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Breastfeeding in Public
Read time: 4 minutes
What to know about breastfeeding in public
Preparation is key to staying comfortable while nursing in public
Expect the unexpected with a growing and hungry baby
All but one US state and a few US territories have protections in place for nursing in public.1 Babies are human after all, and they get hungry regardless of your location.
Even if baby is consistent with their feeding times, being sick, being in a new environment, or just wanting some closeness can cause them to have an unplanned nursing session while you’re away from home.
With a little practice and preparation (both mental and physical), you’ll be a breastfeeding pro wherever you find yourself.
Clothing and nursing covers for breastfeeding in public
Clothing is key when breastfeeding in public. Wearing loose layers with bras and tops specifically designed for nursing will provide ample flexibility and coverage. Many women also use a breastfeeding cover (similar to a shawl or small blanket) or baby carriers for additional privacy.45
Just remember – it takes two to breastfeed. Even if you like the privacy a cover affords, your baby may not like eating under a blanket. Experiment to find a solution that works for both of you.
If you have questions about breastfeeding in public, our team of registered dietitian nutritionists, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, are available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm (ET) to help you with more tips and tricks for planning feeds when out and about. Chat now!
Some women prefer to pump and bottle feed when in public
While you’re focused on keeping your baby well-fed, don’t forget about your own needs. If you prefer to bottle feed in public, you may want to consider bringing a manual pump or learn hand expression so you can pump on-the-go rather than skipping a feeding.
Skipped feeds can lead to discomfort from engorgement and plugged ducts, and may even result in supply issues or put you at risk for mastitis.
You may also decide to pump once per day at home to build a stash for when you are out of the house. If you decide to do this, be sure to pump at the same time each day so that your body knows when to expect the session and will make milk for it.It usually works well to pump between feedings.
Practice makes progress
Keep practicing so you find a system that works best for both you and your baby.
The breastfeeding experience will get easier for you over time and your baby’s skills with latching, sucking, and swallowing will become faster and more efficient over time (resulting in shorter feedings).67
Tips for breastfeeding in public
Be prepared with the appropriate attire
Check out any number of nursing tops on the market.8 Don’t be shy about asking mom groups or friends specifically what works best for them.
If you need to wear something without breast access (like a dress to a formal event), make arrangements for a private space where you can get undressed to feed your baby.
Familiarize yourself with the laws in your state or territory – and speak up if necessary
What often makes nursing in public difficult are other people’s reactions.5
If you feel harassed in a store or restaurant, you can ask to speak to a manager or owner if an employee asks you to stop breastfeeding.
Start with somewhere familiar
Use a familiar location, like a restaurant you frequent, for your first public try.
Try going to your favorite restaurant with your partner or a friend when it’s not too busy. Sit with your back to the entrance while your friend faces the people traffic. This can help ease you into it, and it’s likely no one else will even realize what you’re doing!
Consider offering your baby the breast before leaving the house
If you’re hoping to avoid nursing while out and about, try sticking around the house for a bit longer to feed if your baby is willing. This approach can buy you some time.
But know that at some point in your breastfeeding experience, your baby will likely want to feed at a less than optimal time.7
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!
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