The whole time I was pregnant I intended on breastfeeding. As a confident woman, I didn't foresee any problems feeding my baby in public, either. I told myself I wasn't gong to let a bunch of strangers dictate how I fed my baby. Then, the first time I attempted public nursing, I lost my nerve. In that moment, I definitely could have used some tips on how to increase your confidence about breastfeeding in public.
Without the aforementioned tips, I ended up finding a quiet spot on a bench in a park area. Nobody passed by the entire time I was nursing my baby, which made me realize breastfeeding in public didn't need to be so scary. After that first experience, I started to branch out and nurse in more populated places where I knew there would be more than a few people around. By the time my baby was a few months old I had fed him practically everywhere, including on a plane, train, in restaurants, in yoga class, on the beach, and, well, you name the place and we had nursed there.
Just like most things in life, a little confidence can make all the difference. So, if you decide to and you're able to breastfeed in public, hold your head up high knowing you're meeting your baby's needs.
Breastfeed Next To A Supportive Friend
Having a friend to chat with while you breastfeed can take your mind off any nerves you are feeling and make you feel more at ease. Plus, if you're engaged in a lively chat with a friend, you're probably more likely to be left alone by nosy strangers.
Breastfeed In A Supportive Environment
Some restaurants and other establishments publicly announce they are "breastfeeding friendly." These places are perfect for a public breastfeeding trial run.
Buy The Right Clothes
Fiddling with awkward clothing as you inadvertently expose your nipple can put any mother off breastfeeding in public. Make the whole exercise easier by purchasing "breastfeeding clothing," like bras with easy releases and tanks that allow breast access without revealing the rest of your body.
Involve Your Partner
If you have a supportive partner, ask them to accompany you on your first few visits to breastfeed in public.
Sit Somewhere Comfortable
It's important for your comfort and confidence to sit in a supportive chair in a spot that's neither too hot or too cold and has a place for all your stuff.
Be Prepared In A Practical Way
Once you sit down to feed your baby (especially in public) you need to be prepared and have everything you need within easy reach. A drink, snack, your phone, a cloth for spills and spit up, and maybe a blanket, just to start. Honestly, whatever you and your baby need to feel comfortable.
Be Prepared Emotionally
There's a high probability that people will look at you while you feed your baby in public. I found that, on the whole, this was in the form of friendly smiles and positive comments. However, it is still (perhaps unwanted) attention, so you may need to prepare yourself for the scrutiny and attention.
Practice At Home First
It makes sense to be comfortable with feeding your baby at home way before you venture out into the "real world." If it matters to you that you feed discreetly, you can practice in front of the mirror first.
Choose A Breastfeeding Icon
There are so many fierce breastfeeding mama icons, from celebrities like Pink to your friends and La Leche leaders. Pick a nursing mama you admire and use her to boost your confidence.
Have A Backup Plan
Smart moms always have a back up plan. Whether that's relocating to a different location if your favorite chair is taken, or bringing expressed milk in a bottle if you change your mind about nursing in public, it's wise to be prepared with an alternative.
Make A Call
If you need a little boost or a few words of encouragement, calling up a trusted friend or family member while you nurse can really help.
Bonus: other people are unlikely to bother you if you are on a call.
Go Where Other Nursing Moms Are
Being surrounded by other women all doing the same thing can really boost your confidence. I regularly met up with other breastfeeding moms and found that, as a group, we gave each other courage and support.
Continue To Breastfeed In Public
The more you do something, the more natural it becomes. If breastfeeding is important to you, keep going out and doing it in public. Otherwise, you could become confined to your home for the entire time your child nurses. You are also helping to normalize breastfeeding, so thank you!
Read About The Benefits
You probably already know how good breastfeeding is for you and your baby. But if you are feeling like it's all too much trouble, take a moment to read up on all the benefits. It might just give you the boost you need.
Have A Comeback Comment Ready For Haters
I was incredibly lucky, in that I really didn't hear any negative comments when I breastfed. In fact, I got more ignorant comments about babywearing than breastfeeding. However, it's a good idea to have a scathing comment ready for anyone who thinks they have the right to tell you how or where or when to feed your baby.
Wear Your Baby
Wearing your baby while you nurse can make you feel a little more comfortable. They remain close to you and it's easier to hide your exposed breast (if that matters to you, of course).
Know Your Rights
A total of 47 states allow breastfeeding mothers to feed their baby anywhere they like. You can't legally be asked to leave an area because you are breastfeeding, in almost every state. Know your rights and ensure they are respect and upheld.
Use A Cover (If You Want)
My baby hated our breastfeeding cover and would whip it off and make a big fuss. However, and especially when your baby is small or if latching on is causing a problem, a cover can help to give you confidence.
Try Different Positions
When you're home, try experimenting with different feeding positions until you find several that suit you and your baby. Then pick one or two that can easily be used while you're out in public.
Don't Wait Too Long Between Feeds
A hungry baby is a fussy baby. It's harder to get your baby latched on and settled if they're hungry and angry. Make sure you stick to your schedule and get organized before your baby needs their feed.
Give Your Baby A Toy To Hold
If you are embarrassed about your baby lifting your cover or shirt up, give them a toy to hold while they nurse.
