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the mommyhood memos: 10 tips and tricks for breastfeeding in public

Monday, August 9, 2010

10 tips and tricks for breastfeeding in public

my little peanut at about two weeks old
Ah, breastfeeding. I'm an advocate... but I don't have my head in the sand either. I realize that not every woman who desires to is able to breastfeed. There are many things that can factor into whether or not it will work like we hope for it to. And just like I'm a member of the Moms Who Give Birth Club, I'm also a member of the Moms Who Feed Their Babies Club. There's no judging here... as long as we're all feeding our babies.

But this post is for the breastfeeding chapter of the Moms Who Feed Their Babies Club... So if that's you, read on!

Does the thought of breastfeeding in public make you self-conscious?

If so, don’t worry, you are not alone! Many women deal with fears and anxieties related to the assumed perception of others’ opinions. It not only prevents them from feeding their sweet babes on-the-go, it robs them of their confidence to do what they desire.

But the reality is we eat out… So is there any reason bub shouldn’t be "allowed" to as well?

If you’ve been hesitant about breastfeeding in public (and you desire to), I hope these simple tips will help you find some confidence.

1. Be informed. In countries like the US and Australia, it is illegal to be discriminated against as a breastfeeding mom in public. (Unless of course you’re trying to do it in places like a bar or a taxi… but common sense and safety would prevent you from doing that anyway.)

2. Practice at home. Some mom-and-baby pairs struggle with latch more than others. There’s nothing wrong with that. Any mom knows that breastfeeding, as natural as it is, is a learned skill for both of you. Adding to that the art of arranging yourself “just right” in public the first few times can be tricky. The good news is that with some practice it can soon become second nature! When first starting out, practice a couple of times at home in "public mode" just as you would if people were watching. 

3. Wear something easy to nurse in. I like to wear nursing tank-tops (with built-in bras) under my clothes. This turns almost any top into a breastfeeding-friendly top. Just lift your outer shirt up and unhook the fastener of the nursing tank-top/bra. The undershirt can stay tucked in so that you don’t have to expose your boob or your belly, while just enough of your breast is free for bubs to latch onto.

4. Use a nursing cover or a blanket. Especially when you’re first beginning, try using a nursing cover. This gives you more freedom to fumble without flashing the world if you and bubs are still getting the hang of things. Once your baby is older he may not like to be covered, but while he’s tiny it won’t make a difference to him at all. My nursing cover helped me build lots of confidence my first few months.

5. Start in a non-threatening place. Don’t make your first attempt at nursing in public in a crowded mall food court or in the grandstands of a baseball game. Start with someplace quieter and less chaotic – a park bench or a mellow café or a “mothers room” in the mall. Once you get the hang of it, you can nurse in line at Disneyland. Until then, cut yourself some slack and start off someplace that’s low-stress.

6. Stay out of the toilet stall. You wouldn’t eat your lunch while sitting on a toilet, so why should your darling bub? Keep it clean, mama. If you feel you need more privacy than you can find, then try the backseat of your car. (Just make sure your car is parked someplace safe and well-lit.)

7. Take a deep breath and relax. Although there are still a few people “out there” that may not understand why you think it’s appropriate to nurse in public, know that they are the minority. (And yeah, I’m writing this with a specific audience in mind, knowing that in some cultures public breastfeeding would be totally inappropriate.)

8. If people stare at you, smile back. Don’t assume they are starting in disapproval. Instead, assume they are staring in admiration {grin} or even just curiosity. Smile and go about your business. You have nothing to be ashamed of and your confidence will deflect most—if not all—gawkers.

9. If you still get nervous, look at your baby. Nothing brings more peace than looking at your newborn baby while he nurses and seeing how happy and contented he is as you’re both doing what you were designed to do. (Zero in on his bliss and enjoy it while you can, because at five or so months he'll have the attention span of a nat while nursing... Dealing with this is a whole separate post!) 

10. Try using a sling. I loved when my babe was a newborn and could easily fit into my sling. Even if roaming the isles of Target with a friend or on an evening walk with my hubs, I could nurse on-the-go in my sling and no one would be the wiser. I think hammock-style slings work best for this, but other moms also nurse in wraps and front carriers. 

