by Christa Melnyk Hines
There’s always flak over breast feeding in public. Some moms are bold; others are nervous and shy.
Experts agree that breastfeeding supports the healthy development of your baby, your overall wellbeing and establishes a lasting bond with your little one. And breastfeeding is also conveniently portable. But if you’re like many new moms, embarrassment and a fear of judgment may make you nervous about nursing in public.
“Feeding baby on the go is very doable and takes just a little know-how and practice to get the hang of it,” says lactation consultant Marji Stark, BAEd, IBCLC.
Give yourself time to adjust to new motherhood and your baby’s feeding habits. Plan to keep your outings short, nurse your infant before you leave home and again before you get out of the car.
“Practice at home in front of the mirror,” says Kelly Josephine, RN, IBCLC. For the first few outings, choose a low-stress environment, such as a park.
As you get more comfortable with breastfeeding and predicting when your baby will want to eat, you’ll feel less anxiety when you head out. Wear clothing that makes nursing easy. Many moms opt for nursing tops or tanks with an overshirt. Light scarves or blankets can also provide coverage. Pack an extra shirt in case of leaks or spills.
“There are many breastfeeding covers that vary in complexity from the type of fabric, slings and other customizations. Find one that works for you,” adds Josephine, who recommends the website www.babywearinginternational.com.
Know where to go.
Ask other nursing moms where they breastfeed when they’re out and about. Patronize area businesses and family attractions friendly toward nursing mothers. Look for quiet spots to feed your baby, like clean dressing rooms in department stores and booths or corner tables in restaurants that offer some privacy.
Avoid bathrooms, Stark says. “Babies should not have to eat in a restroom – adults never do.” You can also seek shelter in your car or ask a friend or family member to help “shield” you while you breastfeed, Josephine says.
Reach out for support.
“New mothers need to be around new mothers,” Stark says.
Most area hospitals offer weekly educational meet-ups for nursing mothers where they can find encouragement and support from other moms.
“Mothers who attend a breastfeeding support group gain confidence, are more comfortable nursing in public and tend to nurse longer than mothers who do not,” she adds.
To find additional support, check out your local La Leche League, Facebook groups like Mom2Mom Global for military families or Breast, Bottle and Beyond and consult with your pediatrician for a referral to a lactation consultant.
“Once you’ve found your breastfeeding bravado, look for opportunities to encourage mothers coming along behind you. A smile and a thumbs up to a mother nursing on a park bench or at the table next to you goes a long way,” Stark says.
Know the law.
When you know your rights, you’ll feel more confident with your choices. Forty-nine states, Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands allow moms to breastfeed in any public or private location. (Other than exempting nursing moms from jury duty, Idaho is the only state with no laws that protect moms from nursing in public). For more information about breastfeeding state laws, including federal laws for working mothers who nurse, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx.
Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines resides with her husband and their two children. Christa is the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.
Keep track of baby’s eating habits, sleep and more with free breastfeeding apps:
- My Medela iBreastfeed
- Baby Nursing/Breastfeeding
- Baby Feeding Log
- Eat Sleep: Simple Baby Tracking
Did You Know?
- Breastfeed even if you’re sick. Your body makes antibodies that get passed along to your baby through your breast milk helping to boost your infant’s immune system.
- Breastfeeding can save a family more than $1,200 to $1,500 in formula-related expenses in the first year alone.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in moms.