It is easy to tell someone else to just breastfeed when going out with a new baby, but the reality is that our society has sent mothers the strong message that publicly exposing breasts in any capacity is indecent. (Although men can walk around top less with no care in the world).
If you feel nervous about the prospect of breastfeeding in public, you are not alone. The level of comfort each mother feels is greatly related to their personality and family background. Regardless though, any mother can breastfeed in public and I am here to give you the tools to confidently leave those bottles of pumped milk at home.
Wear Breastfeeding Specific Gear
When you are outside and your little one needs to nurse, you should know that legally you are not required to cover up. In fact, many babies actually dislike having a cover over their face so I would test at home if you are considering a breastfeeding cover.
Just to be clear, if you are breastfeeding your child you can legally have your breast completely exposed. Unfortunately our society often lives by cultural norms which in this case tends to prefer modesty. Hopefully as more mothers take to breastfeeding we can change these beliefs.
I personally enjoy wearing clothing designed for breastfeeding because it makes the whole process easier. It’s hard to find these clothes in the store but luckily online has a ton of options! (I have found a good section of maternity closed at BuyBuy Baby stores and some Targets for in person shopping).
Let’s focus on 5 Main Breastfeeding Articles
- Nursing tank tops
- Basic tank top that unlatched from straps. Tank tops are my most used breastfeeding article. It does fully expose your breast though since it unlatched from the top and you pull the front shirt down. Sometimes I’ll wear this under another nursing shirt or sweater as the tank top is often tighter which can be comfortable.
- Nursing T-shirts
- Designs are more varied. I like the t-shirts that drop down as a curtain (see image below). These significantly hide the breast if you are just starting out and feel a bit unsure.
- Nursing bra
- In order to comfortably breastfeed in public you will need a nursing bra. Most mothers have this already, but if you don’t it will be very difficult to get access to the breast. The only other option is if you are comfortable not wearing a bra at all. I’ve always used the Gratlin Maternity Nursing Bra because it has upper breast supper when opening the flap. Also it is super affordable at under $20.
- Nursing dress
- Personally I’m not a casual dress wearer. These articles to me are really only for special occasions. We did however attend a wedding with our 4 month old and the nursing dresses I got were great. Again, be aware of how the dress is designed to open. If it’s the type of top that needs to be pulled down, full expose will occur.
- For those who strongly prefer to not expose any breast when breastfeeding outside can get a nursing cover. The most user-friendly ones look like ponchos. They go over your head and drape around your torso. Covers can easily be brought along in a purse or diaper bag and thrown in the wash when dirty. Many covers can also be used for the baby seat as well as a store cart cover when shopping.
- Some mothers swear by this. Once a sling has been introduced you can breastfeed hands free! Personally I never figured this tactic out and I think body proportions and breast size do come into consideration. I will a link below In case using a sling outside (or in the house) has sparked your attention.
Find a Comfortable Place to Breastfeed
As a mother I have learned to slow down and enjoy the moment. We are already tiered and easily irritable. With all the hustle and bustle of the outside environment, choose to find a spot where you feel like it’s OK to stop and sit back.
Our nurslings sense tension and stress so it can be difficult for them to settle down if your nervous system is running at 200%. Depending on where you are, I like to choose either a more reclined chair or a spot where I am a bit to the side but can easily see what is going on in my environment. (I mean, who doesn’t love people watching)
Although nursing stations can be helpful to reduce outside noise, do not go sit on a toilet to breastfeed for fear of offending someone. That is not pleasant for either you or your child. I will not leave a group conversation or miss out on friendly banter because my child need to breastfeed.
Work on Confidence
I recall my Swedish mom asking me if it was legal to breastfeed in public when I gave birth to my son Luca. Not knowing what the laws are can make any mother unsure of the right thing to do (even if the natural thing seems obvious).
Luckily for you in the USA, it is legal in all 50 States to breastfeed in public. (unfortunately only 31 States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws which seems to be a weird loophole.
Now that you know breastfeeding in public is acceptable, join a Breastfeeding Facebook Groups for community support. You will find many mothers online who all breastfeed. This is an indication and motivator to not worry when breastfeeding outside. You are not alone.
To make breastfeeding easier outside, surround yourself with supportive people. Maybe have a friend or family member join you on a few outings during those first weeks until you get settled in. A supportive environment can really impact anyone’s life in positive ways.
Practice at Home
Try out different outfits to make sure you can breastfeed with ease. The worst thing is getting dressed up to realize once you are outside it’s difficult for your child to get access to the breast. Everything is obvious in hindsight so take a moment to plan out what you will wear with nursing in mind.
For example, you might have a great nursing top on for an outdoor BBQ but then last minute remember to grab a hoodie in case it gets cold. Little did you know at the time but now you are wearing that hoodie on a chilly summer night. Once its time to breastfeed the hoodie needs to come off, which leaves you cold and shivering.
Breastfeeding in front of the mirror will help you find out what level of breast exposure you are comfortable with. A full height mirror would be the best so you can easily see your reflection. Sit in front of it with your nursling child and figure out what would work best for you.
No Need for Bottles when Outside with your Nursling!
For anyone who thinks it’s easier to bring bottles during an outing is sorely mistaken. Bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding might feel safer while sitting at a restaurant, but the reality is different. Bringing all the related supplies is simply very cumbersome.
You need to pump ahead of time, bring a cooler to keep the milk fresh and then carry it with you during the day. When your baby is hungry hope they’ll accept cold milk or go look for someone who can warm it up.
This is why if you can get comfortable breastfeeding in public, your life has just gotten much easier. Your baby can get fed immediately upon request and the milk’s temperature is just right.
It’s hard to swallow that some people might feel the need to make an ugly comment. If this happens to you keep your head high because you are doing nothing wrong. Continue breastfeeding outside as much as possible. The more visibility breastfeeding gets the more accepting our society will be.