Most people would be surprised to find nursing in public is usually the 2nd common worry for breastfeeding mothers, behind not producing enough milk for their baby. It also one of the top three reasons women wean. The other two are perceived insufficient milk supply and pain during breastfeeding. That is a lot of anxiety to place on such a simple, easy process. Thanks to social media and the news, a lot of mothers believe as soon as they step outside their homes they are opening themselves up to personal attacks from everyone around them. In reality, only a small number of the thousands of women nursing in the US experience any negative comments when nursing in public. Why? Because most people are aware of the value of breastfeeding and current recommended infant care. When done with practice and care, it is almost impossible to even tell you are breastfeeding in public, unless you are under the loving gaze of a former or currently breastfeeding mother.
Many mothers may feel this is an impossible task, but it is not. I know -- shock and awe, those 'out there in the public' have actually seen a woman’s breast both in advertising and in person. Surely you'd be prioritizing the tender sensibilities of other people who may be quite comfortable watching scantily dressed (or nude) women in movies but may be horrified to view any part of your lactating breast!? Have you planned to pump your milk to put in a bottle to protect them from viewing a glimpse of your breast? You may ask, 'what is wrong with you pumping and using a bottle'? There is a possibility of nipple confusion, plus the time and hassle it takes to pump, store, thaw and prepare your breastmilk for public use; and, that added time can then take a toll on your harried schedule, preventing those quick, refreshing trips outside your home. Another reason some women avoid pumping for public feeding, is the psychological stress that you might be doing something wrong when nursing in public. New moms have enough to worry about without adding the guilt of “others' misplaced sensibilities" to their plate.
Preparing to nursing in public
Wear two-piece tops that are comfortable. One can be lift up and the other pulled down to give you full coverage. Also wearing a sweater or button down top over a tank top or t-shirt provides extra coverage. You're covered on the sides and in the back with only a small section in the front showing. That part is covered by your baby's head. No need to pull the 'whole thing' up!
Buy a shirt designed for nursing. Gone are the days of the ugly nursing shirt. Today’s styles are attractive and easy to use.
Sit in a dining room or kitchen chair and practice nursing in comfortable positions. When you are out you will not have a comfortable couch or bed or your nursing pillow. Matter of fact, after the first couple of weeks, many women never use a nursing pillow because they find them bulky and awkward to transport.
Sit in front of mirror and practice daily. The first thing you will notice is your baby’s giant head is completely covering your breast and is more covering than any swim suit top you have probably ever worn. Dad sitting across the room from you when you practice is the perfect judge of 'what might be showing'.
After you have mastered nursing while sitting, now try doing it while walking or standing. Yes, this is possible and a lot of women are very adept at it. Try it. If you use a baby carrier or sling, you can easily put baby in the carrier, loosen it and nurse while fully covered. It's excellent protection for your sleeping (or nursing) baby, from those gawking strangers and 'grandmas' who want to touch and hold your baby..
Out in public, the big non-reveal
Begin a feeding at the first signs of hunger. When your baby begins to suck on their hands, starts to make sucking noises or turning towards the breast.
DO NOT wait until your child is panting, arching backwards, or crying. These are late stages of hunger. It will be really difficult to get your baby to settle down and be quiet enough to do 'incognito nursing'.
Nurse your baby before you leave the house (even if he was fed an hour ago)..
Use a sling or wrap, they are very covering and they also support your baby’s weight. Giving you two free hands and replacing your beloved nursing pillow. You can also walk and nurse with them any place you will be doing a lot of walking. They can save you the hassle of looking for a dressing room, or nursing station.
Pack a small light blanket, or cloth diaper - some babies don’t mind having their heads covered. Using a small light weight cloth thrown casually over one shoulder will keep out prying eyes of busy-bodies.
Pick restaurants with booths or opening seating so you can sit where you feel comfortable.
Nursing in public is a skill and becomes easier over time. Choose off-peak times at restaurants and other places to practice in public. Start with little trips out. Go to your favorite store or restaurant. Get some ice cream. Take a seven-day-breastfeeding-in-public challenge. Pick a different place to go every day. If your baby needs to nurse when you're out, be prepared - then just go for it. Have fun and reward yourself with a little “gift” every day. This can be something as simple as your favorite food, or some little thing you may have been wanting / needing.
What if someone approaches you? Don’t panic, most people are just curious and want to see the baby. Many may not even realize you are nursing. This is an excellent time to educate and make a great impression at the same time. Also know your rights, the law in many states (including Texas) protects a mother’s right to breast feed in public. If you are approached, state your rights and asked them to please be respectful and leave. By nursing in public, you are showing other mothers it is possible and encouraging future mothers to consider breastfeeding as an option. And - You are once again out and about!
Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 165
A mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any public location in which, the mother is authorized to be.