Tips for Breastfeeding Modestly in Public

Breastfeeding your baby in the comfort and privacy of your home can be peaceful and relaxing.  You settle into your favorite nursing spot which may be your glider or chair,  set your glass of water on the table nearby, and blissfully breastfeed, enjoying the togetherness and privacy of just you and your baby.

But what happens once you venture out with your baby, and you find yourself needing to feed your nursling in the most public places – the mall, a restaurant, your friend’s wedding?   How can you do this modestly and in a way that will make you feel comfortable and relaxed enough to nurse?  Don’t worry.  You can breastfeed your baby in public modestly and discreetly.  It may take practice but you will master it for sure, and then you will be able to go out and enjoy the world with your nursling.

One strategy is to seek out private space in a public domain.  For example, in a shopping mall, most stores let breastfeeding moms use an empty dressing room to nurse, which can be private and quiet.  Many malls also have ladies rooms with a large lounge and sitting area which can be a comfortable place to nurse with added privacy. If you are at a wedding or other event, depending on the venue, there maybe a separate room for you to excuse yourself to for feedings.

However, assuming you are completely in public – at a table at a restaurant, sitting on a chair at the mall, in the seats at a stadium during a ballgame, you can still do so modestly! During the many years that I was breastfeeding my four children, I nursed everywhere I went, and nursed in some unusual places and situations.  Here are my top 6 tips for nursing modestly in public:

1. Dress for it:  When going out with baby, wear clothes that will enable your baby to access your breasts for feedings while keeping your stomach, sides, and back covered.  For me this meant either wearing Nursing Tops that had specially designed and hidden openings, or wearing a Nursing Cami that I could wear under any regular top.  With a Nursing Top, you access your breast through a hidden opening in the garment, while the rest of your body remains covered.  With a Nursing Cami, the cami covers your entire body while you lift your regular shirt worn over it, and the strap of the cami unfastens, much like a nursing bra, to access your breast.  The rest of your body remains completely covered by the cami while you nurse.  Both of these options enabled me to latch on and nurse my baby while keeping my sides, back and stomach areas covered.

2. Use your body language:  In a public area, use body language to create your own private space.  Try turning your body away from the crowd, and look down at your baby while you are latching on and nursing – you will find that this gives others the subtle signal that you are engaged with your baby and not available for interaction.  In this way, you create a private zone for the two of you even with others around.

3. Practice:  The more you practice nursing modestly, the better you will get at it.  This may sound silly, but at home, take a chair and position it in front of a mirror.  Try nursing your baby and see how it looks to others.  The toughest part is latching your baby on.  Unfasten your Nursing Bra or Nursing Cami by putting your hand underneath your shirt (while keeping your shirt down), then bring your baby under your shirt (or if wearing a Nursing Top then put your baby to the breast through the opening) and put her mouth to your breast, using your hand to adjust her placement.  Once she is latched on, you may even be able to look up and resume interacting with whoever you are with, or you may prefer to look down and stay in that private zone with your baby.

4. Time it well:  Feed your nursling at the earliest signs of hunger.  Since a screaming baby attracts more attention than a quiet one, if you feed your baby while she is calm and not crying for milk you will attract far less attention and will have fewer people watching you, or even noticing what you are doing.

5. Consider Covers:  Though I personally rarely used them, many women prefer to cover up with a light receiving blanket or specially designed Nursing Cover while breastfeeding in public.  This is an excellent way to nurse modestly as it keeps all the nursing activity hidden beneath the blanket or nursing cover.  Just make sure that the blanket is light enough that the baby can breathe underneath, and if using a nursing cover, you may want to select one that bows out at the top to provide airflow and also enable mom to maintain eye contact with baby.

6. Select a Sling:  Nursing in a Baby Sling is a discreet way to nurse (especially when you are also wearing a Nursing Top that does not need to be lifted up) wherever you are.  In most cases no one will know that you are nursing as the baby is carried right up against your body and it will likely appear like she is sleeping.

Enjoy being out in the world with your nursling, and use these tips to feel more confident nursing modestly in public.  Most of all, feel proud that you are giving your baby the very best nutrition and creating an incredible bond with your child by breastfeeding!

About the Author:
Elisa Harstein is the mother of 4 beautiful breastfed children, and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia Business School.  She is the founder of Milk Nursingwear, a line of chic nursing wear clothing for Nursing Moms.  She is the former founder of Expressiva Nursingwear, which she sold in 2007.

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