Breastfeeding in Public
Tips and Tricks From an IBCLC
Two days ago I posted a poll on my Facebook and Instagram page asking subscribers how comfortable they feel at breastfeeding in public.
The two choices for the poll were Very comfortable or It’s awkward! Out of the people who responded, 70% voted for Very comfortable, leaving 30% feeling awkward when breastfeeding in public.
Nursing in public CAN be very awkward, at least in the beginning. When you and your baby are learning to latch, it’s nearly impossible to coordinate the positioning and latching without feeling like you are letting your business hang out for the world to see.
The good news is – with practice, you can become an expert at nursing in public! Soon, you will be walking around the grocery store, nursing your baby, and everyone will think you are just holding a sleeping baby.
Here are some tips to help you along the way:
1. Practice in front of partner/support person, or even a mirror
Remember, it isn’t easy at first. Most clients I work with in their homes are spending a lot of their time topless out of sheer convenience, so when starting to latch with layers of clothing on, it will feel harder.
The first few times you attempt it, you will find yourself fumbling around with your clothing and awkwardly turning to the wall. That’s fine! Just keep practicing.
If you are practicing in front of partner, have them point out tips on what positioning or clothing adjustments to make in order to create a smoother process of latching on.
2. Attend a breastfeeding/chestfeeding parenting group
I love parent support groups, especially ones that are nursing specific! No only does it lower your risk of postpartum depression to get out and meet other nursing parents, but it also provides you with an opportunity to observe how others handle nursing in public. You can take in how they position their clothing, how they nurse without a bunch of pillows around them, etc. As a bonus – if you do expose your entire breast/chest to the room, it’s okay – they are all doing the same!
Bottom line, it’s very safe, non-judgmental place to learn and practice this skill. For those local to me, you can find breastfeeding support groups at Zipmilk.org, or you can find a local La Leche League meeting to attend.
3. Dress for comfort and accessibility
Wear clothing that will allow you to easily access your breasts/chest. For example, a one piece dress that goes up to your neck will make nursing in public nearly impossible.
Layers can be your best friend – most parents I work with will layer a tank top under their shirt, to allow them to pull the top shirt up over their chest without exposing their lower torso.
Clothes that are made for nursing can make things easier, but are not necessary – things like nursing shirts or bras. Many parents like them, but you can do just as well with a well fitting sports bra, too.
4. Follow your comfort level
Some parents don’t care about exposure and will breastfeed anytime, anywhere. Others prefer to find a quiet spot in a corner, or hallway, or even a dressing room. Others prefer to use a cover while nursing in public.
There is NO right or wrong way to nurse in public, it’s just about what works for you and makes you comfortable.
5. Know your rights
Nursing in public laws are determined at a state level. Most states have laws protecting a parent’s right to breastfeed in public, but the details of the laws can vary.
For example, in my state of Massachusetts, parents have the right to nurse in public any where the parent has the right to be, with the exception of religious instruction and worship. Anyone who harasses a parent for nursing in public can be subject to a fine of up to $500.00.
If you want to know your state law, you can read more here – or, check with your state’s breastfeeding advocacy organization.
When practicing nursing in public, it’s important to be gentle and patient with yourself. With practice and experience, you will become a pro!