Ready to take your baby on the road? Here's how to nurse in public confidently.
The first time I had to breastfeed in public, my son was just a few days old, and we were due for a check-up with the pediatrician. I was still dealing with some breastfeeding difficulties we'd had since the beginning, and the truth was, I wasn't sure how we were going to manage breastfeeding outside the confines of my home.
There was literally one chair in my apartment that I had figured out how to nurse him in, and one couch pillow that was "the one" and could help me bring him to the right angle to comfortably reach my nipple. Another problem? I had only ever successfully latched him on was when I was totally topless. And yeah, that wasn't happening in the pediatrician's waiting room.
Somehow, I fumbled my way through. And over the weeks and months, I figured out how to breastfeed in public with ease. Certainly, there were some bumps in the road. Sometimes I felt like all eyes were on me. And as my baby got older and would suddenly unlatch to smile at me, I was mortified that someone would see my nipple.
But a few months in, I grew more confident, and even stood up for myself when a stranger made a disparaging remark about my public breastfeeding (more on that later). By the time my second baby came around, I was a breastfeeding-in-public goddess, and was happily helping other moms nurse in public like the rock stars they were.
Here's how to become a public breastfeeding pro in no time flat:
1. Practice in front of a mirror
Wanna know something funny? When you're breastfeeding your baby, looking down as he suckles his heart out, you're actually seeing much more skin than a passerby does. It has to do with the angle you are looking from, and the attention you're giving to what you're doing. Practice in the mirror, or have someone take a photo while you are looking down at your breastfeeding baby. Your baby's head actually covers most of your breast while you breastfeed, so you will be seeing a very different picture than what you may think others are seeing.
2. Know your rights
In the U.S., 49 states have laws (all except Idaho!) in place protecting a mother's right to breastfeed in public. Look up your state's law. Print it out if you want, to have on hand in case anyone gives you trouble. The one time I was bothered for breastfeeding in public, I spouted out my state's law, and although it didn't totally solve the problem, it essentially shut down the conversation and made me feel a whole lot better.
3. Prep your wardrobe
I think all moms should breastfeed in public with whatever clothing they see fit. Same goes for covers—some moms like them, and some moms don't. (And some babies have strong opinions about them too!) My favorite way to breastfeed in public was to wear a nursing tank top under my shirt so that I could just lift my top and the only part of me exposed was the one breast my baby was breastfeeding from. Alternatively, I also liked draping a blanket over the top of my breast to add a little discretion if I wasn't wearing any specific nursing gear. Do whatever works for you, but try it out at home first so you'll be confident when the time comes.
4. Remember, It's just feeding
People who make a fuss about breastfeeding in public (or more than a fuss, ahem), seem to forget a very basic fact—that all women are trying to do is feed their babies. In fact, they are feeding their babies in the way that nature intended, and that most major health organizations recommend. And if anyone comes at you with a problem, you can come right back at them with something along the lines of, "Thanks for your concern, but I am doing nothing but sitting here and feeding my baby." BOOM. Try to argue with that.
5. Bring along some support
If you feel any nerves about breastfeeding in public for the first time, take along your significant other, a good friend, or anyone who you know to be supportive of breastfeeding in public. It's great to have that support as you ease yourself into the experience. It's also wise to possibly scope out the scene before you arrive. See if you can find a discreet location that also contains a chair. Maybe there's even a nursing lounge, or a separate room with comfortable seating for you to nurse in.
6. Find your tribe
Knowing other moms who breastfeed in public with comfort can be a real ego-booster. Going out with them to nurse your babies is also a great thing to do! Mostly, being surrounded by like-minded, positive people who value what you are doing as a breastfeeding mom can be life-changing, and totally necessary for many of us.
The most important thing to remember about all of this is that you are not alone. Mothers nurse their babies while out and about all the time. Yes, sometimes we hear about unpleasant things happening to them, but more often than not, there's really no issue. Most of the time, actually, no one notices when a mom is breastfeeding her baby!
And the truth is, the more women who go out and breastfeed with confidence, the more normalized it will become, so that one day no new moms will have to give breastfeeding in public a second thought.