Breastfeeding in public

What to Know

  • Preparation is key to stay comfortable while nursing in public
  • Expect the unexpected with a growing and hungry baby

You have the right to breastfeed anywhere, anytime, whether in a restaurant or store, on an airplane or bus or in the middle of the park. Babies are human after all, and they get hungry regardless of your location. Even if you’re feeding on a schedule, expect the unexpected with a growing baby. Babies who are teething, sick, experiencing a growth spurt or just feeling like a snack often need an unplanned nursing session while you’re away from home.

Mom breastfeeding baby in public

We all have different comfort levels when it comes to privacy and modesty, and no one is right or wrong. But planning to (inevitably) feed your baby while out and about will help keep you and baby relaxed and comfortable. With a little practice and preparation (both mental and physical), you’ll be a breastfeeding pro wherever you find yourself.

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 an apron or a shawl) for additional privacy.

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.

And while you’re focused on keeping your baby well fed, don’t forget about your own best interests and breast care. If you prefer to pump in advance and then bottle feed in public, you may want to consider bringing a manual pump so you can pump on-the-go rather than skipping a feeding. Skipped feeds can lead to discomfort from engorgement and plugged ducts, supply issues and even put you at risk for mastitis.

Keep practicing to 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). With some trial and error, you’ll both become seasoned and comfortable with breastfeeding anywhere.

What to Do

Be prepared with appropriate attire

Check out any number of nursing tops on the market. 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.

Be prepared to speak up if necessary

It’s nobody’s business how and when you feed your baby. You have the right to breastfeed anytime, anywhere! So speak up if and when you need to.

Keep your baby’s preferences and best interests in mind

Respect that your baby might not like the nursing cover or even if you are not shy, your older baby or toddler might get distracted in public and need a less stimulating environment to breastfeed.

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 the timing makes sense

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.

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