With all the breasts flashing about in the media and used to sell everything from wrenches to ice cream, you’d think breastfeeding in public would not only be accepted, it would be boring. Not so. Public breastfeeding can still be a struggle for moms who have to face glares and stares.
There are no states where breastfeeding in public is outlawed for any reason, even in those states where the law says a mother must be “reasonably” discreet (North Dakota & Missouri).
Some moms are fine nursing their baby, but nursing a toddler in public means they need to “buck up” their personal commitment. And it’s not only in the mall or restaurant where moms can face the why-is-that-toddler-nursing challenge.
After about 12 months, some moms can find their families increasingly less supportive.
So, for moms who are uncomfortable with the public reaction or who have personal standards of modesty, we suggest:
- Look for a designated breastfeeding room or pod that’s not a bathroom – some states require these for nursing moms and many airports offer them.
- Sit near a corner — you’ll have more privacy and can often angle yourself away from passers-by.
- Wear nursing–friendly clothes — loose or front-buttoning garments over nursing bras that easily expose your breast means you can usually position baby and breast while the fabric drapes around you both. If you have very large breasts, you may still have a challenge.
- Use the drape — whether it’s a blanket, a light scarf or a towel, anything that hangs from your shoulder over your baby’s head and shoulder creates a visual barrier. It also serves to help baby focus so they aren’t easily distracted by the activity around them. Even in hot climates, a lightweight gauze drape can act as a cooling factor if you hold it away from laying directly on your child’s face.
- Sling your baby — when your infant is still small enough, you can nurse comfortably without any exposure to the outside world. Some women have taken their babies to meetings, the car mechanic or church this way.
- Practice at home first — getting a good latch might be awkward at first, especially when public exposure tests your nerves. At home you can see which clothing and drape are easiest for you to manage and how baby reacts to being under the drape.
- Let others have their reactions — even if you’re draped, some people may sniff and huff at this commitment to your child’s well-being. Even if “they know what’s going on,” it’s really none of their business. Some moms are fine nursing an infant in public. But once their child is a dedicated nursing-toddler, they feel more susceptible to the stares and comments of everyone from strangers to critical family members. Smile at those huffers, talk with or kiss your nursing munchkin, or just ignore their reactions because you know you’re right. Maybe schedule another time to talk with family members about what it means to have their support.
Women and men have long been programmed to think of breasts only as sexual objects. Sexual arousal at the sight of a breast is learned behavior. The evolutionary truth is that breasts are for feeding children, and always have been.
And everyday, more parents or cultures are embracing breastfeeding for the good of the child and mother. Consequently, more breastfeeding moms (and their partners) are claiming the power to care for their children in the healthiest ways, including offering the breast no matter where they are, and no matter how old the child.
To learn more about breastfeeding tips, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: March 7, 2017 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: February, 2017