Nervous about nursing in public?
Your a new mom! You’ve survived birth and the postpartum experience. But now the challenge is learning how to master breastfeeding.
More importantly – breastfeeding in public. Because this will happen.
Today I’m welcoming Sheena of Laptops and Naptimes with a guest post on nursing in public. Take it away Sheena!
I used to breastfeed in the car to avoid having to do it in public. It is pretty wet and cold where I live but that wasn’t the reason.
I was just super uncomfortable about nursing around strangers.
So, if the thought of nursing your baby in public terrifies you, you’re not alone. Many new mamas are totally relaxed nursing their babies at home but uncomfortable doing so in public.
So, what are we all afraid about?
We worry about accidentally revealing our breasts – but worse is the fear of judgement from others for doing something completely natural.
It took me until my third baby to really get comfortable nursing wherever the need arises and I want to share how I got there with you now.
How to Breastfeed Without the Fear
So how can you get over the fear and breastfeed in public with confidence?
You could just not bother and do all your breastfeeding at home. And in the early days of nursing, when latching on hurts and it’s a bit stressful, that’s fine.
However, there’s a very good reason why you should try to get comfortable breastfeeding in public – your own well-being.
Limiting yourself to nursing at home could mean you rarely leave the house – and become isolated, lonely and bored.
Meeting friends and family and doing the things you’ve always done helps you feel like you instead of just baby’s mama.
Important though that role is, it’s not all of who you are.
There are practical steps you can take today to get rid of the fear and feel confident nursing wherever you need to. Over time, I became totally relaxed about public nursing by following these steps and pushing my comfort zone a little at a time.
Three Steps to Successfully Breastfeeding As a New Mom (Without Fears)
There are three areas where you may want to make changes:
- Finding great places to nurse in public (and having company)
- Mastering a quick, discrete latch-on
- Choosing clothes for yourself that will make breastfeeding in public easy
Getting Used to Nursing In Front of People
If you’ve done all your nursing at home with only close family around, first try breastfeeding while a friend is visiting. Better still, go to their house and feed your baby.
Getting out of your familiar setting is an important first step.
Enlist the help of those around you. Explain to close friends and family that you are trying to get comfortable nursing in front of others and ask them to support you.
Find a Local Breastfeeding Group
Once you feel happy breastfeeding outside your own home and with friends around, you are ready to try nursing in front of strangers.
Many areas have breastfeeding support groups that meet regularly and can help you get over any issues you may be having. This was the first place I tried nursing in public and it turned out to be a great experience.
These women are not your friends – yet! – but they will be supportive of your goals. It’s the perfect environment to get used to feeding your baby in public because everyone will be doing it.
You can practise latching your baby on discretely and get tips from the other mamas. In particular, you could ask them which venues in your local area are breastfeeding friendly.
Local breastfeeding groups on Facebook are also great for this kind of information – and for meeting other young families with similar goals and values.
Go to a Breastfeeding-Friendly Venue with a Friend
Once breastfeeding group is easy, grab a friend and head to a cafe or other public place that you know to be supportive of breastfeeding.
Many places display ‘Breastfeeding Welcome’ signs so that you know the management is on your side.
Let your friend get the coffees while you sort out your baby and relax.
Get comfortable and give your baby a feed – sitting in a quiet corner if it helps you feel more at ease.
Make it a weekly event, sticking to the same venue if you like, so that you become more and more relaxed. You will know when you are ready to visit a new cafe or mix it up and head to the park or the movies.
Like so many experiences that are hard at first, you will probably find that you quickly become used to public nursing and no longer mind doing it alone – or anywhere.
It might also help you to practise latching your baby on until you know you can do it discretely.
Prepare to Nurse in Public Discretely
By breastfeeding discretely, I mean breastfeeding without strangers seeing your breasts. This is not because breasts are bad and we should hide them.
There’s nothing WRONG with a bit of mama’s skin on display as baby feeds – but for most of us, our breasts are not public things and we’d rather just keep them to ourselves.
And if you’re nervous about nursing in public, you’ll feel better knowing that no one will see your breasts.
Well – I can’t guarantee that no one will ever catch a glimpse of nipple but these strategies will make it much less likely.
To breastfeed a baby, you have to open your clothes and get a nipple out.
It doesn’t take long for a hungry baby to latch on and cover you but there could still be some breast on show – particularly if yours are on the large side.
Let’s look at how to avoid that by being prepared to nurse your baby while you are out.
Master Discrete Latching
The times when it is most likely that a stranger might see your breast is when you are latching your baby on or unlatching. For the rest of the feed, although it’s obvious what you are doing, there’s very little of you on display, if any.
