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Tips for Breastfeeding in Public

Updated on December 15, 2012

Public Breastfeeding: Advice on Nursing Discretely from a Breastfeeding Mom

Breastfeeding in public can be an awkward and sometimes even stressful event. Who will notice? Will someone complain? It seems a bit unfair to the breastfeeding mom and her hungry baby, but our world has over sexualized breasts to the point that many people have forgotten what breasts are for.

As a breastfeeding mom of three, I fully understand the challenges of public breastfeeding. I've learned a lot since nursing all three of my little ones. Here I proved tips, advice, and support for public breastfeeding for nursing mothers.

Public Breastfeeding...Controversial?

Nursing in public, the adventures of a breastfeeding mom.

My mom breastfed me. I never thought twice about how I would someday feed my babies. I knew breast milk was healthier than formula, I knew it was free, and I knew that I'd never have to clean bottles or mix formula. I always thought of breastfeeding as normal and natural. It never occurred to me until after I became a mom that a large number of people are not comfortable with public breastfeeding.

I've read many heated and hostile debates on mom support forums of bottle feeding moms criticizing breastfeeding moms for nursing in public. They claim that breastfeeding should always be done at home or in private. As a mom to three little ones who were all breastfed I don't see that as practical or reasonable at all unless I'm to never leave my house. I understand women not wanting their sons or husbands to see a fully exposed breast. But, it is quite easy to nurse in public and do it discretely without flashing anyone.

My Tips for Discrete Public Breastfeeding - How to breastfeed in public discretely.

A breastfed baby has the right to eat when hungry just as a bottle fed baby does. Babies get hungry. They shouldn't be forced to cry from hunger pangs until mom can get home. However, a breastfeeding mom should take care to be discrete. It is simply a matter of common courtesy.

  1. Use something to block you from main view - I often situate the stroller or infant carrier strategically in front of me to block me from prying eyes. If someone is nosey enough to take the time to peak around the stroller or infant carrier to see what I'm doing, then I feel they don't have the right to be offended.
  2. Use a nursing cover - Nursing covers are wonderful. Unlike a blanket, they are secured around your neck so baby cannot pull it off and reveal you to the world. Also, must are designed with a rigid neckline so you can adjust it away from baby's face.
  3. Use an infant sling or wrap - Many baby wearing moms have mastered the art of nursing while wearing their babies in their sling or wrap. I was never talented enough to accomplish this, but many moms do.
  4. Find a tucked away corner - I make a habit of asking for a corner booth when we're going to a restaurant and i think the baby may get hungry, because I know that I can tuck myself away in the corner and nurse with my breastfeeding cover and that no one will even notice. In fact, many public places of unassuming corners or benches where you can nurse without even being noticed. This works best for baby too because many babies don't like to nurse around crowds and other distractions.
  5. Pump and take a bottle - Some babies don't take bottles and some moms are unable to pump milk, but for those that can pump and have babies that will take a bottle, this is a wonderful option with tons of freedom. Lucky for me, my third baby happily would take a bottle of breast milk from anyone, even me.
  6. Wear a nursing top - Special shirts designed for breastfeeding moms make it easy to nurse discretely without lifting your shirt up. You can also accomplish a similar affect by layering a tanktop under your shirts.

What is Offensive About Public Breastfeeding? - A little perspective for those who are uncomfortable with public breastfeeding.

How receptive people are to public breastfeeding depends largely on the region in which you live. A woman was recently harassed and forced out of a shopping mall in Pennsylvania for breastfeeding in public. As a wife and mother, I understand not wanting your small children or your husband subjected to a strange woman's exposed breast. However, you can breastfeed discretely without exposing yourself to the public eye.

When you look at the two images above, the one on the right (which appears on the March 2011 cover of Cosmo and sits on the shelves of checkout aisles in every major super market for little eyes to see) is clearly sexual, where as the breastfeeding mom on the left is not a sexual image at all. I understand women who have not breastfed or men who have not had a breastfeeding wife being a little uncomfortable with the site of a breastfeeding mom. But that is simply because it is a foreign notion to them, something unfamiliar, but this doesn't make it wrong. As a breastfeeding mom, bottles are foreign to me. I feel a bit strange when I see a mom pour water in a bottle with a powder formula, shake it, then serve it to their babies. That doesn't mean I believe bottle feeding is wrong or harmful. It is simply unfamiliar to me, and so feels awkward.

Anti Public Breastfeeding Arguments Debunked - The truth about public breastfeeding.

On many mommy forums and support websites I've observed bitter battles between breastfeeding moms and bottle feeding moms. Many bottle feeding moms are against public breastfeeding of any sort and have offered up numerous reasons why public breastfeeding should never be necessary. Here are a few of the anti public breastfeeding arguments I've heard along with the truth that debunks the statement.

