But before we jump into the practical stuff, I think we need to take a minute and get something straight.
I am in no way ashamed of breastfeeding my babies. I refuse to ever feel guilty about doing what God created me as their mother to do. Breastfeeding has great health benefits for babies and moms, plus it’s free! Breastfeeding is a natural part of life, and I believe we need to honor that.
However, we live in a broken world and breastfeeding (especially breastfeeding in public!) is not as common as it once was. Now I don’t think we need to hide in the closet, but baring our boobs to whoever passes by isn’t going to make things less awkward either!
We need to find a balance between discretion and practicality. We’re not exhibitionist! We’re just doing what mothers have done for the past 6,000 years and hopefully doing it with modesty and grace. So today I want to offer you a few suggestions for breastfeeding in public that have worked for me, and hopefully they will be a blessing to you and your little one!
Wear the Right Clothes
I think the biggest key to breastfeeding in public is to dress for the occasion. I always wear a nursing tank top underneath my clothes!Except for that one time when I forgot and had to breastfeed in a restaurant with nothing to cover my belly but a flimsy nursing cover and a flailing baby…awkward! Lesson learned: Always wear a tank-top.
When I first started breastfeeding I invested in these nursing tank tops from Target. My regular shirt keeps my shoulders covered while my nursing tank-top keeps my belly covered.
Now you don’t have to spend a ton of money on fancy tank-tops (although they are convenient!). I’ve found that many regular tank-tops are low enough I can just pull them down when I need to nurse. You can also try cutting holes in a regular tank top where your breast can come through once you unhook your bra, or just check out these Undercover Mama nursing tanks from Deborah & Co.
Regardless, of what you wear, having something to cover your belly and your shoulders while still allowing you free access to nurse will go a long way to making you more comfortable and modest when you nurse.
One of my favorite breastfeeding accessories is a nursing cover. It keeps all the good stuff covered and prevents baby from being distracted by what’s going on around you. Nursing covers come in a million different styles, colors, and fabrics. I prefer ones that have an adjustable neck (with velcro) and that allow me to look down and see baby while she eats. (Check out these options at Target. I love Target!)
If you plan on using a nursing cover, start introducing it to baby early and often. The more you use it the easier it gets! Also be aware that sometime around 4 months old babies start to get more curious and may want to play with the cover instead of nurse. I’ve found that once my babies are latching well and nursing quickly, then leaving the cover off is sometimes more modest then trying to fight with them to leave it on!
Comfort and Convenience
Now about location. I usually look for a quiet out-of-the-way place to breastfeed. If we are in a restaurant I choose a table in the corner with my back to the wall. If we are in a store, I’ll often go sit in the dressing room area where there are more comfortable chairs. If we’re at someone else’s home, I always ask the hostess what her preferences are. If we’re at church, I will nurse in the pew or slip away to the nursery depending on how loud and fussy baby is.
However, I won’t go somewhere unsanitary or uncomfortable to spare others a small amount of awkwardness. In the past, I’ve fed a baby in a bathroom stall instead of sitting on a bench near the front of a store. I’ve squeezed into the back of a car sitting in the blazing sun instead of nursing at our table in a restaurant. And no, I won’t do those things again. While I do think mother’s should be considerate of others and their feelings, I don’t think we should go out of our way to hide. We have to draw the line somewhere!
Patience and Practice
Those first few weeks of breastfeeding are hard. Very hard. Between being tired, hungry, and sore the last thing a mom needs is to breastfeed with a crowd of onlookers. This is why I recommend that you give yourself a few weeks to get good at breastfeeding before attempting to nurse in public. Time your outings around baby’s schedule, and keep them short so you know you’ll be home before baby gets fussy. It’s not always easy or convenient, but it does get better.
When my daughter started nursing she would eat for 45 minutes and required lots of help to latch on and stay focused on eating. Nursing in public was nearly impossible. It was just more practical to come home. Now, at 4 months old she latches beautifully, nurses for 10 minutes start to finish, and we’re always on the go. Time and practice will build your confidence and make it easier to nurse comfortably and modestly in public, so stick with it!
Do you have any practical tips or suggestions for nursing in public? Any awkward nursing stories you want to share? We’d love to hear from you!