While it is completely your right to breastfeed in public without using a nursing cover, some women feel uncomfortable doing so. Others aren’t quite sure how to get the hang of it without feeling overly exposed, especially first-time moms. Here are some tips to help you be successful and confident with breastfeeding your baby, no matter where he or she gets hungry.
1. Practice at home. The next time you need to feed your baby, do so in front of a mirror. You might be surprised at just how little skin is exposed and can be seen by someone else. Doing this can help you realize that it is possible to breastfeed without a nursing cover and still be discreet.
2. Wear nursing-friendly clothes. Things like nursing bras and shirts that are made for breastfeeding can make it easier to get baby latched on without needing to remove your shirt or fumble around. Many moms will layer their clothes to achieve this effect: they wear a nursing tank with a button-up shirt on top which will make nursing easy, but still provide good coverage.
3. Use a nursing tank. These tanks attach to your bra strap, and can keep your side and flank covered while still allowing easy access for feeding. Some moms don’t like having their sides exposed when feeding, and this type of clothing solves that problem perfectly.
4. Don’t wait until baby is frantic. You may be tempted to see if you can just make it home before needing to feed your baby, only to be left with a now starving, screaming, frantic mess of a baby who is so upset, he or she has trouble latching and feeding. Just like at home, feed when the first hunger cues start, and everyone will be more calm and relaxed.
5. Use a nursing cover or blanket if you find them helpful. Some women feel more comfortable using a nursing cover while breastfeeding in public, and others will use a burp cloth or baby blanket to achieve the same purpose. Additionally, some babies who are very distractible during feeds may feed better with a cover since what they can see is limited. If this is the case, find a cover that works for you and keep it in your diaper bag.
6. Start out in a quiet, secluded place. When first getting your feet under you with breastfeeding in public, set yourself up for success by doing so in a quiet, calm place, like your backyard or even a fitting room in a store. This will allow you to get the hang of it without feeling like all eyes are on you. You can also gauge how your baby does without a cover in a new environment before moving on to busier and noisier places.
7. Avoid the stares of others. If you are focused on your baby while feeding him, you aren’t going to see if other people are even watching you (and in reality, very few people stare or even notice that you are feeding your baby!). Sometimes the best way to feel “at home” in public is to just pay attention to the one you are feeding!
8. Try, try again. Have you tried to feed your baby but got flustered, or your baby was too distractible, or you lost your nerve and threw in the towel? No big deal; just try again later! This especially goes for moms who first try breastfeeding in public with very young babies. Once your baby is a few months old, latches like a pro, and feeds more efficiently, nursing in public will likely become a breeze.
10. Find the humor. If you were feeding your baby and before you knew it your nipple was out for all to see or milk sprayed everywhere, laughter really is the best way to get past it. Every mom has had some nursing debacle, so just add this to your pile of crazy motherhood mishaps.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, March 2020
- Try nursing at home in front of a mirror to practice for when you’re in public.
- Follow the first signs of hunger, and do not wait until your baby is frantic to start feeding.
- Just because it didn’t work once does not mean it never will — continue to try!