May 15, 2010 (12:54 pm)

Breastfeeding In Public

by Kristen Suzanne

I came across this article today, 50 Reasons For Breastfeeding Anytime, Anywhere. I started to wonder how it will be when I breastfeed in public… Will people give me a hard time? How will I respond? I never figured myself as a woman to whip out my boob in all its glory for everyone to see before breastfeeding, but I do think there will be times (maybe always) when I’m not covering my baby with a blanket. I think breastfeeding is a beautiful act.

My personal vision for breastfeeding is that it’ll still be somewhat discreet as far as flesh showing goes, yet people will know what I’m doing. It’s important for our culture to get more comfortable with breastfeeding, and doing it in public is one way to facilitate that. I think a woman’s shirt pulled up a bit, with the baby latched on, and the mom being able to gaze into her baby’s eyes is lovely. Moreover, even though I might not do it, if I saw another woman showing more than that… I wouldn’t care.

I’m not sure I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen breastfeeding take place in public. I don’t go out much, so that contributes to the number of opportunities I’d have for that, but still… sadly, I’ll bet it doesn’t happen often.

What do you think? Do you see many moms breastfeeding in public? Are you uncomfortable with it? Do you do it yourself? How discreet or not-discreet are you?

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  • Claire

    My mom is a lactation consultant and a home birth advocate (after 5 babies and 30 years as a nurse – she knows what she's talking about!) and so I have always been comfortable with breastfeeding. I haven't had children yet, but I imagine I probably wouldn't want to “whip it out” but I definitely would not feel inhibited in feeding my child in public.

    As the most natural (we were DESIGNED for this!) form of nourishing your child, I think the US is pretty backwards in how we treat women who want to *gasp* feed their babies in public. It's disgraceful. My mom is actually part of a campaign to encourage restaurants in our hometown make a public statement to support breastfeeding moms with the breastfeeding sign in their window.

    I'm so glad you posted on this! Way to go. :)

  • Lauren519

    Great post, I am very comfortable with breast feeding, heck I was breast feed for 3 years! :)

    Funny story, hubs and I were watching a show last night were an actor pretended to kick another actor who was breastfeeding out of his cafe. The show was to see how others (who didn't know it was an act) reacted. Most came to the defense of the breastfeeding mother, but some agreed that it was gross, and shouldn't happen in a public place. I was getting angry!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thx for sharing :)

  • MissionVegan

    Great post! I think you'll notice it more once you're doing more kid-related activities (park, library, etc). I came across this cover that I'm interested in getting:

    There are lots of covers on the market, but this one is a much different design in that it doesn't cover the baby. Those big apron covers probably draw as much attention to you as a bare boob does!

  • heather

    I'm expecting our fourth, and have nursed all of them in public. My babies haven't liked a blanket over their heads (neither do I, feel like I'm suffocating), but I do care about being discreet.

    I think we're going to do Babe au Lait this time: The top is rigid so I can see baby, but I'm still comfortable covered.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thank you for the link. I'll check it out!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    I'll check it out. Thx! :)

  • A. Skretta

    I was a devoted breastfeeder to my son. I loved it. But, though everyone said that I would get used to it, and there are tools and drapes and wraps all for breastfeeding in public, I only really did it once. In a natural baby store. They practically expect it there. And I was the only customer there. The rest of the time, if we were out, I would breastfeed him in the car (I have an Element, so I'd chill out in the AC and the tinted windows gave me a bit more privacy. I had a friend that would literally whip it out anywhere, and even though we were both breastfeeding at the same time, even I wasn't sure where to look, and I was very aware of what was going on. She didn't drape anything anywhere. I'm glad she's comfortable with that, but I will pass. I didn't really find it that inconvenient to do what I did, especially since it meant I was more comfortable.

  • Cristina

    Hi Kristen, I am currently nursing our 3rd, who is 15 mos. I have gotten braver with time! We live in Miami where c-sections and formula are the norm, so it took some practice to nurse confidently in public. Over time I learned to make eye contact with people and smile, which disarms anyone who might want to get offended!

    You should have no trouble with your newborn. After you've been practicing nonstop at home for a few weeks, you'll be a pro at getting yourself set up without flashing anybody! You can do this successfully with a nursing bra, no need for special tops and blankets.

    I also wanted to share with you an important lesson I wish someone had told me when I had my first baby — the first 6-8 weeks after the baby is born are really tough. Usually we focus on the birth only, but the real hard work starts afterwards. Your nipples might be sore, the baby will be nursing-n-pooping every couple of hours, and you'll feel hard pressed to find time for a shower. It's a crazy time! But the good news is that it's not like that forever, and when the baby is around 6-8 weeks or so he will find his rhythm (I've never liked the word “schedules” for newborns!) and so will you. I think you will do great because you are already planning ahead for the frozen meals, a good sign that you are preparing to take care of yourself! And a homebirth midwife is a wonderful resource, especially in those first few weeks after the baby is born.

    May God bless you and your baby, many blessings for a healthy birth and baby.

