Are you a breastfeeding mom? Do you often shy away from breastfeeding in public? Do you stay home because the fear (or shame) of merely thinking of having to “pop it out” in public becomes way too overwhelming for you? Would you rather stay home than deal with having to feed your baby in public?
Do you play scenarios in your head of all the things that could possibly go wrong?
What if someone tells me to cover up?
What if I get ugly stares?
Did reading this just stress you out? Don’t worry! Chances of these things actually happening are slim to none and, more than likely, they are just that — “what if” scenarios playing in your head.
Whether it’s your first child or not, it can be stressful having to breastfeed a hungry baby in public. Breastfeeding is supposed to be something relaxing and cherished between you and your baby. But let’s be realistic; it can suck sometimes.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be stressful. Below you’ll find a few tips that can help public breastfeeding suck a little less… and hopefully minimize the Lifetime movie scenarios unfolding in your head!
Preparation is key when it comes to breastfeeding. What you do before leaving your house is often just as (if not more) important as what you do leading up to feeding your baby. Think about where you’re going and how long you will be out. Will there be anyone to assist you if you need help? Will there be a place where you can peacefully feed your baby? What should you wear?
Now, this may sound counter-intuitive, but don’t overthink it; simply plan ahead! It’ll pay off in the long run and, before you know it, thinking of these things will become a habit. And leaving your house will be that much easier.
Tips for Breastfeeding in Public:
TIP #1: Nurse your baby before stepping out.
Duh! This seems like common sense doesn’t it? It is, but sometimes we’re so rushed to get out of the house that we forget to feed the baby prior to leaving. Every mom breastfeeds their baby differently. Some lucky moms have babies that breastfeed on both breasts during one sitting and go without feeding for three to four hour stretches. Some babies feed on one side and are done until their next feeding, and some babies love to binge eat. Whichever kind of baby you have, be sure that he eats last on the side you are less comfortable with before leaving the house.
This will ensure that, when it comes time to feed in public, you’re able to nurse on the side you are more comfortable with. Typically your more comfortable side is the breast opposite your dominant hand. For example, if you’re right-hand dominant, you may be more comfortable feeding on your left breast rather than your right (and vice versa).
Does that make sense? It may sound like such a small thing to do, but trust when I say doing this will alleviate stress when it comes time to feed. When you have a crying baby in your arms searching for a breast, it’ll be easier to latch him on quickly using your dominant hand/arm.
TIP #2: Wear something comfortable.
The last thing you need when it comes time to feed your baby is to not be properly dressed. We sometimes want to prove to society that we’re back to our pre-baby size and talk ourselves into squeezing into our pre-pregnancy tops and jeans. Next thing you know, you’re feeling like a stuffed sausage, discouraged and uncomfortable to say the least.
It’s ok to want to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes after you’ve had your baby. Some moms are lucky enough to comfortably fit into them shortly after giving birth — and they’re able to comfortably and effortlessly nurse their baby. If that’s you, that’s great! If that’s not you, then it’s ok! There is still hope!
Consider purchasing nursing-friendly clothing. If that’s not in your budget or you simply don’t want to splurge, make use of what you have and dig into your maternity wardrobe. After all, how many of us can admit that we continue to wear our maternity clothes long after the baby has arrived? I know I’m guilty!
A nursing bra and tank top underneath a regular t-shirt works wonders. An oversized shirt and a muslin swaddle blanket tucked underneath your nursing bra can also be an option. Button up shirts work great, too! You want to have a good experience every time you choose to nurse in public, so find what works for you and go with it.
TIP #3: Stop caring about what people think.
This is easier said than done. However, once you’ve mastered it, you are good to go! Sometimes we become overwhelmed by caring too much about what people will think or say about us. Especially while nursing. We selflessly give up our body so our babies can have the nourishment they need. That is hard work alone!
The last thing we want is to be ridiculed or looked at with disgust. Although this is a valid concern in some cases, the likelihood of this actually taking place is slim to none. Most people won’t mind. Most won’t even notice. Some may even applaud you for doing it or give you more privacy.
