Breastfeeding in public can be an isolating experience. While I was nursing my daughter at a coffee shop one time, a woman actually said to me, “Ma’am, shouldn’t you be doing that in private?” Then, there are the people who stare. A friend recently shared that while breastfeeding her baby in a park in Brooklyn one time, a man sat down on the bench across from them, cup of coffee in hand, and just watched the baby eat. “I didn’t want to interrupt my daughter’s feeding, so I resisted the urge to hightail it out of there, but I felt uncomfortable the entire time,” she remembers.
If you’re a breastfeeding mom, chances are you can relate. Unless you have wonder boobs that let you pump several ounces at a time and a wonder child who quietly sits around and lets that happen, there are probably times when you’ve had to nurse away from home, too. Maybe you’ve even encountered some weirdness while breastfeeding in public. But here’s the thing: Making the choice to breastfeed your baby shouldn’t mean hiding out at home. It’s totally legal to breastfeed in public in the United States, so you have every right to breastfeed your baby while out and about.
I’m on a mission to make breastfeeding in public a more comfortable thing to do, so I’ve talked to moms from around the country to get their tips and tricks. Check out what they have to say — and feel free to add your own tips in the comments section!
1. Pick a familiar place to practice nursing in public. “Mom-and-baby yoga classes, nursing support groups, and the nursing mothers room in a store are all great places to start,” says Joanna C., a Washington, DC-based mom. “Once you get your routine down, you’ll feel a lot more confident breastfeeding in public.”
2. Focus on your baby, not your surroundings. “Just remember that it doesn’t matter what other people think, all that matters is that your baby comes first,” says Jennifer N. of San Francisco.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up in restaurants. Heather S. was at a pizza place with her family and friends in New York City when her baby decided it was time to nurse. Her 10-month-old was getting too distracted at the table with everyone else chatting and having a good time, so Heather asked if she could nurse her baby at a quiet table in the back instead. The manager was incredibly friendly and accommodating.
4. Look for out-of-the way benches at festivals and parks. Breastfeeding in public when you’re in a crowded park, festival, or playground can be intimidating. Instead, look for a patch or grass or bench that’s off-the-beaten path, where you can nurse in private, without distractions or spectators.
5. Try the buddy system for extra support. That’s what Jessica O. from Atlanta, Georgia, did after she was criticized for breastfeeding her 4-week-old baby in a museum. By moving to an area where she could sit with her husband and other children while breastfeeding, she felt supported, rather than ostracized.
6. Use a nursing cover, if you want some privacy. Choose a cover that’s light and breathable, like one of these top picks.
7. No cover? Use the baby’s blanket. I always have at least one Aden + Anais swaddle in my diaper bag, and if I need to I can tie it and slip it over my head to create a bib-like cover.
8. Invest in some cute clothes that are9 easy to nurse in. Trying to discreetly get your top undone while holding a starving, flailing, probably screaming baby is not easy. Especially when you have an audience. Brands like Pink Blush and Milk Nursingwear offer stylish options that are easy to nurse in. I’ve also been loving button-down and cowl neck shirts and dresses!
9. Nurse your baby in her carrier. I have successfully nursed my daughter in both this easy strap-on Infantino carrier and this popular self-tie wrap (our pediatrician gave me the OK to do so when my daughter was about 8-weeks-old). Not only is this a discreet choice for breastfeeding in public, but it lets you do so hands-free.
10. Get creative if your baby doesn’t like his cover. Some babies, particularly older ones, just don’t want to be covered up while they’re eating. If your baby falls into this category, try covering up with his sun hat or even a spare onesie once he’s latched on.
11. Keep her focused with a baby-safe necklace. There are plenty of distractions when out and about, so consider investing in something your babe can focus on and play with while nursing. We like Chewbeads (also great for teething) and Nommies by Mommy.
12. Have a sense of humor about accidental flashing. “Once my babies were around 7 or 8 months, breastfeeding them in public became a whole new struggle because they would be distracted by EVERYTHING!” shares Caitlin R., of Springville, Utah. “Sometimes I ended up accidentally flashing anyone watching when the child I was feeding would pull away unexpectedly.” Her solution: laugh it off.
13. Say to h*ll with the rude people. “Know that people who say negative things or give you nasty looks are completely in the wrong,” says Emma T., of Seattle. “What you are doing is not inappropriate.”
14. Trust that you’ll feel more confident over time. “It got easier the longer I did it,” says Jen M. of Cambridge, Minnesota. “At first, I was extremely worried about someone seeing my breasts or tummy, if I had to pull my shirt up. I also worried about offending people. By my third child, I didn’t worry about those things so much.”
Remember, you’re not alone. When you’re out and the need to nurse your baby arises, go for it; in fact, you might be inspiring another breastfeeding mom. And when you see another mama breastfeeding in public on the sidelines of your older child’s soccer game or wherever life has planted her for that moment’s feeding, make sure to give her a knowing smile. The best and strongest ally we have in this is each other.
More Content for Breastfeeding Moms:
- 11 Stunning Photos of Moms Breastfeeding Their Babies
- PHOTOS: Celebrity Moms Breastfeeding Their Babies in Public
- I’m Going to Breastfeed in Public (& I Don’t Care if You’re Offended)