  • Jessica Fox

    I admit that because I rarely see mom's breastfeeding in public outside of LLL and Attachment Parenting meetings so at first I would be taken off base at the sight but it never disturbed me and I would always smile.

    I do plan to breastfeed when I give birth and although I am shy I don't plan to have the fact that I am in public stop me. I got a nursing cover that I highly doubt that I will use. I'll just be as discreet as I can, people will definitely be able to see what I am doing but I don't plan to be flashing a lot of skin in the process.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thank you :)

  • debbiedoesraw

    Hi sweet Momma,
    I breast feed my Sam for over a year. I agree that the first month can be trying and sorry, painful on the nipples. I really wanted her to be fed by the family, so I double pumped (both sides at the same time), a lot.. like we had to be home pretty much every two hours or I was getting engorged and it hurts! Pumping is great if you have to work away from home, so you may not need to.. but nothing matches seeing Daddy feed his child too :) with your own milk.. and you can catch a break. Sam co slept with us, so I would just get her on the boob and let her eat whenever she wanted to.
    I will say the sling is awesome for this.. you can just use it for a cover. I think the craziest thing I ever saw was in an upscale outdoors mall, a kid who was around 3-4 years old stood on the seat and nursed, his moms boobs in full view.. and yeah, that was a tiny bit odd..but to each his own! I have many friends who, when we are talking etc, just get that boob out and go for it.. and I love them for doing the best thing for their child and themselves!
    love to you

  • Stacie

    Don't even worry about breastfeeding in public. I did with both of my kids and I never covered them up (the kids, that is. I did try to keep my breast covered by baby's head and my shirt). It's actually rather simple once you get the hang of it–get your bra flap down under your shirt and then slide the baby and the shirt up at the same time.

    Unless someone is really getting nosy, all they might be able to see would be a small strip of exposed skin. And frankly, if you pay attention to your baby and get started before he gets frantic, you can get the baby latched on before he attacts any attention.

    In fact, it's so discreet that one time my mom reached over and yanked my shirt down while saying “you have a bit of tummy exposed.” My son popped off (OUCH) and wailed. My mom got all red and said “I'm sorry, I didn't realize he was eating.”

    My experience is that people would much rather be around a calm happy baby than a crying, fussy one. The way to keep baby (and mommy) happy and calm is to feed baby when he asks.

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  • Kristen Suzanne

    Good points! Thx for sharing.

  • Rachie86

    I think women should feel that they can feed their baby when ever and where ever they may be… that includes breastfeeding in public. I don't see it all that often, but then again, I don't get out much so majority of mothers I see feeding their babies are at church… in the mother's lounge. I'm not uncomfortable with it… I used to be, waaaay back before I had children of my own. If I happen to be out and about with my baby and he's hungry I'll feed him, but I'm very discreet about it and while people barely see anything… it's still pretty obvious what I'm doing. So far I've never been approached or bothered by people while I'm breastfeeding. The most people will do is realize what I'm doing and look the other way as they walk by.

  • Sara

    I breastfeed in public, and I am discreet. I have seen other women breastfeed in public not as discretely, and certainly haven't been bothered by it. I actually saw a woman at my local children's zoo feeding a baby, but I wasn't sure what she was doing at first. Then I noticed she had a nursing tank on that I hadn't seen before, and actually went up to her to ask her where she got it. It was fairly discreet, and she could walk around on that hot day feeding her baby without cooking under a coverup. I think we need to get comfortable with the idea that this is how babies are supposed to be fed and it is natural.

  • Lissa

    I think it depends on your comfort level. My sis has a little one and she has no problem feeding him in public. She is very discret about it to the point no one would know what she is doing. (Mind you no blanket either.) But it is up to the person. I nursed in a bathroom once. But I wanted the privacy. I did not care about where I was. I just wanted it to be quiet and peaceful at that time.

    To Stacie's point, most people won't even know what you are doing. My dad was talking to me one time and did not even realize I was feeding my baby. Later he asked when I was going to feed her and I said I already had done so. LOL

    I think the reason you or most people have not seen someone breastfeeding in public is because most people are very discret about it. Not because someone would give thema hard time or be nasty but because they wanted it that way.

  • shannonmarie

    There was just an experiment done on Primetime's “What Would You Do?” on Friday night. Most people thought the mom had the right to breastfeed her baby in public.

    I've done it many times with Hayden. I just make sure to wear a tank top under my regular shirt. That way, I can lift my shirt/pull down the tank, while keeping most of my body covered. Only what the baby needs is exposed and only to her, if you get my drift. She hates it when I try to cover her, too. So far, I haven't encountered any complaints.

