your rights wherever you choose to nurse.

5. Smile

You will undoubtedly encounter other people while nursing – you are in public, after all. Some of the people who approach you will be supportive – other mothers or advocates with words of support – but some may be uncomfortable. If someone complains, a security guard or manager may ask you to move. Smile. You’re caring for your baby. Your best approach in this situation is a planned response, calmly and politely stating your rights and explaining that no one wants to be asked to eat in the bathroom.

You may feel attacked, bullied or upset by particularly aggressive strangers. Unfortunately, simply leaving may be the easiest option for you and your baby in this case. That said, it’s important to remember that you were doing nothing wrong by nursing in public, and you may choose to follow up with a phone call or email to the establishment.

Nursing in public will always be both a personal choice and a personal action. Confidence will come with experience. Remember that by nursing your baby, you are being a good mother who is providing for the needs of your baby, and there’s nothing wrong with that.