Come to think of it, the concept of public breastfeeding can seem totally weird at first, especially when nursing your first baby. But as natural as breastfeeding is, it still seems to attract a lot more attention than bottle-feeding – and not always in a good way.
As a nursing mom, if you aren’t very comfortable breastfeeding in public places, you can quite easily find your life become very restricted. But, what does society say on the matter of breastfeeding in public?
Unfortunately, babies don’t always know the right timing; they will always feel the urge to feed at any given time. This is a positive reason why you might need to learn how to properly breastfeed your baby in public.
The awesome thing is that everything you need in order to breastfeed your baby is readily available with you in the right quantity, temperature, and form, irrespective of where you are.
Is it necessary to breastfeed your baby in public?
The necessity of breastfeeding your baby even in public places is simple: They’re insatiable at all hours of the day and night.
Now, you probably have your daily to-do list, places you need to be, and a routine time that you have your meals.
That is not the case with babies. Little ones don’t get the memo – they get hungry in their own “right time.”
Have you ever wondered why some nursing mothers prefer to breastfeed in public rather than express their milk?
While a large percentage of nursing mothers settle for pumping breast milk, others prefer to breastfeed directly. In some cases, pumping milk isn’t always the best or most desirable.
For instance, your baby may want his milk from the original source mainly because of the soothing comfort, and other babies don’t take kindly to the idea of drinking from a bottle.
There are several benefits attached to breastfeeding your baby directly rather than through expressing milk. Let’s have a quick look at them, shall we?
Pumping vs direct breastfeeding
Since breast pumps became popular in the late 1990s, many nursing mothers have pumped breast milk in lieu of putting their baby to the breast.
Rather than direct, they have developed an indirect breastfeeding relationship with their babies.
It is high time we came into the light that breastfeeding is not just about the milk, but also the interaction that comes with it. As a mother, you get to know your baby’s behavior while he or she breastfeeds.
Now let’s take a closer look at the mom’s immune system.
The mother’s immune system is in charge of protecting the baby until the good age of around 5 years old, when your baby’s immune system is stronger.
Aside from the nutrients that are passed to the baby for strong immunity when in the uterus, the baby also continues to receive these through the mother’s breast milk.
Now, the good part about breastfeeding directly is that if your little one comes down with an illness, he can transfer this illness-causing organism to you through breastfeeding.
While this doesn’t sound like a positive thing, trust me, it is.
A mother is then able to develop antibodies that can fight off the illness and transfer this back to her baby through her breast milk.
Without that direct connection, the mother’s body isn’t able to build these protective antibodies (unless, of course, she gets infected through a different way).
Even if the mother picks up the illness in another way and starts developing the antibodies, many of the cells will end up destroyed with mechanical pumping and milk storage.
The shaking of bottles, force of pumping, and thawing/freezing can break open the cells, rendering them useless.
Direct feeding of your baby several times a day helps your immune system respond promptly to best protect your baby.
Other disadvantages of choosing to pump your milk over direct breastfeeding includes electric power limitation (that is, if you have an electric pump), as well as the extra time and energy involved in expressing and storing your breast milk.
Tips for breastfeeding in public
As said earlier, open breastfeeding in public spaces can take some time getting used to, especially if it’s your first.
Take your time going through these tips to help make it a no-stress experience for both you and your baby.
And even if you are the type of person who isn’t really fazed about people’s reactions or doesn’t really care about what others think, these amazing tips will get you prepared.
1. Spare some time for practice
Take some time out and practice indoors.
If you are feeling uneasy about breastfeeding in public (whether it’s your first time or not), try to get in some practice in the safety of your own home and in front of a mirror.
In a supportive environment, you may find breastfeeding in public easier after the first few times.
Supportive environments like your friend’s place, a mom-and-baby group, or a small cafe may be better than going to a crowded mall or taking public transport by yourself.
2. Be prepared and dressed for the occasion
Ensure that everything is set. Pack the diaper bag with burp cloths, an extra t-shirt (for those accidentals spills and leaks), blankets, and anything else you might need for nursing.
Pack several wet wipes – remember, you are going to be out in public and you and your baby can’t afford to walk around dirty.
Choose nursing wear that makes public breastfeeding easier and gives you a measure of privacy.
The last thing you want is to find yourself in a very revealing top or a tight dress that you might need assistance from another person to pull up.
Put on tops and dresses with buttons or a zip at the front, side-openings, or dungaree-style straps for easy access. You can also try wrap-around styles, shawl necklines, or cowls that you can pull down.
When it comes to what to wear for public breastfeeding nowadays, you’re spoiled for choice.
If breastfeeding goes well and you wish to continue, it might be worth investing in a few quality items of nursing wear to make life easier in the long run.
3. Do your research
It’s a good idea to start compiling a list of good places to nurse in public before venturing out with your newborn.
There are several locations that welcome breastfeeding mothers.
Some of these include shopping malls, department stores, baby wear stores, cafes, hotel lounges, department store changing rooms, libraries, furniture stores, community centers, museums, and parks.
You can also approach other local moms and ask them about the best places they’ve found for public nursing nearby.
4. Get yourself a breastfeeding cover
Indecent exposure shouldn’t have to be an issue when breastfeeding your little one in public. There are several stylish choices in nursing cover for privacy when feeding your baby in public.
Ranging from specially designed wraps to simple shawls and ponchos, or aprons with a wired semicircle in the top so you get to see your baby while he feeds, there should be something perfect to suit you both.
Interestingly, you might find your baby making the decision for you on whether or not to use a breastfeeding cover.
This is because some babies do not like being covered while feeding, while others get distracted if they are not covered while being breastfed.
