Breastfeeding in Public – REAL advice from a Mom & Lactation Consultant
One of the most common pieces of breastfeeding advice from experienced moms to new mothers often concerns breastfeeding in public. This seems to be a skill that gets easier with every child you have. Or maybe you just start caring less and less… either way, let’s talk about some ways to successfully breastfeed in public for those who may not be so sure about it yet!
Did you know that it is legal in all 50 states for a breastfeeding mother to feed her baby anywhere she’s legally allowed to be? So if you’re trespassing in the first place, ok, it may not be legal to breastfeed there. ANYWHERE else you can feed your baby!
Unfortunately, just because it’s legal to breastfeed your baby anywhere, it doesn’t necessarily stop unwanted stares or rude comments from strangers. Some people haven’t been around or ever seen a woman breastfeeding before and in a society that sexualizes breasts so much it can make them uncomfortable.
This isn’t your fault, and doesn’t give them an excuse to be rude, but the more women show confidence with the normality of feeding a hungry baby the more this will become the social norm.
So, it’s legal to feed your baby anywhere, anytime, uncovered. BUT if you still aren’t ready for whatever reason to go full on public feeding, here’s a few tips and tricks for you to try!
1. Breastfeeding friendly clothes!
You don’t have to spend tons of money on a whole new wardrobe just for nursing your baby, but there are a few items that will make your life so much easier!
Loose, stretchy shirts
Consider wearing shirts that are loose and stretchy that allow you to put the baby right up underneath. If anyone else loves LuLaRoe clothes too, the Irma style shirt is my favorite for this. You can see me talk about this in a facebook live video here! (skip to 11:45 if you want to see this specific method)
Easy breast access is a MUST. If you’re going out, make sure you can get to your breast without too much hassle. There’s nothing worse than holding a hungry, crying baby and fumbling with a cute bra that has no stretch or clip-down clasps.
There are many different styles of nursing bras. You can go for ease and comfort with a simple cross-over style, or more support with a regular cup bra that has easy fold down clasps. Both are well worth your investment!
Nursing friendly tank tops
These aren’t a necessity, but there is an added benefit of extra modesty that many mothers love. When you lift your shirt to breastfeed, unclip or stretch your tank top down which leaves your belly, sides, and back all covered. Then only a small part of your breast is out for the baby, minimizing the uncomfortable feeling of showing so much extra skin.
This is my personal FAVORITE way to breastfeed in public and you can see me talk about it in this facebook live video here! (skip to 7:53 if you want to see this specific method)
Don’t feel like you need to buy nursing specific tank tops, although they are wonderful. Try any undershirt you already have and if it stretches down far enough to make it work, go for it!
When you do get dressed up but just aren’t feeling the 2 piece skirt/shirt option AGAIN, a great solution is to get a slip like this one. You can pull up your dress to breastfeeding (or even stick baby under it) and still be covered all the way down.
This can still be a little awkward with your entire dress lifted, but if you can’t resist wearing your favorite dress give this a shot!
There are some REALLY cute scarfs out there that also double as nursing covers! If you live in a climate where you can pull off a scarf, this is a must have. Some also work as a carseat cover so it’s a 3-1 deal!
Even if you don’t cover up completely, a little scarf is great coverage for excess skin while you feed the babe. If your shirt collar has some stretch, just pull it down and let the scarf cover your cleavage and upper breast. This is probably one of the easiest ways to breastfeed in public!
Stay tuned for a video on breastfeeding in public where I’ll show you ALL these tips and tricks in action! Subscribe (top right of the page) so you don’t miss out!
2. Traditional covers
There are some good covers out there if you’re just not ready to go without. It’s best to find a lightweight cover that also goes around the neck to avoid the baby grabbing it down while your trying to feed. Covers can be hot and annoying for babies, so make sure to practice at home before venturing out planning on this option.
- This very popular style includes boning in the front to keep it open enough so you can see what you’re doing, and a strap around your neck to keep it in place. These usually wrap around your sides but can still leave exposed skin if you’re lifting your hole shirt for breast access.