Have Plenty Of Burp Cloths On Hand
Spit up can have you scrabbling for a napkin or cloth, so be prepared with receiving blankets and burp cloths ahead of time.
Play A Soundtrack In Your Mind
Whenever I am feeling nervous in any situation, I silently play an internal soundtrack of music that pumps me up and makes me feel capable. Pick your go-to warrior goddess soundtrack and play it loud, my friends.
Pick "Breastfeeding Friendly" Neighborhoods
There are some public places that are always going to be a little more accepting of breastfeeding. Sticking to these places can help you to build your confidence until you'll be happy nursing anywhere.
My safe, judgement-free spaces were the public library, an organic cafe, a woman-owned bookstore, and a mom and baby yoga studio.
Bring Spare Clothes For You
Being covered in breast milk is not fun, so make sure to bring along a spare shirt. You know, just in case.
Bring Spare Clothes For The Baby
Breastfeeding can be messy. By bringing spare clothes for your little one, you ensure that you won't need to head home if your baby wets their clothes.
Have Plenty To Drink
I was always so thirsty when I was breastfeeding, so make sure to have plenty of hydration on hand.
Grab A Snack
Breastfeeding is hard work so you're bound to need to refuel. Have everything ready before you start to feed so that you can limit interruptions that could rock your confidence.
Bring A Cushion Or Ask For One
Strollers can hold a lot of stuff, so why not bring along a breastfeeding cushion and make sure you are comfortable, right? Depending on the location you're nursing in, you could even ask to borrow a cushion.
Use The Bathroom First
There is nothing worse than settling down to nurse your baby (especially in public) and then needing to get up and pee. Go first and save yourself the bother.
Bring A Book Or Magazine
If you're concerned that people may try to talk to you as you nurse, try bringing a book or magazine with you. This gives off a silent message that you are not up for a chat. Not everyone will get the hint (because people) but more often than not, you and your baby will be left alone.
Avoid Feeding Your Baby On The Toilet
While I'm not one to tell another mother what to do, know that you and your baby deserve better than a feeding session in a public restroom. No really, you do.
Acknowledge Your Fears
It's almost impossible to boost your confidence without first confronting your fears and worries about what could go wrong. Do a worst case scenario in your mind, think through that scenario, and then remember that you can do this.
You go this.
Look Into Your Baby's Eyes
If you are feeling really conscious, focus on your baby. Stare into their beautiful eyes and ignore everything else around you.
Use Hands-Free Equipment
Use as many products as possible that allow you to have your hands free to sip a drink, eat a bite, or turn a page in your book.
Just Go For It
The best way to improve your confidence is to just do it. I was nervous for the first few times I breastfed in public but, with repetition, I realized I was simply feeding my baby. If anyone has an issue with that it was their problem, not mine.
Observe Other Moms
Watch how other nursing moms feed their babies in public, then emulate their confidence.
Take Your Time
Make sure you have enough time to sit and relax when breastfeeding in public, especially for the first few times. It will be more stressful if you have to dash off for an appointment or you feel like you're under a deadline. So try to make sure you have an open schedule to just focus on the task at hand.
Choose A Secluded Spot At First
If you are feeling uncomfortable, you can choose a more secluded spot to begin with. You don't need your first nursing session to be in a busy mall or packed stadium. You can start, like I did, in an empty but public space, then work your way to more populated areas.
Ease Into It
You can ease into breastfeeding in public. It doesn't have to be an everyday event or something you rush into. In other words, feel free to take your time and work on your own timetable.
Perfect Your Technique
It will be easier to breastfeed with an audience if you already know what you are doing. Get your technique down at home, first, before you head out.
Watch YouTube Videos
To make sure your technique is stellar, you can visit a lactation consultant, go to La Leche meetings, or simply watch YouTube videos. I found watching videos of other moms nursing their babies made me feel much more capable.
Get Help If You Encounter Problems
Nothing knocks your confidence more than a series of setbacks. If you are experiencing any problems with breastfeeding, get help and advice as soon as possible.
Nurse In A Variety Of Places
Try a variety of places to build up your exposure (literally!) and confidence.
Attend A Nurse-In
Attending a nurse-in or a breastfeeding event is really empowering. Watching crowds of mothers all breastfeeding without apology and so confidently is incredibly supportive.
Talk About It
If you are having mixed feelings about breastfeeding in public, or breastfeeding at all, talk about it. Share your feelings with your partner, your friends, your family, or your healthcare provider.
Be An Advocate
Remember, as much as you may be looking to other breastfeeding moms, someone else may be looking to you as a role model. The more you breastfeed in public the more you normalize breastfeeding and become an advocate for breastfeeding moms everywhere.
Become A Regular
Once you find a supportive and comfortable place to breastfeed, become a regular at that establishment. The staff will remember your drink order and may even be sweet enough to bring you supplies before you even ask.
Go To Support Meetings
La Leche League meetings provide support and resources for breastfeeding moms, and most women there will be nursing. They are a great source for new and nervous breastfeeding moms.
Remember What's Important
If you are feeling a little insecure about breastfeeding in public, simply remember why you are doing it. Your baby needs food and you don't want to be a prisoner in your own home. It's as simple as that.