  1. Feed your baby before you leave the house. - Breastfeeding babies eat often. Their bodies digest and use breast milk, since it's a super efficient food, faster than formula. You can feed your baby right before walking out the door, but he will most likely need to eat again before you make it back home. Also, you may be ready to leave before your baby is ready to eat. A nursing mom shouldn't have to wait an hour or so before leaving her house because the baby isn't quite ready to eat. Please don't expect a nursing mom to be a prisoner in her own home.
  2. Pump and give your baby a bottle. - Not all babies will take a bottle. My first baby never would take a bottle. At four months old my husband and I tried to go on a date. We barely made it through the movie trailers at the theater before my mother-in-law was calling us to come back home. My baby was hysterical and refused the bottle. Also, despite what some say, nipple confusion is real. Some babies go from breast to bottle and back again with ease, but most don't. I was an experienced breastfeeding mom, but my second baby self weaned at ten months old after being introduce to a bottle. I tried for two weeks to get him latched back on. He never nursed again.
  3. You should nurse in the ladies room - I see this suggestion time and time again. Public restrooms are yuck. Every time someone flushes the toilets, small particles of feces enter the air. Would you want to eat your meal in the bathroom? A baby shouldn't be forced to eat in a bathroom. It's just plain gross.
  4. Cover your baby with a blanket when you breastfeed - This seems like a reasonable request. Some women refuse this request to make a point. But many refuse this request because they're babies won't nurse when covered. My first baby pulled and tugged nonstop at anything I tried to use to cover up while breastfeeding. She also didn't like being swaddled. She just plain didn't like being covered up and wouldn't eat at all when I tried to cover her.
  5. Your baby is too old to nurse - Some people seem offended if you breastfeed a baby that's over 6 months old. There is a myth circulating that as soon as babies start eating solids that they no longer need breast milk. Nursing babies need breast milk for a minimum of 1 year (just as formula babies should be formula fed for a minimum of 1 year). The current recommendation is that babies breastfeed for 2 years.

Nursing Covers by Bebe Au Lait - 100% organic breastfeeding covers.

The "Simple" line of Bebe Au Lait nursing covers have the same wonderful features of the original Bebe Au Lait covers: adjustable neckline, terry cloth corner for clean-ups, and rigid neck so you can see your baby. The "Simple" line is made of 100% organic cotton.

Medela Breast Pumps - The best breast pumps money can buy.

You can definitely find a breast pump cheaper than a Medela, but it won't draw milk out as well as a Medela and will most likely lose suction before your baby is ready to wean. Since I stayed at home with all three of my babies, I had the Medela manual pump. I only needed to pump occasional when I'd be away from the baby for brief amounts of time. If you need to pump daily, then I recommend a Medela automatic pump. My best friend is a working mom and successfully used a Medela Pump in Style for heavy daily pumping for an entire year. Her Medela pump enabled her to keep her baby exclusively breastfed even though she worked full time.

Nursing in public poll.

Baby Dust Diaries on Flickr
Baby Dust Diaries on Flickr

How do you feel about public breastfeeding?

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Laws Protect Breastfeeding Women

You have the right to breastfeed your baby in public. Many woman have complied when asked in restaurant, stores, and businesses to stop breastfeeding because they were unaware they legally had the right to breastfeed. Many states have laws protecting breastfeeding moms. Find out your state's laws. If public nursing is not protected, then write your state's Representative.

Do You Breastfeed in Public? - Thank you for visiting.

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    • SewingMama profile image

      SewingMama 5 years ago

      Very well-done lens! Your tips were wonderful and I loved the photos of moms NIP. Thank you for this!

    • kelseyjoxo profile image

      kelseyjoxo 5 years ago

      Excellent Lens! Although it is still awkward & sometimes difficult to breastfeed in public, advice & examples from other moms makes me feel more empowered, confident, and comfortable about doing so!

    • LovelyGalores profile image

      LovelyGalores 5 years ago

      In the country where I live, I hardly find moms feed in public...It used to be bt now it has reduced alot...So when i was nursing my child in public with cover, public find it something uncommon but they understand and respect.

    • profile image

      electricbreastpumpreviews 5 years ago

      I like how u had the Cosmo magazine comparison! Where I live, I was once told to go to a bathroom to breastfeed my baby even though I was already using a nursing cover and sitting in a corner!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      so nice to get information like this and so useful for me... great job keep going..

      human breast milk banks

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 6 years ago

      Shouldn't even be a matter to be discussed IMHO ;)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      you've got some pretty interesting lenses, I keep on clicking on your lenses not knowing you're the author. thanks for sharing again.

    • Trudy Hanley profile image

      Trudy 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens! It has been a few decades since I have nursed a baby, but I very much believe that when a baby is hungry, of course, the baby must be fed. I'm sure that is what I always did do, and I don't believe I ever exposed myself. If anyone was opposed my nursing, they never told me to my face:)

    • profile image

      DaveHiggsVis 6 years ago

      Excellent lens! My wife breastfed in public, and I think that every mother should. Take back your breastfeeding rights!

    • seedlingspublis profile image

      seedlingspublis 6 years ago

      I like your lens! Please swing by mine sometime: https://hubpages.com/family/the-breastfeeding-move

    • Everyday-Miracles profile image

      Everyday-Miracles 6 years ago

      I did when I was nursing. Unfortunately our pediatrician made us switch to formula under incredible pressure because my daughter wasn't gaining enough weight. We were out of hte house a lot, too. It never bothered me to nurse in public.

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 6 years ago

      Gosh, I never really found this to be an issue, just got a few lovely old ladies who said it reminded them of when their children were babies :-) I had problems breast-feeding my first child, I felt far more embarrassed and judged for using a bottle. Maybe a cultural thing? I'm in the UK.

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 6 years ago

      **Blessed** by the Pregnancy Squid Angel and featured on Squid Angel for Pregnancy :)

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 6 years ago

      **Blessed** by the Pregnancy Squid Angel and featured on Squid Angel for Pregnancy :)