Feeding a baby. We're mammals after all, right? Despite the fact that our babies and our bodies were biologically made for this, the work of breastfeeding doesn't always feel that natural. And, because the culture that we live in isn't the most breastfeeding informed, feeding your little one whenever and wherever they need to be fed can be a bit stressful at the start.
If you are choosing to breastfeed your little one, here are a few tips that may make those initial forays into breastfeeding in public more comfortable.
Dress for success. Finding the apparel that makes you feel most comfortable with breastfeeding can be key. While many companies make specific nursing clothing, a lot of nursing parents find that a deep v-neck is sufficient for access to the breast. Others use the "two shirt method," where a top shirt is pulled up and a tank or undershirt is pulled down, keeping all but the breast cozy in clothing. Adding a scarf can be nice if you are feeling like a little more coverage or in chillier weather when an extra layer keeps you and baby more snug.
Do it on the move. Sometimes finding a comfy spot to sit down for a feed can feel stressful - or less than ideal when you need to get an errand done now. Learning to nurse in a carrier can be a tool that not only makes breastfeeding in public - but parenting a tiny person in general - more sustainable. Not sure how feed in your specific carrier? Reach out to your postpartum doula or local baby wearing group - the latter being another great resource to find friends and support.
Find your community. Nothing boosts your breastfeeding in public confidence like seeing experienced breast feeders wrangle their infants and toddlers and feed in public around you. If you don't have any mom friends to call up for a trip somewhere low-key out and about, reach out to your local breastfeeding group. There are likely a dozen or more breastfeeding parents who would be happy to meet for coffee and be your support squad as you get comfortable nursing in public. And, getting out with other parents in the same stage of life can be so helpful to building your village, too.
To cover or not to cover? Many companies sell expensive scarfs or apron-like devices to cover you and baby while nursing. While some breastfeeding parents feel most comfortable nursing under-cover, others prefer to go without. There is no right or wrong, here - only what works to make you and baby feel the best. And, at different stages your little one may heartily protest being covered or do best with more coverage to prevent distraction - only time and experience will let you know.
Bottom line: what works for you and baby is what is good and proper. Trust in that - and feed that baby!
Advice from breastfeeding parents who have been there and done that:
While nursing tops are helpful, I found that layering a tank top under a regular shirt made breastfeeding discreet without a nursing cover. Lifting your shirt up (as opposed to down with a nursing shirt) covers the action and makes for quick access. The tank top underneath covers your tummy and sides while your shirt is lifted up. - Kelly D.
I liked having a nursing cover in my backpack.... not necessarily for covering up but for any spit up. - Megan F.
Mostly though I just have the attitude that I dare somebody to say something about me feeding my child, but keep a smile on my face so everyone knows I'm confident in my choice. My last piece of advice is to not think everyone is judging you! Most people are in their own worlds out in public and aren't looking or thinking about what you are doing! You can trick yourself into seeing a lot of negativity that might not be there . - Becca D.
I went to Plato's closet and bought cute, long tanks in sizes much larger than I usually would so either the arm hole or neck hole is much larger. That way I can just lift up the top shirt, and pull the tank to the side from the armpit. It's easy, discreet, and I feel cute. - Abbi B.
I personally feel like if I can catch baby a little early before she’s all out hangry, it’s easier to have a relaxed nursing session in public! When she gets hangry is when it gets a little treacherous for me getting her settled down. So I plan my trips out accordingly - (baby will need to eat around 2, will we be somewhere where I can easily sit down to feed her?) - Carli R.
[S]omething that really helped me was always having some enjoyable to drink myself. At the grocery store- I’d always stop by the Starbucks kiosk to get a coffee, or at a restaurant order a favorite cocktail, and always had my water bottle on me. I’d always focus on 1. my baby and 2. just enjoying a drink with my babe. It was almost a mindfulness thing... when I’d start to feel anxious, like people might be staring (they really never were), enjoying a sip of my drink would help me recenter. [. . .]. [I] also just reminded myself that by nursing in public- it’s just paving the way for other moms to feel able to do so as well. I remember seeing moms nursing in public prior to be a mom myself- also remember moms nursing their babies when I was a teacher in an infant classroom and those are the moms who normalized breastfeeding for me and showed me how important it is to be confident and able to do what we need to take best care of our babies and self! So I think that every time I nurse in public, I hope this will help a mama in the future do the same! - Emma B.
With my first I was so worried what everyone around me was thinking, and I didn't want to make others uncomfortable. I experienced a number of breastfeeding challenges with my first child and ended up needing to supplement and later wean much earlier than I would have liked. So with my second, I made up my mind that I was going to try not to care what anyone else thought or if I was making anyone uncomfortable. As a woman, we often find ourselves planning for and managing everyone else' s needs, emotions, expectations in our family and societal role. I continue to try to reject that expectation and focus on my ultimate priority, which is feeding and nourishing my baby. - Grace S.
Expecting and looking for a breastfeeding class full evidence-based information and nonjudgmental support? Nested Mama offers a convenient webinar Breastfeeding: basics & beyond.
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Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.