As a mom who breastfeeds, I’m an advocate for breastfeeding moms to feel free to feed their baby when they’re out and about doing what normal people do—and most states have breastfeeding in public laws that protect your right to do so. But if you’ve never done it, it may seem like the scariest, most challenging thing after giving birth. Guess what? Breastfeeding is probably going to be challenging no matter where you are and you can’t be a homebody the whole time you breastfeed. So when you need to leave your house, follow these six tips for breastfeeding in public and breastfeeding on the go will become your new normal.
1. Practice at home.
If you’re a first-time nursing mom, there’s no better way to prepare for public breastfeeding than practicing at home. Practice different nursing positions in front of a mirror so you can see how you look and what others will see (if that matters to you). Try different sitting and standing positions, with a cover without a cover, in your pink baby carrier and without it.
You and your baby may have breastfeeding down in no time, or it may take several weeks of practice. Either way, take your time and have patience with yourself and your baby. Once you have the hang of it at home, you’ll feel more confident breastfeeding in public.
2. Find a safe, comfortable and sanitary spot.
There are three things you never compromise when you have to feed your baby in public: safety, cleanliness and comfort.
Some of this stuff is a no-brainer, like if you’re out running errands don’t nurse your baby inside your car that’s parked in the sun with the windows up. Park in the shade, set the parking brake and either crack some windows or keep your car and AC on. When it comes to comfort, you know what position is most comfortable for your baby and what spots will allow you to nurse her comfortably. In my case, I tend to look for a soft chair, sofa or bench that’s roomy enough for all the lifting and shifting I’ll be doing. And as far as keeping things sanitary, please don’t think you have to nurse inside a dirty bathroom stall—you wouldn’t eat your lunch in there and neither should your baby. Thinking about how dirty the area is or trying to decide if that smell is coming from your baby or the stall next to you shouldn’t be on your mind right now. If you’re somewhere with a designated mother’s lounge but it’s dirty, don’t feel bad asking for a different place to nurse.
3. Know your baby.
Hopefully by now you either know your baby’s hunger cues or have her on a schedule so you know when she’s ready to eat. We’re all human, and trust me I know it can be hard if your appointment runs longer than expected to feed her on time or you get a little distracted while out at dinner and miss her hunger cues. But if you’re wanting to discreetly breastfeed in public, a screaming baby is the last thing you want. Plus, a hangry baby won’t easily latch and will make it harder for you to feed her.
As her mom, you also know what works for you and her in terms of nursing with distractions. Some babies are fine to nurse in a noisy location, others need complete quiet. Be sure to plan ahead and find a location that won’t prevent her from eating.
4. Opt for comfort and accessibility over cuteness with clothes.
When I went out with my firstborn for the first few times I wanted to look cute, which meant wearing makeup and something cute from my pre-pregnancy days that didn’t have spit-up stains on it. But I soon learned that the comfort and ease of nursing in public was more important than wearing my “cute”, before-baby clothes.
Use this time of your life to buy a new wardrobe. You can find shirts and dresses that are cute, comfortable and nursing-friendly, and nursing bras, with their easy-access clips, are a must-have. Shirts that are loose fitting and/or low cut, button-down blouses or button-down or wrap dresses are some of the best clothes to wear for breastfeeding. Also, if you want to show less skin, consider wearing a tank top under a looser shirt so when you pull it up to nurse your postpartum belly remains covered or use a nursing cover or scarf.
5. Nurse in a baby carrier or sling.
Lightweight baby carriers and slings are perfect for nursing infants on the go. Think about it. Your baby is already up against you so you just have to do a little adjusting to get yourself and her mouth where they need to be. If you care at all about coverage, most carriers keep you fully covered. And as a bonus, with a little practice you’ll be able to nurse on the go while standing or sitting.
Check out these tips for breastfeeding in a baby carrier from a fellow mom. She’ll calm all your first-timer, I have no idea what I’m doing or where to start nerves in this area.
6. Don’t feel stressed, weird or ashamed about breastfeeding your baby in public.
Whether it’s your very first time nursing in public, your first time in a new place or you’re just shy, remember that breastfeeding your baby is normal; it’s something no woman should ever try and hide or feel guilt over. Stress isn’t good for you, your milk supply or your baby. So while at first you may feel weird, and yes, some people may look at you funny, focus on your baby and doing what’s natural to feed her. In most states and cases, it’s your right to breastfeed your baby in public. And in reality, most people will mind their own business.
Hopefully in time, and with the help of these breastfeeding in public tips, you’ll feel confident and comfortable breastfeeding on the go—because no breastfeeding mom should feel like she can’t leave the house for brunch with friends or an afternoon shopping trip.