I hope these tips are helpful in instilling you with confidence! Breastfeeding is something to be proud of (if that's the choice you've made and your body allows) and it's a wonderful built-in companion for a mom and baby duo on-the-go! 

Dear mommy-friends, was is difficult for you to nurse in public? If so, and you overcame your nerves, what helped you the most? Can you think of anything I've not considered?

Have you registered your blog here yet?

adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
do not reproduce without written permission

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At August 9, 2010 at 12:37 AM , Blogger Mandy said...

I never really breastfed Bennett in public. I always just timed everything around his feedings, or would bring a bottle. I tried a few times but he could never get comfortable and was too distracted. Ha ha. But I applaud all Mommies that do!

At August 9, 2010 at 2:33 AM , Blogger JIll said...

Love this! I am currently breastfeeding little B and having already done this with O I am out and about. When I first started though I have to say I did use a fitting room if I needed to.

At August 9, 2010 at 4:14 AM , Blogger Angel Armogida said...

I wish I was able to breastfeed. I simply had no milk at all :(

Angel x
High Heels & Lipgloss

At August 9, 2010 at 10:11 AM , Blogger The Planet Pink said...

I would use the hubs as a buffer if possible. If I needed to nurse while in a restaurant, I would slide into the inside of the booth and the hubs would sit on the other side of me. Not only would his body partially block the view, but most curious onlookers are not too keen to have to stare PAST a husband to try to get a good look at his wife's boob.

At August 9, 2010 at 11:50 AM , Blogger Getrealmommy said...

I tried to be discreet when I nursed, but after a while, I was just over it. I felt like the world would just have to deal with my nursing in public. I needed to be out and about, my baby needed to nurse and hated my hooter hider, and so that was that. Babies need to eat!

At August 9, 2010 at 10:09 PM , Blogger A Little R&R said...

This is excellent! There is really nothing to add here. Its sad that our society has come to look at breasts as only "s*x" items...and look on nursing as something to be shooed away. Sure, we don't need to "bare it all" when we nurse - we ought to be civilized, but as geterealmommy said, babies need to eat. And the restroom (as some places have relegated nursing mothers to) is not a place to feed a baby.

At August 10, 2010 at 6:37 AM , Blogger LauraCYMFT said...

You can breastfeed anywhere in Scotland so to be honest nobody batted an eyelid when I was breastfeeding in public. Babies need to eat and a screaming baby will probably draw more attention that a feeding one! You look amazing for someone who had just given birth 2 weeks before in that picture!

At August 12, 2010 at 11:58 AM , Blogger Cameron said...

I have to admit, I am 7 months in to breastfeeding & I'm still not good at doing it in public. The only place I've really done it are in the nursing room in the Macy's bathroom at the mall - it's really nice with couches & chairs & it's pretty & clean!! I did do it once in my booth at Panera bread, but I wasn't crazy about it & haven't done it since then. Other than that, I end up finding private places & sometimes going out of my way to do so.

I really need to work on this!!!

At August 13, 2010 at 2:47 AM , Blogger Heather said...

I have to admit that it's taken me quite a while to feel less self conscious while nursing in public. I always worried about having one of those confrontations that I've read about, but I've been lucky so far. It's also never been enough of a concern that it stopped me from going out, living my life, and feeding my son. I live in NYC and so far nobody has batted an eye when I've been nursing. I've nursed everywhere...the mall, Coney Island, at church during my son's christening, in restaurants, the playground...anywhere that I happen to be when my son is hungry. My son's needs comes before anything else, including someone else's ignorant feelings that breastfeeding should be done in private.

At August 17, 2010 at 12:17 AM , Blogger Rachel said...

This is excellent! Way to encourage breastfeeding. I was lucky because my boys were born in Brazil where there's no negative outlook on breastfeeding in public. I had a great experience breastfeeding my boys anywhere and everywhere. It broke my heart when I'd come back to the states for a visit and people would give me dirty look when I breastfed, even when I was covered up!


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