If you practise breastfeeding in public, you will soon become great at latching your baby on quickly and efficiently so that there’s very little chance your nipple will be seen.
The best way to do this is to use your baby’s head to obscure your breast from view.
How to Latch Baby On
Hold your baby tight in to your body with one arm, with their head level with your breast, then unclip your bra and guide them to the nipple with the other hand.
If you find this awkward or your baby is too heavy to hold with one arm, unclip your bra before you get baby into position. Your friend can hold the baby while you do this.
When you’re alone, you can sit your baby in your lap with one arm around them while the other hand unclips your bra.
Now, all you need to do is get them in position and flip the bra cup down to reveal your nipple so they can latch.
When baby has finished feeding, you can reverse the process.
If possible, I would also turn away from other people while latching on. They definitely won’t see your breast if you’ve got your back to them!
You can also dress strategically to maximize your privacy while nursing.
Dressing for Public Nursing
In the house, you probably don’t mind revealing your whole chest or mama belly when you nurse, but outside it’s a different matter.
You should wear exactly what you are comfortable with – whether that’s a vest top or a maxi-dress.
There are also clothes specifically designed for breastfeeding mamas!
Specialist Nursing Tops
There’s a wide selection of specially designed nursing tops available with different styles of opening to let you access your breasts without exposing a lot of skin.
One of these tops could be a great choice because the openings are designed for discrete nursing. Hardly any breast will be seen once baby is latched on and usually none at all.
Try a couple of different styles to see which type of opening suits you best and what is most flattering.
Remember that patterns are best if your baby does a lot of spitting up.
My Top Pick: This nursing tank top with double layers for easy nursing.
If you’d prefer to wear ordinary clothes, adding an extra layer like a vest will keep your body under wraps if you have to lift your top to breastfeed.
On cold days, a sweater over a top that you can pull down to nurse will work just as well. You only need to have the second layer in place to keep your body covered.
Avoid Button-Up Tops
Tops that button up the front are convenient for accessing your breasts but if discretion is what you are looking for, they are best avoided. To breastfeed in one of these you effectively have to reveal your entire chest.
If these are your favourite tops and you want to keep wearing them, a nursing cover may be right for you.
Try a Nursing Cover
If you want to avoid revealing any flesh while you nurse your baby, a nursing cover is the ideal solution.
These are additional layers worn over the top of your normal clothes and they usually cover baby’s face and your breasts completely during nursing.
The best nursing cover is one that is loose enough and light enough to let plenty of air flow through to baby.
My Top Pick: This nursing cover is a 4-in-1: baby car seat cover, nursing cover, shopping cart cover and a high-chair cover.
Which Nursing Cover – Poncho or Scarf?
The two main styles of nursing cover are scarves and ponchos.
A nursing poncho – like this one – will cover your whole top half so you can wear a normal top underneath it and simply lift it to breastfeed. Many ponchos double as a handy canopy for your infant car seat or stroller too.
A scarf style nursing cover – like this one – is also very popular and will keep your body covered as well as your breasts if needs be. Like ponchos, scarf breastfeeding covers come in all colours and patterns to suit your personal taste.
A cover can be a great option but it comes down to how you feel as a nursing mother.
Many women prefer the privacy of a cover while others do not want to lay a layer of fabric over their feeding baby. It’s a personal choice.
Now you are all set to breastfeed with confidence, wherever you may be. I’m imagining lazy lunches and trips to the beach with serene mamas breastfeeding and laughing.
But let’s not forget about the elephant in the room…
A Word About Rude People
FACT: rude, insensitive people are out there and you might meet one.
You probably won’t but you might.
They have absolutely no right to say anything negative to you and you are doing nothing wrong.
These people are not worth your time – and it’s them, not you.
Don’t let yourself be put off public breastfeeding by an imagined nasty person.
If you are letting fear of judgement put you off public nursing, commit yourself to giving it a try. Most likely, it will go just fine and the only response from strangers will be supportive smiles.
Of course, it would be awful to be confronted by a less than supportive person but it’s very unlikely.
Like everything else in life – be prepared.
Should it ever happen, you can tell the person to mind their own business and turn your back on them.
Or get your most sarcastic friend to help you come up with the ultimate, cutting put-down.
Don’t forget to pin me!
Hi, I’m Sheena. I’m a mommy blogger and school teacher with a mission to help other mamas through the trenches of motherhood. I breastfed all three of my babies and the first few weeks were hard every time – so now I’m super passionate about sharing what I’ve learned to help others have successful nursing journeys.