I’ll give you an example. My son was nine months old when we took his first flight. My husband was deployed at the time, so it was just him and I heading to Puerto Rico to meet a friend for spring break. We had a long layover and, although I tried nursing prior to boarding, he was simply not hungry. It wasn’t until the plane was ready to take off that he started to fuss a bit. By the time the plane was in the air he was latched onto my breast. There was gentleman seated right next to me and as soon as the seat belt sign came on he leaned over and said to me, “I’m going to move seats to give you a little more privacy.”
He wasn’t rude about it. On the contrary, he politely told me why he was moving as opposed to having me believe he was offended by me nursing my baby. I don’t deny that there will be people that will judge you, talk about you, and make faces at the sight of you nursing. However, there will always be someone that understands. People will say and think whatever they want and you can’t control it; so stop caring about what people will think and focus on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It’s as simple as that.
TIP #4: Be respectful of others.
Do unto others as you want done unto you. That is one version of what the Golden Rule states. Just as much as you want people to be mindful of you while you’re nursing, you must also be mindful of them. What?! Didn’t Tip#4 just state not to care what people think?! Yes, it did, but it is very possible to not care what people think and be courteous at the same time. Both of these things are simultaneously important. It is your right to freely breastfeed your child however you please, but it is also important to be aware of your surroundings. As stated previously, people will likely not care that you’re feeding your baby. Most people would prefer knowing you’re feeding your baby than hearing your baby cry out of hunger. Breastfeeding a child is natural in every sense of the word but not everyone needs a free show (kids especially). It’s in their nature to stare, point, and ask questions. And that’s ok. However, it’s likely that most parents would appreciate you discretely nursing.
I know this was the case when my daughter was first born. My husband and I had traveled to the Galleria in Dallas. We were there for a few hours and, like clockwork, my daughter got hungry. I sat on some couches to nurse. Nearby, there were some children playing. They stopped and starred as I placed a muslin blanket over my shoulder and began to nurse. I simply smiled and looked back at my daughter. Their mother quickly came to gather them and asked them to play on the other side of the couch area. It was simply a woman nursing and curious children playing. No boundaries were overstepped and there was no drama.
TIP #5: You do not have to feed your baby in a bathroom stall.
It’s just milk! It is not that serious, y’all. Please do not ever feel like you have to feed your baby in the restroom. You wouldn’t eat your breakfast, lunch or dinner in a public bathroom, would you? (I hope the answer to that is no, but I digress.)
I speak from experience when I say it’s pretty gross. I will never forget the time I felt I had to feed my baby in a bathroom stall. I was about three weeks postpartum with my firstborn so, of course, I was wearing Spanx to keep everything in its place. I will never forget the anxiety I felt knowing it was time to feed him. I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for nursing. I was uncomfortable. I had on full-length Spanx on for crying out loud! I was getting anxious from hearing him cry so I rushed to the restroom with him, took off my Spanx and sat on the toilet seat half naked to feed him. Not only was it overly dramatic but it was quite the experience! I clearly failed to prepare that day by not wearing comfortable, nursing-friendly clothing.
However, thinking back now, I know I could have stepped outside, sat on a bench and covered myself while I pulled the Spanx off my shoulders. I could have even gone to the car for a little more privacy before sprinting to the bathroom stall. Lesson learned!
TIP #6: Take a bottle of expressed milk with you.
Wait. What? Isn’t this an article about tips for breastfeeding in public? It is, but let’s be realistic. Being a mom can be hectic. More often than not, we’re too busy maintaining our sanity to try and win a mom-of-the-year award.
Taking a bottle of expressed milk can serve as a back-up in case you’re too overwhelmed and just can’t seem to get the hang of breastfeeding in public. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Use a bottle to feed your baby if you have to. It’ll all be alright! I promise! Being a mom is hard work. Don’t beat yourself up over having to bottle feed your baby from time to time in public. You’re still a great mom!
Hopefully these tips help in your breastfeeding journey. Remember, you’re doing a great job!