  • Sara

    Hi Kristen:
    you really do sound like you are so prepared! I don't mind other women breastfeeding in public, I have never personally seen anyone get or give grief to someone breastfeeding. I wish it wasn't a big “rights movement” I think everyone should just do what is best and not make a big deal out of it. baby's need to eat and that's that. I have to say that even though I know it is beautiful and I love nursing my baby, I uncomfortable when someone else shows their breasts. it isn't that I am uncomfortable with my body or anyone else's (well maybe some LOL!) but I think it is meant to be private. having said that , If someone is breastfeeding around me I just pretend it doesn't bother me since it isn't at all about me. My baby doesn't nurse well in public because she is busy and loves to look around, and she refuses to be covered, although I never really tried hard, it may work better if you start early with the cover and are consistent about it at least once a week or something. I prefer to nurse in my car, so very comfortable and then when she wants a break she can play around and come back. it is a nice quiet break from whatever we are doing. and do remember that nursing will probably hurt at first but you are obviously determined and will pull through, for me it helped me when starting out to know that it would hurt and I was prepared. good luck, I am so excited for you! oh and coconut water is amazing for labour.

  • Amy

    I breastfed my son for 3 years. When he was very small he refused to take a bottle of my pumped milk. My husband was with him during the day while I was at work. He just brought him to me at lunch time to nurse. When he was older and saw another small child with a bottle he had no idea what it was. BTW Not everyone gets sore from nursing- I had no trouble with it at all. Nursing your baby is such a precious time. I nursed in public if he was hungry when we were out. People need to realize that this is the way babies are supposed to be fed!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thank you for sharing, Amy :)

  • Our Green Nest

    I'm still breastfeeding our 2.5 year old and I love it so I'm certainly not uncomfortable with it. My little one has no clue what a bottle is and I love that. Breastfeeding creates such a beautiful unmatchable bond!!! I have seen many women breastfeed in public and never have I been offended. I breastfed in public for probably her first year or longer but after that I could no longer be as discreet as I like to be. I still will do it depending on the environment, but most of the time we find a quiet place and do it there. It just got to a point where I was too exposed for my own personal comfort. Plus, it gives us some time to just connect without any distractions. But I do think it's very important to make the norm and get other people used to it though…but just as long as you're comfortable. I would highly recommend learning how to nurse in a sling like the maya wrap…it will allow you to nurse discreetly while you are out and about or even just doing things around the house with your hands free! The maya has some extra fabric that helps for coverage…

  • Kristen Suzanne

    I look forward to bf with baby in sling. :) thank you for sharing your

  • Jojo

    I'm still nursing my almost two year old. It takes some practice. You need to figure out what you are doing and the baby needs to gain his/her comfort level as well with the whole process. I do it in public all the time now. I say, “later” if we are covered by men or if we are in a very crowded, public situation (since she is just not all that compact anymore and nursing is different). I don't make a lot of eye contact while nursing and I have never had a problem with comments. I had one sleazy comment when she was just under a year but that is pretty good considering. Please nurse in public. I think it's our duty as mothers to sway things back toward normality and nursing is NORMAL.

  • Frugal Babe

    I breastfed our son for two years, and it was wonderful. The only reason I stopped is because we're thinking about trying for number two, and my body doesn't like to ovulate and nurse at the same time. The first time I nursed in public, our son was 11 days old. I had a lightweight baby blanket in the diaper bag that I could use to drape over us – mainly to keep him from being distracted by everything around us. I was always discreet, but it was obvious to anyone who glanced our way what was going on – they could see my shirt pulled up and the back of our son's head, but nothing else. In two years, I never once got any nasty looks, comments, or anything but smiles when I nursed in public (which we did a lot). Maybe it's because I live in a relatively liberal area of the country, but I always felt very supported.

  • Anj

    I nursed both of my babes in public, and I totally second a couple of comments here; that a nursing cover sometimes attracts more attention, and the tank-top-under-the-shirt idea. That was the best tip I ever got. I'm a layers girl anyway since I'm always cold, but that was perfect – lift your shirt up a bit to unhook the nursing bra, then simultaneously lower the tank neckline and latch baby — sooo easy! And if the tank and shirt match, no one can tell. Then you're not showing any skin (I always got cold doing that, lol) I tried nursing shirts but they were way too awkward for me.
    I'll admit, I'm still not sure where to look when other moms (even friends) are nursing, even though I've always felt comfortable nursing in front of others (except maybe a room full of men)

    I had a lot of trouble nursing my first, but my second was a breeze. My first would've been a breeze too, if she had been my second, LOL! The advice I got was conflicting although well-intentioned (from the public health nurses, and even two lactation consultants, sad to say) and at times even incorrect. I should've gone to LaLeche earlier and all would have been well. But if you're determined through hard times you'll figure it all out.

    Love (both) your blogs, btw. I enjoy your e-books. I'm doing more raw now, so we'll see how my third pregnancy goes :-)

    I like your attitude towards pregnancy and birth and all that jazz. You're gonna do great with the birth/mommy thing :-D
    Take care!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    hank you so much for the comment and compliments. You've made my day! :)

  • Kristen Suzanne

    That's awesome. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thank you so much for the comment and compliments. You've made my
    day! :)

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Kristen Suzanne is a Raw food chef and author who blogs about all things green and mommy-related! More...

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