- You can also try a wrap around cover, similar to the scarf option listed above. Many mothers love these because they wrap ALL the way around you.
You can also just throw a blanket over you and the baby, but some little ones don’t like this, it’s hot, and it can easily get thrown off! Muslin blankets seem to be the coolest and lightweight option. If you’re a new breastfeeding mother, this may be difficult option to try when your already juggling a few other things.
3. Baby carrier feeding
It’s easy to adjust many baby carriers and wraps for easy feedings while baby wearing! How cool is that?
I asked my wonderful friend Emily who is a babywearing professional and advanced educator in babywearing for some tips and tricks. She does a lot of valuable work with baby wearing organizations (check her out here!) and she has some great advice for feeding in a carrier.
“Carriers types are gonna depend on each persons comfort but a ring sling is usually easiest for the early days since you can use the “cradle” position to nurse then bring baby back tummy to tummy once they unlatch and/or fall asleep (never leave baby in cradle position if they’re not actively nursing!)
Nursing tummy to tummy can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. The biggest advice I have is that you WILL need to hold your breast or baby’s head for a couple months. So nursing in a carrier is more one-hand-free but that’s still more ability thank being stuck on the couch!
The basics of nursing upright in any carrier is to hold baby securely with one arm and loosen the carrier a little. Gently bounce baby until they’re at the location easiest to latch. When baby’s done nursing use one arm to lift baby back up and support them as you retighten around them in the kissably close position.
Best advice over all is don’t give up, if it doesn’t work the first couple times keep revisiting nursing in the carrier. Nursing is natural. Babywearing has been done since the dawn of time. But baby has never done either before so it takes time to learn the ropes.” – Emily Layshock
Check out this photo thread of moms breastfeeding in carriers on Baby Center! Especially if you’re a “busty” mom, these photos are amazing. Anyone can do this!
4. Work the system
You FINALLY made it out of the house for a GLORIOUS trip to Target, but now the baby is hungry. Whelp, now what? Hungry babies in a store can be challenging, but here’s a couple easy ideas!
Feed in the car
Feeding in your car in the parking lot is always an option. This provides you the privacy you might be looking for and dips your toe into public breastfeeding as passerby’s do a double take.
Grab an item and gain dressing room access
Grab literally ANYTHING from the rack and find the closest dressing room. You don’t need to try the item on, but now you’ve got a beautifully quiet and private place to breastfeed. Use your purse or diaper bag to prop your arm up for extra comfort.
Find the furniture isle and take a seat!
If you’re in a store that carries furniture or baby items, find the home decor section and test out a chair, couch, or rocker. See how it would feel to feed your baby on this recliner in your own home. If at the end of your feed you aren’t sold on the comfort of the chair for nursing, shrug and walk away.
Look for benches
You might find some benches outside or near the bathrooms, take a seat and start feeding! If you’re worried about uncomfortable stares from strangers, start planning your next trip or weekly meals on your phone, grab your book to read, or just stare at your baby. Avoid eye contact until you’re more comfortable with public nursing. It WILL come! Keep practicing.
5. Start small
If this is your first time breastfeeding away from home, start small. Maybe at a friends house or at a quiet park. Take small steps until you feel comfortable feeding the baby while walking through the grocery store and also chatting up a friend you meet along the way!
If you’re looking for more flexibility to be out and about with your baby, being comfortable breastfeeding in public will open your life and schedule to many more possibilities.
Be confident, and know you’re not alone. You may be surprised at the positive comments you get! Many moms say they rarely get negative comments and instead receive mostly, “good for you!” and “aww how cute” remarks.
If you’re little one is “not so little” anymore and you’re worried about breastfeeding an older child in public, visit this post on Extended Breastfeeding – How to mind your own business.
Now, tell me about your experiences breastfeeding in public! I WANT TO KNOW! What works for you? What hasn’t? Comment below and help someone out. We’re all in this together.
~ All things for you and your new little life ~