Uncomfortable Breastfeeding in Public? You’re Not Alone

7 steps to get comfortable nursing in public

by Gina Ciagne, Certified Lactation Counselor

Breastfeeding in public was a popular and prevalent topic last year and continues to capture headlines. We’ve seen bold, confident images and stories about moms standing up for breastfeeding in public yet positive stories are continually contrasted by news about moms being harassed, scolded or worse yet – threatened by police action for breastfeeding in restaurants or malls.

In light of this, it’s no wonder that the number one fear about breastfeeding among moms in this country is the thought of doing so in public—an insight recently revealed by this 2012 study  (full disclosure: I work for Lansinoh, the company that conducted this study). Of the 5,000 moms surveyed, 40% revealed that their greatest concern about breastfeeding is nursing in public, with mothers aged 36 and up worrying about it most(42%) and younger moms aged 18-25 less often(33%). Public breastfeeding concern outranked fear that it would hurt, that mothers would be unable to breastfeed for a long enough period of time, and that the baby might not latch properly.

The challenge for a breastfeeding mom is to feed her baby frequently, and sometimes at a moment's notice. Babies get hungry when they are out, just like we do. So unless a mom stays inside at all times, at some point, she will be faced with the decision to breastfeed in public.

Everything about the very nature and decision to breastfeed is personal. Therefore, whatever a mom chooses is best for her baby and herself, whether it’s the decision to breastfeed or formula-feed or about how she’ll approach breastfeeding in public— that decision should be supported, respected and celebrated. 

To support those moms who are interested in, have considered or would like to have the option of breastfeeding outside private spaces, there are some great solutions and even some products that will help ease any worries or anxiousness or embarassment you may have. 

Here are some tips to help you brave the public view.

1. Pull on a nursing top or dress over your nursing bra.

Easy access is key to swift and simple breastfeeding. Thankfully, there are now many affordable, stylish options for women who want to allow modest access to breasts for their babies.  Lots of nursing clothing is made so cleverly that other people wouldn't even guess that the seams part for breastfeeding. 

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2. Try a nursing carrier.

You may already have a sling or wrap among all the baby gear at home. Ask a consultant to help you determine if your carrier will work to nurse or which ones are designed so you can breastfeed easily while offering a considerable level of privacy.


3. Practice at home.

Have some practice sessions to get comfortable with the process of feeding your baby outside the house, using whatever covers or products or tips you may be considering for the level of privacy you prefer. If you want to practice nursing around other people, start by inviting over someone you already comfortable around -- your mother or best friend -- and give it all a go while you are visiting. 


4. Call ahead.

If you are visiting your family or entering a public venue, it may make you feel more at ease to call ahead of time and ask about the best options for nursing moms, or how to set yourselves up so you are all in the best situation possible. 


5. Prepare for "oops" moments.

Want to cover up but forgot your cover or carrier? Burp cloths work great in a pinch. Worried about leaking? Carry extra nursing pads in your diaper bag. Forgetting one thing doesn't mean you have to give up or go home.

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6. Take a deep breath.

Babies can sense tension, so keep calm and carry on. 


7. Feel assured. 

Finally, remember, it’s no one else’s decision – or business – how you feed your baby. You are protected by the law, and should do whatever makes you and your baby comfortable.

Whether that’s using a nursing cover or a receiving blanket to cover up or letting baby nurse in the open, breastfeeding is about nourishment, bonding and providing the best start possible for your baby. Be proud, stay cool, and breastfeed with confidence. 

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Gina Ciagne is a Certified Lactation Counselor, a La Leche League International-trained breastfeeding peer counselor and Senior Director of Professional Relations for Lansinoh. A nationally recognized expert on breastfeeding, Gina Ciagne has been an active advocate for breastfeeding and women’s health for more than a decade. She has worked with thousands of mothers from around the world and is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post and Fit Pregnancy, and has appeared on The Bump, CNN and Fox News. Ms. Ciagne formerly worked at  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,  and has a masters degree in Public and Community Health at Trinity University.

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