Breastfeeding In Public: A How To Guide & 14 Tips

Last Updated On: 

September 2, 2018

Whether you’re already a nursing momma or just reading up and educating yourself about what’s to come when you officially join the motherhood club, knowing what you need to do when baby gets hungry and you’re both away from home is vital.

Unless you’re okay with feeding them formula in addition to breast milk when the need arises, you’ll want to avoid having a hungry baby on your hands until you get back home so you can nurse them there – they’ll be crying and screaming the entire time until you quench their thirst and satiate their hunger.

The best option you have is to nurse them right then and there, regardless of where you are at the time and how convenient (or inconvenient) it is to do so.

How To Breastfeed In Public

We’ve put together this list of tips that ensures everyone’s comfortable and happy whenever you’re nursing on the go and out in the public.

1) Only Do It If You’re Comfortable

First things first, know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you not breastfeeding in public if you’re not comfortable with the idea.

The problem only lies in someone shaming you for doing it and intimidating you into stopping.

If you’re the one who doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, then by all means don’t feel like you have to just because others are talking about how empowering it is.

2) Keep Your Privacy

Speaking about not being comfortable breastfeeding in public, there really is no reason for you to feel intimidated about it in this day and age, especially with all the items and accessories you could use to stay discreet and private when doing it outside the house.

For example, you can get and use a nursing cover that completely blocks out anyone from seeing the action going on behind the curtain. You won’t feel your privacy is being violated if that’s important for you, and your baby won’t get distracted while feeding – win win!

Just make sure you get a nursing cover that’s designed to make it difficult for a baby to take off of you whenever they’d like to, because they will try to do that – many times, too, before giving up.

The last thing you’ll want to happen is to trust your privacy with a cover that easily comes off at your baby’s first attempt, and leaves you exposed for everyone to see.

Keep in mind that you’re not required to cover yourself up while publicly breastfeeding your baby. You’re free to do so without any cover from a nursing cover, nursing shawl, jacket, blanket, etc ..

All of these are only meant for mothers who want to keep things discreet for their own comfort, want to prevent their baby from getting distracted with anything going around at the time, and want to go the extra mile to make sure they don’t make anyone around them uncomfortable.

3) Make It Easy For You

Ever thought about wearing a nursing bra and nursing top? If not, give both a try together – you’ll love how easy they make it for you to breastfeed your baby in public.

The easier it is to give a nursing baby access to your breast when outside the house, the better for everyone involved.

4) Plan Beforehand

If you fail to plan ahead, you won’t have a good experience breastfeeding anywhere, be that in public or in the privacy of your own house.

When planning to do this outside the house, make sure you pack a diaper bag that has everything you might need for a proper nursing session.

Cloth for burping? Check. Blankets? Check. Wet wipes for you and baby wipes for your little one? Check.

Be careful not to over-do it and bring along a ton of items and accessories you can do without, though. The less items and accessories you have to depend on for a successful nursing experience in public, the better.

For example, nursing pillows can make your life so much easier while breastfeeding at home, but they might not be the most convenient to deal with in public.

Also, plan things out ahead in terms of where you’re going to be at the time and where you’ll likely nurse your baby. Visualizing it in your head, thinking about the small details and ironing them out beforehand makes a massive difference.

5) Practice Beforehand 

It’s also an excellent idea for you to practice breastfeeding in public at home in front of a mirror. In other words, do a mock of a public nursing session before you go out there and do it for real.

This is a great opportunity for you to test out different items in your wardrobe to find out what works best when you’re doing it for real, and what you can do without – stuff like nursing tank tops, bras, covers and shawls.

It’s also a great opportunity for you to get some practice under your belt and break that shyness barrier if you’ve never nursed in public before and the thought of it makes you anxious.

When doing this in front of a mirror at home, many nursing moms notice that they aren’t showing as much of their breast as they first thought they were, because their baby’s head blocks that area. It’s little details like this that give you the confidence to go out there in the real world and try it.

You know what they say, practice makes perfect! At the very minimum, make sure you’ve got the hang of this direct breastfeeding thing at home before you go out in public and try to do it.

Getting a few things messed up at home is one thing, but having things work against you while in public is a completely different stressful experience.

Plus, the more you practice at home with your baby, the more they’ll be comfortable being breastfed in public that way, and the less likely they are to put up a fight.

6) Don’t Wait Till They’re Hungry

Waiting till your baby’s all hungry and fussy is probably the worst thing you can do when planning to breastfeed them outside the house.

If you’re trying to keep things discreet, good luck doing that with a fussy and crying baby.

You should pick up on their hunger cues very early on.

7) Like Minded People

Ever thought about joining a club of moms who nurse in public together?

This can be a very empowering learning experience especially if you’re just starting out and have never done this before, or you have but you’ve been intimidated into not trying it again and need the support to get back into it.

8) Use A Sling

Breastfeeding your baby in a sling when in public is great for keeping on the move and keeping baby close to you at all times.

9) Your Own Needs Matter Too

It’s not just all about your baby, you’re also a very important part of this process and you should never forget that. So, look after yourself and take care of your own needs as well.

If you don’t know this already, staying properly hydrated plays a huge rule in keeping your milk supply up so you can nurse your baby whenever they need it. So, keep a couple of water bottles with you at all times and sip through them to stay on schedule.

