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How to Breastfeed Discreetly in Public

Updated on January 17, 2017
Mama cheetah indiscreetly "pulling out" her nipples to feed her babies in a public zoo.
Mama cheetah indiscreetly "pulling out" her nipples to feed her babies in a public zoo.

Breastfeeding in the Puritanical U.S.

Breastfeeding is one of those issues on which the United States falls so far behind other countries in terms of how people view it. Most people don't have a problem with women trying to breastfeed their children. There are, however, some people who have a problem with women trying to breastfeed their children in public.

In my own state, in recent years, a woman was kicked out of an Applebee's restaurant for breastfeeding her son in the back of the restaurant. She wasn't using a cover, and another restaurant patron complained about her "indecent exposure."

I was a breastfeeding mom, but I didn't breastfeed in public because it made my husband uncomfortable. He didn't want other people staring at me (which they would, of course, if I tried to pull my breast out to feed my daughter - that's just the way people are).

I wish people would get over this idea that the breast is an indecent sexual object. It is a life-sustaining part of a woman's body. Humans are mammals. We produce milk to feed our young, and that milk just happens to come out of our breasts. I think if a woman wants to pull out her breast in public to feed her baby, she should be able to do so without being accused of lewd behavior.

Unfortunately, most people just don’t share this view (check out the below video showing a social experiment centered on breastfeeding), so women need to be able to find more discreet ways to feed their babies with their breasts. How can you breastfeed discreetly in public? Try getting a nursing bra and a cover.

The Best Nursing Bra

Even though your baby's face will cover most of your exposed breast when you are feeding, if you have an actual nursing bra, it will be easier to conceal your breast from prying eyes than it would be if you were just wearing a regular bra (or no bra at all).

One of the most popular nursing bras is the Bravado bra. It is a nylon blend, made to stretch easily and comfortably fit a range of shapes and sizes. Its wide band provides support without digging into your skin like underwire. This bra even has lined cups and straps that can be adjusted from the front.

It's easy to find the right size for comfort and all-day support, too. According to the chart on the package, if you are regularly a 36A or smaller, you need to get a small. If you wear a 36B to a 40C, you need a medium. For sizes 40D to 44D, get a large. And if you wear any size bigger than 44D, you need an extra-large.

Nursing Covers

In addition to a nursing bra, you will need a breastfeeding cover or a large blanket to drape over your shoulder. There are many different types of specially made nursing covers on the market now, and these work better than just a regular blanket because they actually tie around your neck to stay in place.

The Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover is by far the best (and prettiest) nursing cover available. I saw this on a woman in a restaurant one day and instantly fell in love. Get it on Amazon to get almost five dollars off the retail price and take advantage of their free shipping.

When you're not busy using this as a nursing cover, you can wrap it around baby as a blanket (it's nice and soft - 100 percent cotton) or drape it over baby's stroller or carseat to block out sun, wind, or rain. This really is a versatlie piece. Best of all (for me, anyway): it's completely machine washable!

The Best Thing for Your Baby

Hopefully, this information will encourage you to continue breastfeeding your baby, even if you go out in public. Non-offensive public breastfeeding is possible, as long as you are prepared and have the right equipment.

When all else fails, you can always try to find a private room or area (as I had to do once when I was out recently). People always tell breastfeeding women to find a restroom somewhere, but unless that public restroom has a separate sitting area, your baby is eating on the john, and who wants to do that?

Or you can always get a breast pump and carry expressed breast milk around with you. Just make sure you have a cooler with you to keep the breast milk fresh. And keep in mind that, despite what I used to naively believe when I had my first daughter (a little bottle feeding won't hurt, right?), your baby may very well experience "nipple confusion" (my second daughter has).

No matter what happens, don't forget that you are doing the absolute best thing you can do for both you and your baby by nursing - even in public. Please don't ever let anyone convince you otherwise.

Here's a Humorous Look at the Public Breastfeeding Debate

Are You Struggling with Breast Milk Production?

Sometimes women have trouble producing enough breast milk for their babies. I know I did - especially with my firstborn. But the good news is there are plenty of products available to help you produce enough to meet your baby's constant demand. One of the best is this natural breast milk enhancer and lactation supplement.


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    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Nate: Yes, it is amazing to me that people will still get arrested for public urination - behind bushes - on the roadside, where no bathrooms are available for miles! So sad! At least no one's arrested a woman for breastfeeding in public yet (I don't think)!

      Thanks, DaisyChain. You are absolutely right! Europeans and other cultures are so much more accepting of this - as they should be!

      BentleyMom: I'm so sorry you had that kind of problem with your in-laws, although I can totally sympathize. I don't even try to breastfeed when I'm in my mom's house because I know I'll get the uncomfortable stares, not to mention the arguments about why I'm trying to breastfeed in the first place!

    • profile image

      BentleyMom 6 years ago

      While nursing both of my babies I would always carry a blanket with me. I never had a problem breastfeeding while out of the house, because I was always covered, until going to my inlaws! That was a place where they would shoo me out of the room to the back of the house no matter what kind of cover I had!

    • DaisyChain profile image

      DaisyChain 6 years ago from France

      Great hub. I remember being in an Italian station and a young woman, waiting and feeding her baby and no-body taking any notice. When my son was small I went to stay with my husband's family in Turkey and again - no problem feeding babies in the family home with cousins, uncles and all around and about. We have to get over the idea that breasts are for sex and belong inside the pages of pornographic magazines.

    • NateSean profile image

      NateSean 6 years ago from Salem, MA

      Human history is a lesson in trying to make the most natural of actions a disgusting and amoral practice.

      Why else do people nearly humiliate themselves every day, trying to find a place to go the bathroom when it would be just as easy to go behind a building and let loose.

      But oh no, that too is a perverted and disgusting act and must be punished. Mind you, if that person has an accident, or worse, his bladder explodes, it's of course his fault for not preparing better.

      I know this is a rather extreme example in comparrison to breast feeding, but the point is much the same. At some point, we as a species are going to have to get our collective heads out of our 16th century Victorian-era behinds.

    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Thanks, Tracy. I couldn't agree more!

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Nice hub! It is a shame that our culture tends to see a woman's breasts as only sexual. It is really a narrow and ignorant perception.