At the beginning of my breastfeeding experience, I would have rather hidden away at home than risk nursing in public. The thought of exposing even a centimeter of my breasts (or receiving the inevitable criticism) terrified me.
For the mamas that are confident enough to nurse without fear, I applaud you. For the women that dread the event, I completely, 100%, know what you’re going through.
Having said that, let me encourage you. By the time we stopped breastfeeding around 13 months, I’d like to think that I mastered nursing in public. Even with my initial fears. I firmly believe that if I can do it, you can top.
That’s why I’m so excited to share some of my favorite nursing in public tips with you. Whatever is holding you back, the size and shape of your breasts, your personal or religious beliefs, the fear of ridicule from others, I hope these tips give you the confidence you need to nourish your baby without the unnecessary anxiety.
How to Breastfeed in Public: Know the Facts
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Before we get into my top tips, let’s review some breastfeeding in public facts–just in case this is the first article you’ve read about the subject.
It’s Legal in All 50 States. That’s right, every state has some kind of law protecting your rights. If you’re breastfeeding with a cover in public, you can be assured that no one has the right to ask you to leave.
States Have Individual Laws Regarding Breastfeeding. All 50 states allow breastfeeding in public. Having said that, only 31 states exempt it from public indecency. Now, I’m NOT lawyer, by any means. But, if you are planning on breastfeeding in public with some skin showing, you may want to double-check your state law.
Breastfeeding in Public on a Plane. It’s legal as long as you’re in the US. Once again, you may run into some gray area, especially if you are dealing with international zones and countries with varying beliefs and laws. Check with your airline beforehand. If you’re nervous about breastfeeding on the plane, keep in mind that many airports actually have a mother’s lounge.
10 Genius Breastfeeding in Public Tips for the First Time Mom
1 Master Latching First
If at all possible, don’t breastfeed in front of a bunch of people until you’ve at least mastered latching.
When you first start breastfeeding, you’re probably going to be awkward. Not only that, your baby is going to be awkward. It takes a lot of practice and coordination between you both to master the perfect latch. During the early weeks, women also experience lots of other weird breastfeeding problems, such as tongue tie, overactive letdowns, cracked and painful nipples, etc. etc.
Learning how to breastfeed in public takes time.
During the first couple weeks, laying the foundation for your breastfeeding relationship needs to be your focus, not adding extra stress to you and your baby. So, if you’re planning on being in public where you don’t feel comfortable wrangling your boob and baby , I recommend simply finding a secluded place where you can be free.
If you’re a new mom that is just mastering the art of breastfeeding, I can’t recommend Milkolgy’s Ultimate Breastfeeding Class enough! I’ve personally taken it and loved it! For less than $20, it teaches you how to latch, increase your milk supply, master different positions and more. Read the review here.
2 Ask for a Mother’s Lounge
I had no idea when I first started breastfeeding. If I had only known, it would’ve saved me so much grief and awkward situations.
It will surprise you how many public places actually have a mother’s lounge.Football stadiums, airports, nearly all government buildings, malls, even some retail stores.
Just give your destinations a call beforehand (many post right on their website as well).
3 Practice with Your Mom Friends
Finding a supportive group of women will be the foundation of your motherhood experience. Not only will these women help reduce your anxiety about breastfeeding in public, but they’ll offer support in so many different areas.
My MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) group was incredibly supportive of breastfeeding moms. It was just so normal to breastfeed my baby while we sat and talked that it gradually eased my fears about breastfeeding in public.
If you’re not religious and MOPS isn’t your thing, you can also check out Facebook to find local moms groups. Also, check out the La Leche League website to find local meetings as well.
4 Nurse in a Secluded Place
After a few months, you’ll probably feel confident nursing almost anywhere, but while you’re still learning how to nurse in public, you might just want to find a secluded place for you and your baby’s sanity.
I found that noises and people distracted me and my baby, making the nursing session longer and unenjoyable for us both.
My favorite secluded locations included:
- A bench located at the back of a building, park, or mall
- Fitting rooms (the hidden jewel of department stores)
- Restaurant booths toward the back
- Cars (I loved nursing in cars, but more on that later)
- Creating my own “nursing station” with a stroller. (Also more on that later)
5 Invest in Comfortable Nursing Wear
Almost every breastfeeding mom has been in a situation where using a cover is just not possible. Maybe you hate the idea of using one, your baby hates nursing covers, or the temperature doesn’t allow for it. Whatever the reason, there are still ways for the shy mom to avoid feeling exposed without resorting to a nursing cover.
Investing in good nursing wear is one way to do that.
Your comfort level is everything with you’re nursing in public. You want to wear clothes that allow you easy access to your breasts, but also hide the skin that you aren’t comfortable revealing.
Nursing tanks with button-up shirts or cardigans are super helpful and inexpensive.
Having said that, actual nursing wear can be very convenient. Nursing clothes often have quick release tops with multiple layers to hide your breasts while baby is feeding (thereby eliminating the need for a cover.