Also, it’s not uncommon to feed your baby while he’s in a carrier or sling, as this will support him, as well as give you some privacy.
5. Know your rights
Are you legally entitled to nurse in public?
If you feel that a business such as a mart, mall, shop, or cafe has discriminated against you by asking you not to feed your baby, you may be able to make an official complaint – again, depending on breastfeeding laws in your area and how you feel about taking legal action.
It’s important to know a mother’s rights, and if you are unsure about your particular breastfeeding state laws, have a chat with your healthcare professional or do some online research.
One great resource is The National Conference of State Legislature, which has listed breastfeeding laws for all 50 states.
Likewise, you could ask local moms or close friends and relatives about their experiences. If someone complains while breastfeeding your baby in public, you could politely remind them of your legal rights, as women have a right to nurse even outside of their homes.
6. Do not leave yourself out
Yes! It’s your baby first, but you should be a very close second.
While getting your baby prepared to go out in public, get the necessary things you will need for yourself too.
It is very easy to get carried away in focusing on what your baby needs, but be sure to include those items you’ll be needing.
Pack a beverage or water bottle so that you can stay hydrated, as well as a snack or light meal to keep your strength up.
Remember: By taking good care of yourself, you’re taking better care of your baby.
7. Be confident and enjoy it!
Seriously! Don’t you think nursing your baby is one of the best things you can possibly do?
Be confident, be proud of what you’re doing, and have a great nursing experience.
Things you shouldn’t do when breastfeeding in public
- Don’t pack in unnecessary things: It’s no use going out with things you won’t need. Since you will be handling your baby, don’t go out with extra items that will just make things that much more difficult to manage. The beauty of nursing is that it’s convenient and portable. Perhaps, If you’ve been relying on a nursing pillow or other forms of back support at home, it is time you practiced nursing without it, so that nursing in public won’t be another challenge to you.
- Never use a restroom: Be it a restroom, bathroom, or any other room such as this – never feed your baby in one. Would you care to eat in a restroom or bathroom? Then why should your baby? There are other better options; you just need to find them. You can opt for a lounge near a bathroom, dedicated nursing rooms, a bench outside, or a quiet corridor. These places will make for a better option than a toilet or bathroom.
- Don’t breastfeed in a place that will get your baby distracted: If your baby is distracted from the main goal, then there is no point to virtually everything we’ve been discussing. No breastfeeding mom should feed their babies in a place that’s full of distractions. If there are attractions around you and you can’t seem to excuse yourself from that location, you can keep your baby focused by blocking the activity around with a nursing cover.
- Be composed and polite: Passersby can be very vocal seeing breastfeeding mothers – this is a fact that is known by every nursing mother. All you have to do is try your best to keep calm and be polite. Avoid escalating any arising matter, but explain nicely that your baby is human too and he needs to be fed. Then, turn away. Be extra mindful of others and try to keep your items in order and as close to you as possible. Do not take up too much space, keep your cool, and be considerate to those around you.
Breastfeeding laws worldwide
It’s exciting to know that breastfeeding in public is legal in more places than not globally, including the United States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
In states such as Idaho and New York, for instance, the breastfeeding state laws support openness while nursing.
In Europe, public breastfeeding is widely accepted irrespective of the existence of laws and regulations.
Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland greatly promote breastfeeding in public. In the UK, public breastfeeding is seriously protected by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Equality Act 2010.
Nursing in public is widely accepted in German society, while women will be very reserved in France, preferring to breastfeed their baby at specially designated places.
Italian, Spanish, and Greek women are quite discreet about public breastfeeding, even though it is encouraged.
In general, it is widely accepted and uncontroversial to breastfeed in public.
It’s worth noting that breastfeeding in public is more common in rural areas among low-education citizens compared to urban areas with people of high-education level.
A breastfeeding woman in China is quite reserved at public breastfeeding, preferring to stay home most of the time during her baby’s first year.
If they do leave home, they’re sure to nurse their baby beforehand.
Aside from countries like Pakistan (due to religious reasons), countries like Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Israel, Jordan, Bangladesh, and Iran all support public breastfeeding.
Women from countries such as Nigeria, Liberia, Morocco, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda, and Zambia feed their babies on demand without any form of hesitation.
There are times when discretion may be necessary, depending on the environment in which they find themselves.
Public breastfeeding is encouraged in New Zealand and Australia, and widely accepted and respected by society.
In all 50 US states, it’s legal to breastfeed in public, with Idaho and Utah being the last two states to pass laws that protect nursing moms in 2018.
Canada gives equal freedom and rights to men and women, without exclusion to breastfeeding in public, and so it is accepted by society.
Since nursing mother’s breasts are not viewed as sexual symbols, it is in fact more common to find babies being breastfed than bottle fed in South America.
Peru was the first Latin American country to enforce laws that protect public breastfeeding.
Tips to help breastfeeding moms who feel intimidated
The first thing is to know that not everyone will accept what you are doing. Now, ask yourself: What is the one thing you are really worried about?
This is a subjective question, since what worries you might not be the thing that worries your friend.
Is it that you are scared about people seeing your breasts? Everyone getting a view of your new baby tummy? People seeing milk spraying or dripping?
Others seeing you in some sort of pain? Is it not having your stuff with you? Are you worried about the negative comments people might give?
Identify these things and ask yourself: Is it you, your baby, or other people that’s causing you to hesitate?
Understand that you’ve got the most amazing human being in your hands and he is just that – human.
He needs to feed. It’s within every mother’s right to nurse their babies wherever they need to.
This post contains affiliate links. Please see our full disclosure for more info.