Milk supply goes down when you’re feeling weak and energy depleted, so also keep something to eat with you at all times. Doesn’t have to be anything too complicated, an energy bar can do the trick just fine sometimes.

10) No Distractions

If you have multiple spots to choose from when breastfeeding your baby in public, choose the one with the least distractions.

The less distractions there are around at the time, the more focused a baby will be at actually eating, and the more relaxed you’ll be because everything’s going well.

The more distractions going on around you at the time, the longer a nursing session is going to take – and while you should enjoy the magical bonding experience while it lasts, you don’t want it to take up too much of your time for no valid reason.

If you don’t have much options to choose from and are stuck with only one or two busy spots, using a blanket that blocks whatever activity is going around at the time (for your baby) could come in very handy.

This usually isn’t something you have to worry about with a newborn, since babies aren’t easily distracted during their first few weeks and months in life, but usually becomes something you have to give more and more consideration to as your baby grows older.

The older they get and the more cognitive development they go through, the more they’re aware of their surroundings at any given time and the easier it becomes to distract them.

Too much of a distraction going on around an older baby during feeding time, and they might not even begin nursing to begin with before it gets calm.

11) Not In The Bathroom, Momma!

No matter how “bad” you think it is, it’s not so to the extent that you have to nurse your baby in a bathroom. Public or private, clean or dirty, there’s always a better option than breastfeeding your baby in a bathroom.

You and I wouldn’t exactly call it a pleasant experience eating in a bathroom, right? The same holds true for a little baby just as well.

Plus, a bathroom is not exactly the most sanitary of places for you to be breastfeeding your baby in … to say the least.

12) Keep Your Calm

If someone doesn’t like what you’re doing and decides to be vocal about it, don’t let it get to you. Instead, keep your calm.

You’ll come across people who will commend you for what you’re doing and shower you with kind and empowering words, while other people won’t exactly be as … kind, to put it lightly.

If you do decide to reply to passers by who want to give you a piece of their mind, then whatever you do, don’t let them drag you into a fight – even if it’s only a verbal one.

What you should do instead is explain to them that it’s completely legal for you to be doing what you’re doing right now, and – if you’d like to – state the reasons you’re breastfeeding in public right now instead of doing this at home.

Whether they choose to see where you’re coming from or at least respect the difference in opinion between you two is up to them, you shouldn’t invest any more of your time or energy into debating with them if you notice it isn’t going anywhere.

You can’t get everyone out there to see things your way, and for some people, nursing in public is always going to remain “socially unacceptable”. Accept that you can’t change their opinion and move on.

Again, whatever you do, don’t let it escalate into a conflict – especially not when little baby is around.

13) Record Of The Law

Speaking about unwanted attention you might get when nursing in public, it’s a great idea for you to carry a copy of the nursing law in your state with you at all times.

Whenever you find yourself in a sticky situation with an uninformed person/people that you don’t want to escalate, take out the law record and show it to them.

That should put them in their place and get them moving on with their day.

14) Respect Other People’s Space

You have all the right in the world to be breastfeeding your baby in public, and what you’re doing is a noble thing – but that doesn’t mean you have more rights than they do just because they’re not nursing at the time.

For example, if you happen to be nursing on a bench outside, try to minimize the space you take up so that you leave room for others.

If you don’t keep small stuff like this in mind, it gets real easy to take up the entire bench for yourself and whatever items and accessories you’ve brought along with you, much of which you might not even use at all.

Is It Legal To Breastfeed In Public?

It’s not enough for women who choose to breastfeed in public to only have public opinion (or a large percentage of it, at least) on their side. You’ll still come across the opinion that public breastfeeding is something to be ashamed of, and that’s to be expected.

However, as long as you have the law on your side, that’s all that should really matter. And, not to our surprise at all, not anywhere near enough breastfeeding mothers know that the law is in fact on their side.

How exactly? Well, in the year 2018, the practice of breastfeeding in public has been made legal in all 50 states alike! In addition to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as well.

If there’s one fear nursing mothers have in their head, or obstacle keeping them from nursing in public, it’s that they don’t know whether doing this is legal or not. So, if you live in the USA, you now know that doing this is completely within your rights!

If you live outside the United States of America, though, you’ll want to do your own research beforehand to be sure what the law says about this in your country and area.

Note: Always stay up to date with laws and policies in your state. Laws and policies might change at any given time, modifications might be done to them, and certain differences exist in public breastfeeding laws between one state and the other. So, dedicate an hour or so of your free time and educate yourself about public nursing laws and policies in your state so that you know everything you can do and anything you can’t do. And, again, regularly check up on any changes that might have affected public breastfeeding laws in your area.

Where Can I Breastfeed In Public?

You’re free to nurse in public wherever you are at the time and wherever you feel comfortable doing so.

Happen to be in a restaurant seated at a table alone or with friends/family? Are you at a park sitting on a bench? Are you doing some shopping at the supermarket or grocery store and need to sit down for a bit to do so? Doing some shopping in a store and need to use the dressing room for some privacy, peace and quiet? You’re good to go in all of these examples and more.

Your public breastfeeding rights may be limited whenever you’re no longer considered to be in a public space, but are considered to be in a private space.

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