My top places to shop nursing clothes are:
- Undercover Mama: Their one-hand nursing latch is nothing short of genius and it comes standard with most of their nursing shirts. Plus, the shirts are very affordable.
- Motherhood Maternity: If you can catch them on sale, Motherhood Maternity offers some great nursing tops for a good price
- Amazon.com: My favorite place to buy nursing tanks
- Target: My favorite place for nursing bras. You can purchase them online and still make use of their great return policy
6 Learn How to Breastfeed in Public Without a Pillow
This was probably one of the hardest aspects of breastfeeding in public for me. It can be hard to nurse your baby for extended periods of time without a pillow, but hauling one around can be a downright inconvenience.
For me, the Football Hold or the Cross-Cradle hold was the most comfortable way to nurse in public. If you’re really struggling, a u-shaped travel pillow will do in a pinch.
7 Nurse Before Your Baby is Starving
If your baby is screaming when you start nursing, it will take longer to latch, longer to produce milk, and can draw unwanted attention.
My secret weapon for nursing in public was relying on my feeding schedule. My daughter nursed roughly every two hours. So, at about the time when she would usually nurse, I set up my portable nursing station and got to business. I can’t stress how easy this made the experience.
If you’re not into a feeding schedule or routine, keep an eye on your baby’s hunger cues. Your baby will usually, subtly, let you know when he’s starting to feel peckish.
RELATED POST: How to Start the Perfect Baby Sleep Schedule
8 Create a Portable Nursing Lounge
At first, nursing in the car was the easiest solution for this shy mom. It took my highly-distractable baby away from the people and sounds that bogged down our nursing sessions, and provided comfortable space for me to unwind. To nurse in the car, I just kept a little nursing basket (filled with a baby blanket, wipes, portable pillow) and nursed right before we went into the store.
But…sometimes, it’s impossible to nurse in the car. If you’re planning on being at an event for a while, there’s no way you can keep running back and forth to the car.
When we were in a public place, my daughter’s stroller provided the privacy I craved. It became my “portable nursing lounge.” Sound weird? Let me explain.
Beforehand, make sure you pack the lower portion of the stroller with all your nursing necessities. To create your own personal nursing lounge, you just find a semi-secluded place and roll your stroller in front of the area where you’re most likely to flash someone.
9 Wear a Baby Wrap
Some women have great success nursing in public with a baby wrap or sling. The sling tends to draw less attention than a cover or blanket, while the fabric from the sling actually shields the baby and your breast from curious eyes. Not only that, but once you figure out how to latch and breastfeed in a sling, you can breastfeed on the go!
The video above explains how to do it better than I ever could.
Last thing I’ll say about it: breastfeeding in public with large breasts can be a challenge, but even more so if you’re planning on doing it in a sling. So, if you’re concerned about exposing some skin, I would definitely practice the sling technique at home first.
My absolute favorite sling was the Baby K’tan. It was about half the price of more popular brands and so comfortable!
10 Find the Right Nursing Cover
Nursing in public with a cover was my preferred method.
Whether I used a blanket or an actual nursing cover, most people that happened to glance over respectfully turned their eyes away without any complaint. Having said that, using a cover can be complicated if your baby hates it (and mine did!) so, here’s a few of my favorite nursing in public tips for this method:
Use a Lightweight Cover
Whether its hot or your baby hates covers, this is absolutely essential. Your baby needs space to move around in a semi-natural environment. Some covers are bulky and honestly feel like tarp.
Let’s talk blankets first. Whether you’re planning on breastfeeding in public or not, I highly recommend taking a muslin swaddle blanket along. These blankets make perfect covers for your baby, makeshift diaper changing surfaces, and breastfeeding covers.
To breastfeed in public with a blanket, I simply tied the ends of the blanket together and threw it over my shoulder (sort of like a sling).
The biggest complaint I see with nursing covers is ventilation. That’s why I loved using the nursing aprons with the wire, rigid necklines (this allows you to open the top, which is easier for latching and ventilation.)
Having said that, many moms opt in for the infinity scarf-style covers that are pure fabric. Just make sure that you focus on finding a scarf with a breathable material, like muslin.
Don’t Let Other People Ruin Your Nursing Experience
Whatever is driving you to seek out tips for nursing in public–modesty, spiritual values, anxiety, fear of criticism–do not let people’s opinions ruin this experience for you.
Even if you bare absolutely no skin, some people will criticize the fact that you dare bring your feed your baby outside of your home. Unfortunately, people can be downright nasty.
Just remember, this has NOTHING to do with you or your baby. Over time you will become more confident and you will learn to let this rudeness slide off you.
In the meantime, I hope my little hacks have helped ease some of your worries. It does get easier, I promise. Just give a few of these strategies a try and you will hone in on the best one for you. Believe me, if I can do it, you can too!
So, what are your tips for breastfeeding in public? Do you have any questions about these techniques? Let me know in the comments below!