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9 Ways to Make Breastfeeding in Public Easier

Jennifer Lincoln, MD, IBCLC, Board Certified OB/GYN
January 3, 2019 . 4 min read

1. You can do it!

Let’s face it: you are probably going to need to get out and about after baby comes, and sometimes your infant’s feeding time may come before you can make it home. For some moms, this is a scary thought! Whether you are comfortable breastfeeding without a cover in public or you prefer more coverage, it is your right to care for your child, no matter where you are. From what you wear to the timing of your feeds, here are some ways to make your first forays into breastfeeding in public a little bit smoother and more comfortable.

2. Practice makes it easier

If you are worried about how you will look or what it will be like when you breastfeed in public, try practicing at home in front of a mirror first. This will allow you to see how little skin will be exposed to those around you and give you the chance to see what strategies are right for you. You may even find that since you aren’t as exposed as you expected, you even prefer to nurse without a cover.

3. Dress for the occasion

Especially if you are concerned about showing too much skin while breastfeeding in public, you will probably find that nursing bras and shirts are lifesavers. These types of clothing make it easier to prepare for a feeding, since they simply unlatch or unbutton to expose just one breast, allowing you to keep your mid-section and other breast covered. You can use a nursing tank, which simply latches to your bra strap, to layer your outfit with a button-up shirt or whatever you will feel most comfortable feeding in.

4. Don\’t push it

Fear of breastfeeding in public drives some moms to push the limits to get their little ones home before feeding them. Unfortunately, this plan can backfire and make breastfeeding in public somewhat traumatic; if your little one melts into a starving, screaming baby, you may face the added difficulty of problems with latching. Instead, it is best to just feed when your infant begins to show signs of being hungry, so that things are more likely to go well.

5. Do what is comfortable for you

If nursing in front of strangers leaves you feeling vulnerable and exposed, you may find it helpful to use a nursing cover or blanket. It is your right to feed without one, but you should do what is best for you. You may even find that your infant is easily distracted in the commotion of a public place, making it necessary to use a burp cloth or cover to create a more private space for him or her. If you prefer the coverage, be sure to keep your cover, cloth, or blanket in your diaper bag for easy access.

6. Take baby steps

When you are just starting out with feeding in public, try starting out somewhere that is quiet and semi-private, like your backyard or a fitting room. Starting somewhere less busy will allow you to see what the experience is like without the nervous feeling that all eyes are on you and will give you the chance to see how your baby behaves when feeding in a new place. Once you are comfortable, you will feel more prepared to tackle feeding in locations with more hustle and bustle.

7. Focus on the task at hand

Many women feel anxious about breastfeeding in public when they are starting out because they worry that others will watch. Try not to look at the people around you and, instead, focus on your baby during the feeding. You may feel like all eyes are on you, but the odds are that most people won’t even realize what is going on, let alone stare.

8. Keep trying!

Do you have a breastfeeding in public horror story? One where you and/or your baby were totally frustrated by the end of the ordeal and you just had to give up? Especially if your infant was very young at the time, you may have faced some challenges. It may not sound like the best idea, but trying again (and maybe again after that) will give you the practice you need to get the hang of things. Also, once your baby is a little bit older and better at latching and feeding, the process will become easier. Breastfeeding in any case can be difficult, so it is OK to need a few tries to find what works for you.

9. It\’s your right

Despite the fact that you are protected by the law when you breastfeed in public, someone may ask you to cover up while nursing or leave the establishment. It is best to be prepared for this situation by knowing your rights and how you might want to respond. You may choose to confront the person by explaining your rights under your state’s laws, or you may choose to accommodate the request, while informing the establishment of your rights at a later time. Either way, if you already have a plan for this situation and know your rights ahead of time, it might help things go a little bit smoother.

10. Laugh a little!

At some point, your infant may pull the nursing cover away and expose your nipple or spray milk across the table. The truth is, every mom who nurses in public will likely end up with a story to tell, so try to keep your sense of humor in these situations! Laugh, and try not to dwell on the moment or feel too embarrassed because other moms have likely shared the same experience.

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