breastfeeding in public

When feeding time rolls around, it doesn’t matter where you are with your baby. If it’s time, and they’re hungry, then there is no waiting, even if you're out and about. However, for some mothers, the idea of breastfeeding in public can be daunting. Here are some tips that can help you navigate breastfeeding in public, making it easier and less stressful.

Deciding to Breastfeed in Public

If you're concerned about breastfeeding in public, it's important to know that every mother has the right to breastfeed their baby anywhere. There are laws that protect your right to breastfeed in public. Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website for specific information on the laws regarding breastfeeding in your state. In the meantime, below are some points to consider if you're uncertain about breastfeeding in public:

  1. Breastfeeding in public is your decision, not anyone else’s

  2. Know that all you’re doing is meeting your baby’s needs when they’re hungry

  3. It’s almost impossible to be at home every time feeding time rolls around

  4. Nursing on the go means saving time: You don’t have to pack bottles, store your breast milk in a cooler, and then warm a bottle before feeding time.

If you’re on the fence about breastfeeding in public, reach out to other moms to find out how it is for them. Their feedback and experiences can help you decide whether it’s something you’ll want to do, too.

5 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public

Here are some breastfeeding tips to help you feel successful and relaxed when breastfeeding in public:

  1. Dress comfortably. You don’t need the latest in maternity wear for breastfeeding in public; however, you may decide to wear a nursing bra for easier access to your breasts. The key is to wear a loose shirt over your bra, like a top or blouse that you can easily pull up from the waist, or a button-down shirt you can easily unbutton.

  2. Have supplies on hand. You might like to have nursing pads with you to absorb any breast milk leakage. If you like, pack a light blanket or nursing cover to discreetly cover your baby while breastfeeding in public. Have a bottle of water on hand as you may become thirsty while breastfeeding. Depending on the size of your baby’s diaper bag, you may also like to pack burp cloths and a nursing pillow.

  3. Choose an acceptable area to breastfeed. If you’re self-conscious about breastfeeding in public, especially out in the open, some malls, stores, and shopping centers may have a quiet and secluded women’s lounge or family lounge where you could breastfeed privately or semi-privately. In some malls where a lounge isn’t available, you could use a fitting room in a department store, for example. Whatever location you choose, settle on one where you feel most relaxed. As a mother who breastfeeds, you’ll know when it’s the best time to feed your baby by paying attention to their hunger cues. These cues could include your little one putting their hands to their mouth, looking alert, sucking, nuzzling against your breast, or whimpering, which will all most likely happen before they start to get fussy or even cry. So, when you’re out and about, it’s a good idea to anticipate those feedings and find an area to breastfeed before your baby becomes agitated.

  4. Use a blanket for privacy. If you weren’t able to find a secluded area to nurse, or you feel even slightly uncomfortable, you can use a light blanket or a nursing cover to breastfeed discreetly and hide anything you don’t want exposed in public. It’s a good idea to practice breastfeeding with a cover at home so that you can figure out the most comfortable way for you and your baby. By all means, if you feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public uncovered, that’s OK too.

  5. Know your rights but seek support when needed. It is your right to breastfeed your hungry baby in public. If you do encounter a critic, try not to engage no matter how infuriated you may be. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or threatened, look for people around who can support you, like a fellow mother, grandmother, or security guard. Know that you have done nothing wrong when breastfeeding in public.

The Bottom Line

When you're a nursing mom, breastfeeding in public is a normal part of daily life. Keep in mind that every mother has the right to nurse wherever they like. Following the tips and taking some of the steps described above can help boost your confidence and make breastfeeding in public more comfortable for you. It’s OK to be uneasy at first. The more you practice, the better you’ll get! Read more about breastfeeding your baby as well as breastfeeding and going back to work.