Breastfeeding in public – you got this!
You finally get to go out for the first time since you gave birth!
Then you realize going out with a newborn is close to impossible. You have to put this tiny creature in a car seat, pack all of her stuff, including a bulky clunky stroller, amongst many other things like diapers, extra clothes, and blankets.
Then you worry about your baby sleeping too much, germs and strangers, crying in public, or a leaky diaper.
But perhaps your biggest fear of all is your baby freaking out because she is hungry and wants the breast while you are out in public.
At least here in the states, it’s very daunting. For some reason, people do not like it or get uncomfortable.
However you feel about breastfeeding in public I have a spoiler alert for you:
You are going to do what is best for your baby no matter what!
I was worried about breastfeeding my daughter in public, believe me! I am (or more like I was) very modest. But when we were out in public, and my baby needed me, I would stop at nothing to get her fed and feeling better.
It’s just this natural motherly instinct that kicks in. I found ways to do it, and so will you. So I want to share some tips and confidence-building reasons for you to think about when your little one starts searching for your nipple while you are out in public.
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Have your go-to team
When you go out with your newborn in public, the first few times have someone help you out. As mentioned above, it is a huge undertaking to take a newborn out, especially if you are brand new to having a baby. In fact, getting ready to go out with a newborn takes just as long as the time you are out.
Any help you can get is critical.
Having someone with you when you need to breastfeed is beneficial because this person or people can be your support system. Especially if you want to cover up, need supplies, or just need help. They can be that extra set of hands.
Heck, if you want – they can be your human barrier.
I had a daughter who never drank from a bottle, so I had to adjust. Having supportive people around me is what helped the most. They made me feel like what I was doing was normal, essential, and the best thing for my baby – which it is.
Once those around you make breastfeeding in public feel normal, then it makes it easier. You feel like you are not alone.
What also helps is having other moms around you do it too. You feel like a force to be reckoned with. I know it’s not always possible to go out with other moms, but if possible, it can help you get comfortable.
Reasons and thoughts on breastfeeding in public
Here are just a few thoughts and my truths on breastfeeding in public.
There is no shame in breastfeeding in public. Everyone else stuffs their face in public, why not your baby?
Your baby must eat
Of course, your baby needs to be fed. You are not popping out your boob for kicks and giggles. It is for a legitimate reason.
You do not want your baby to be hungry for more than a second, so you do what it takes to make her happy.
But wait, it’s more than eating
Your baby might be scared in the new environment! If so, nursing can help calm her down. Remember, your breasts provide so much more than food for your baby.
Your baby has tons of reasons for wanting your breast, maybe she just wants to be close to you or wants to fall asleep on your soft body. No matter what the reason, you can provide it for her, it’s your choice to nurse her or not.
It is natural
Your breasts were not made to sell beer or to be plastered on the cover of a magazine. Although – you can do whatever you want with your breasts.
Your breasts were ultimately designed for your baby. So put them to work and get the full benefits from them.
It is really amazing what your boobs can do. If you have a routine, they fill up when its time to feed the baby. As your baby ages, your milk changes to meet her exact needs. When either of you are sick, your milk will provide your baby antibodies to help get her healthy again.
Why not take advantage of all the benefits of nursing?
You have rights
If you live in the U.S., then you have the right to nurse your child wherever you chose. If someone stops you from breastfeeding in public, then they are in trouble.
If you want to learn more about the state laws on breastfeeding, check out Breastfeeding State Laws.
It’s only temporary
Whether you breastfeed for a few months or a few years, there will come a day when you will stop altogether. Your baby won’t be a baby forever, and you will not breastfeed forever.
It really is temporary, and it is one of the sweetest bonds you will have with your child. Even if it hurts!
It’s this one moment in time where your child needs your body still to survive. I know I am going to miss it once it’s gone.
It’s probably a bigger deal to you than anyone else
You know how our moms used to tell us that bugs and spiders are more scared of us than we are of them?
Well, maybe that’s how we should feel about breastfeeding. It’s a big deal to us because we are exposing a part of our bodies that we were taught to conceal our whole lives. Now that it’s acceptable to let your boobs free, it’s just the opposite of everything we know.
There might be times when people do not notice you are breastfeeding – depending on the situation. People usually look away, and if someone does talk to you, they make the strongest eye contact you will ever have your whole life (I know this from experience).
Screw it! Just do it
Sometimes you just need to forget about everything and just feed your baby. Forget the people around you, forget being embarrassed, and forget social norms.
Just feed your baby the best way you know how.
Even if your baby takes a bottle, but YOU want to nurse her, just do it. In reality, pulling out a boob is easier than trying to put a bottle together in the middle of a busy day. So go for it!
***Working and Pregnant? Maybe we can help!***
Be prepared by dressing appropriately
To nurse, you need to be dressed comfortably in clothes that will allow your child simple access to your breast.
I like wearing sleeveless, loose-fitting shirts without a bra. No bra! Yeah, I know, I am so wild.
When my daughter is hungry, I just peep my nipple out of the sleeve hole of the shirt, and I am left pretty much covered up. Sometimes I wear a bra, but with no bra is my favorite way of doing it. I have small boobs and really do not care what other people think! Therefore, it works great for me.
