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  • Cleo Marchese, IBCLC, RLC

Nursing In Public: Stop Hiding In Your Home

Most people would be surprised to find nursing in public is usually the number two 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 not jerks or ignorant of infant care, and because done with care, it is almost impossible to tell you are breastfeeding in public unless you are under the loving gaze of a former or currently breastfeeding mother.

A lot of you may feel doing this impossible, but it is not. Or worse, you plan to pump your milk and put it into a bottle to save the tender sensibilities of people who probably watch R-rated movies and yes, shock and awe, have actually seen a women’s breast before in advertising and in person. You may ask, what is wrong with you pumping and using a bottle? There is possible nipple confusion, the time and hassle it takes to pump and store breastmilk for public use and added time preventing quick trips out of your home. Plus another reason to avoid pumping to feed public, is the psychological thought or feeling you are doing something wrong when nursing. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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, you can easily put baby in the carrier, loosen it and nurse fully covered.

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 hard to get your baby to settle down and be quite enough to do something incognito.

  • Nurse your baby before you leave.

  • 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, some babies don’t mind having their heads covered. Using a small light weight blanket thrown casually over one shoulder will give keep out the 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. Pick 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 the seven day breastfeeding in public challenge. Pick a different place to go every day. If your baby needs to nurse be prepared, just go for it. Have fun and reward yourself with a little “gift” every day. This could be something as simple as your favorite food or something small you may want or need.

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 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.

Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 165

A mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location in which, the mother is authorized to be.

#publicbreastfeeding #mothersneeds #baby


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