‘I’m planning to breastfeed my daughter for at least six months, and I know I can’t stay in my house all the time. But I’m not so sure about nursing in public.’
In most parts of the world, a mother nursing her baby doesn’t attract any more attention than a mother bottle feeding her infant. But in the United Kingdom, acceptance of public breastfeeding has been slower in coming. Ironically, although the breast is celebrated in movies, in magazines and on the catwalk, it can still be a tough sell when there’s a baby feeding from it.
Happily, nursing in public is becoming more accepted – and easier to do in more and more places. So just because you’re nursing doesn’t mean you’ll have to be cooped up for duration. With a little practice, you’ll learn how to breastfeed so discreetly that only you and your daughter will know she’s having lunch. To make public breastfeeding more private:
- Dress the part. With the right outfit, you can breastfeed your baby in front of a crowd without exposing even an inch of skin. Unbutton your blouse from the bottom, or lift your shirt up slightly. Your baby’s head will cover any part of your breast that may be exposed.
- Practice in front of a mirror before venturing out in public. You’ll see that, with strategic positioning, you’ll be completely covered up. Or enlist your spouse (or a friend) to watch you as you feed the baby the first few times in public; he can monitor for any mishaps.
- Drape a blanket or shawl over your shoulder to form a tent over your baby. But be careful not to cover your baby completely. She’ll still need to breathe, so be sure her tent is well ventilated. When you and baby are eating out together, you can also use a large napkin.
- Wear your baby. A sling makes breastfeeding in public extremely discreet; wearing your baby this way, you can eat, watch movies, even walk around while nursing. People will just think your baby is sleeping.
- Create your own privacy zone. Find a bench under a tree, pick a corner with a roomy chair in a department store, or sit in a booth in restaurant. Turn away from people while your baby is latching on, and turn back once your baby is well positioned at your breast.
- Look for special accommodations. Many large stores, shopping centers, airports and even amusement parks have rooms set aside for nursing mothers, complete with comfortable rocking chairs and changing tables. Or, seek out a bathroom with a separate lounge area for your baby’s dining pleasure. If none of these are options where you’ll be going, and you prefer to nurse without a crowd, feed baby in your parked car before heading out to your destination, temperature permitting.
- Feed before the frenzy. Don’t wait until your baby becomes hysterical to start nursing her. A screaming baby only attracts the attention you don’t want when you’re nursing in public. Instead, watch for your baby’s hunger cues, and whenever possible, preempt crying with a meal.
- Do what comes naturally. Although mothers have no legal right to breastfeed in public in the UK, if feeding your baby in public feels right, go ahead and do it. If it doesn’t, even after some practice, opt for privacy whenever you can.