When I needed to be more dressed up, I would wear a nursing bra – the type where you can unhook and pop your boob out. Even with a nursing bra you need to make sure your shirt will allow access, these shirts are great:
- Stretch shirts
- Loose shirts
- Tank tops
- Nursing tanks tops
- Oversized t-shirts
- Shirt made for nursing
- Zipper or button-up shirt
The picture below is me wearing exactly what I described, a nursing bra with the clasp, loose tank and some leggings. This photo was taken at a restaurant.
Yeah, I really do breastfeed in public all the time!
I pretty much wore leggings whenever I went out during my daughter’s first few months. It was comfortable, and that was all that fit at the time. Stretchy pants gave me the flexibility to use my body as needed when I got tired of holding my daughter in one position.
Get prepared to breastfeed in public by shopping
Nursing bra – the ones with the clips that come down work well. They are also comfortable to wear your last months of pregnancy once your regular bras stop fitting you.
Nursing tank – these are good to wear alone or with another shirt over it. They have the clips that allow the breast area to come down like the nursing bra above. One has a flared bottom, so it does not hug your stomach, wearing tight clothes after giving birth is a nightmare for so many reasons.
Nursing cover – I used a cover maybe once, and I could not get used to it. I felt like I was wearing a huge bib and felt like it was too hot for my daughter. However, many women have successfully breastfed in public using a cover. It has empowered many and is a good option.
Nursing pillow – I highly recommend using nursing pillows from day one, they help in so many ways because holding a baby for an extended period is exhausting. So get one before the baby comes and take it to the hospital.
I used both types of nursing pillows. The Boppy is very versatile and can be positioned to your needs. It is super soft, and the baby can use it as she ages.
The My Brest Friend is strictly a nursing pillow. You strap yourself in it, and it has back support, it’s perfect if you are having problems nursing because the support of you and your baby allows you to concentrate on that pesky latch.
Nursing pads – these come in handy so much. You put them in your bra when you are out and about, and they catch your stray milk. Yup, many moms leak! But most of all, when you nurse your baby and let down, you will leak for sure. So make sure you are wearing a pad when nursing in public.
Blanket – this is a basic blanket, have plenty of blankets around your baby at all times. They come in handy for everything. Sometimes they help with nursing, I remember using one when I was at a nice restaurant and was having a difficult time latching my daughter on properly. Rather than being on display as I tried to get my baby to latch, my husband put this blanket over my baby, and it worked okay. It was certainly better than nothing.
Using your vehicle for breastfeeding
I know it sounds crazy to breastfeed in your car, but sometimes you just have no other choice. It depends on the situation. I will share a few scenarios when I used my car.
My wardrobe would stop me from being able to nurse, like when my shirt was not stretchy. I would go to my car, there I could partially undress to give her the boob.
I also retreated to my car when places did not have chairs or anywhere to nurse, this happens especially in grocery stores.
With infants, it’s hard to nurse just anywhere in any position, it gets easier once your baby is a few months old. I can nurse my daughter anywhere now (she is two and a half) – in fact, she is nursing while I type this!
Another example of breastfeeding in my vehicle was one time my boss from corporate came down to take my family and other coworkers out to dinner. I did not have the nerve to nurse in front of him, so I retreated to my trusty old Buick. I have no shame for doing so; it was a moment where I did not feel comfortable nursing.
You have to judge what situations you feel comfortable breastfeeding in or not.
Breastfeeding in stores
As of this week of writing this article, I went to Kohl’s with my family because my husband needs shoes. My toddler was all over the place, misbehaving and overall miserably tired.
Nothing would calm her down.
We were about to give up on finding my husband shoes.
Instead, I found a section with the style of shoes we were looking for, there were stools in that area. So I plopped down, got my daughter, and nursed her while my husband tried on FOUR additional pairs.
My daughter calmed down, so did my husband and I.
Having her breastfeed in the department store was the timeout we needed to keep going.
That is why I say judge where you are and gauge how comfortable you feel. It was a semi-busy day, there were quite a few people. But I was not ready to tap out – it took all of our energy just to get out of the house in the first place! I did what was best for my family.
Another instance, we were at a grocery store, and my daughter was an eight-month-old screaming baby. There was nowhere to feed her, and I had a basket full of groceries. Rather than giving up, I latched her on, and she nursed up and down a few grocery aisles.
Remember, my daughter never drank from a bottle, so my situation was different from someone who could give his or her baby a bottle and poof situation handled!
You can do this! You are not alone, either! All of us lactating moms have gone through the uncertainty of breastfeeding in public.
Some people think breastfeeding should happen only behind doors, but for the most part, they are ignorant about the challenges us moms are going through. Why do we have to go home and stop our day just because our baby is hungry?
There are a lot of situations when you are a mom, and you feel like everyone is judging you. So you just try to be perfect, you try to be patient, you try to act like you can handle it all on your own when, in reality, you just want to scream your head off.
We all go through this, we all take turns.
I have met moms whose kids are grown up, and all they do is judge newbie moms. When they think back at their child-rearing days, they were indeed perfect.
I have two takeaways from that:
1) When your kids are amazing adults, do not be so judgmental to new moms.
2) Someday, you will look back and see that you were perfect.
So do what you must for your children. The more you breastfeed in public, the more normal it becomes.
I still feel a little awkward at times, and sometimes I wish people wouldn’t get so close to me while I am doing it. But you’re in this vulnerable position where you do not have too much control over what others do. The best thing is to have your support system around you and comfort that sweet little baby of yours.