Meet Dana, a professionally trained IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), who has earned the highest credentials one can pursue in lactation consulting and works at a top-ranked hospital where she has helped thousands of families. She is ivy-league educated with a master’s degree in public health, is a mom of two kids (and two dogs), and enjoys tending to her vegetable garden.
Given the frequency a baby needs to feed in the early days (as often as every 2 hours!), it is very possible that you’ll find yourself in a situation where you need to feed your baby when out and about. For some, this may seem like no big deal, but for many breastfeeding parents, the thought can bring up some nerves. So, no matter where you stand on the breastfeeding comfort scale, here are some tips to help ease your nerves and make breastfeeding in public a little easier.
And, if you’re new to breastfeeding, make sure to take our free Breastfeeding 101 course for expert tips on all things nursing, including what to expect in the first 30 days, how to get a good latch, and how to handle various challenges that might come up.
1. Know your rights
First and foremost, know your rights. Breastfeeding in public is legal in all 50 states, meaning you legally have the right to breastfeed your baby wherever you are— including public spaces. In fact, there are specific laws that say so. In addition, many states also have laws exempting breastfeeding parents from jury duty and laws regarding breastfeeding in the workplace. The latter vary by state, so if you’re curious about your state's laws you can learn more here.
2. Practice at home
The more comfortable you and baby are with latching and nursing, the easier it will likely be to get your baby set to feed when you’re not home. Practice a feed or so a day without the pillows or supports you normally use at home, until you and your baby feel ready. And, try nursing in front of a mirror to see how much of you is exposed — you may realize you’re actually showing less skin than you thought you were.
3. Consider a cover
We don’t think you have to hide! But, if it will make you more comfortable, go for it. If you choose to do so, there are a lot of different ways you can cover-up while nursing. There are specially designed “nursing covers” that are made to be used when nursing. Many parents find, though, that a simple scarf or baby blanket also works well.
Keep in mind, some babies don’t like being covered,especially as they get older and are curious about the world. You may find they pull the cover down or off to see what’s going on around them. These covers can also come in handy when you’re pumping, too. Many moms use them to cover up if they’re pumping on a plane or using a manual pump or hands free pump in public.
4. Ask if there’s a place for nursing parents.
Many places, like airports or malls, have special lactation “pods” designed for nursing parents. These are small, private areas made just for breastfeeding parents. They’re often equipped with outlets to make pumping in public easier too. Other places like stadiums, hospitals, offices and other public buildings may have rooms dedicated to nursing parents, so don’t be afraid to ask if there is a private space available to you.
One great tip is to use a store’s dressing room. These are great private spaces where you can take a break and feed the baby without anyone around.
5. Nurse in your carrier
This one can take a little practice but, you can nurse in many wraps or even more structured carriers— it just takes a little finesse and practice. Practice getting the baby into a good position at home, and once you’ve got it down you can nurse your baby in their carrier when you’re out and about.
6. Dress in nursing friendly clothes
When you know you’ll be feeding your baby in public, be mindful of your clothing to make it easier on yourself. There are a lot of breastfeeding-friendly clothing items out there. Some have special slits or zippers so you can easily access your breasts to feed the baby without needing to undress. But, you don’t need anything fancy. Some moms like wrap dresses, button down shirts, or wearing a nursing tank under a sweater or t-shirt.
Whether you prefer to cover, or are free to bare it all, as a new parent the idea of breastfeeding in public can be daunting. Hopefully, these tips ease your nerves and make breastfeeding in public a little easier. To learn different nursing positions, how to deal with sore nipples and other breastfeeding challenges, and how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk, be sure to check out our FREE Breastfeeding 101: From Prenatal Prep to Pumping online course.