6 Tips for Nursing in Public
Nursing in public is often a big worry for first time moms. No one likes to feel exposed or embarrassed. No one thinks twice about feeding a baby a bottle in public, but nursing publicly often creates strong opinions on both sides. As nursing mothers are taking the country by storm, they have created a whole new way to nurse in public without feeling embarrassed or offending others. You can join this quiet revolution.
1. Practice First To Get Comfortable
The best place to start is in your own home. Family members are good "guinea pigs" to practice on. Nursing your baby is not a disease or a reason to isolate yourself in the back room. If you are worried about offending anyone, tell him or her that you need to feed your baby and give them the opportunity to leave. The trick here is that they leave, not you! Arm yourself with the attitude that nursing is normal and healthy. You wouldn't eat in the bathroom or in the back room, so your baby shouldn't either. Wearing special nursing clothing is often helpful, but certainly not necessary. Just practice techniques of discreet nursing to help keep everyone comfortable.
2. Nurse Discreetly
Discreet nursing simply means you avoid drawing attention to yourself and/or exposing yourself while breastfeeding. If you can master this art, you will be able to nurse your baby everywhere and almost no one will know what you are doing. This is sometimes a hot topic, because political breastfeeding activists feel that by nursing discreetly, we are catering to the unhealthy views that breasts are sex objects. The problem is that making a public statement with breastfeeding can put you in a vulnerable situation. You'll need to decide where you stand on this issue. Most moms feel much more comfortable about keeping things discreet, and you will find that others around you will also feel more comfortable.
3. Get the Right Wardrobe
There is no way you will be able to nurse discreetly in a skintight zip-up-the-back dress. If you are going to be a nursing mother, you are going to have to make adjustments to your wardrobe. The easiest solution is to invest in separates -- sweaters, tops, skirts, jeans. Washable clothing is best. If you have a few nursing tops, you can try those out as well. Practice with lots of different styles of clothing, and find out what you are most comfortable with. Practice nursing in front of a mirror so you can see yourself exactly as others see you.
With regular clothing, lift up your top to expose your breast, and then, once your baby latches on, adjust the fabric to cover as much of your breast as possible. If you are wearing a button top, unbutton the bottom few buttons but leave the top buttons closed. This will help keep you covered. Eye-to-eye contact with your baby is important, so try not to completely cover up your baby under your clothing or a blanket. With nursing clothing, once your baby latches on, then you can also adjust the fabric to keep you covered.
A baby sling is a great accessory for public nursing. With your baby safely in a sling, you can nurse your baby and have your hands free at the same time. The sling can be adjusted to keep you covered and no one will ever suspect that you are nursing your baby.
4. Stay in Tune with Your Baby's Needs
When in public situations, be very aware of your baby's hunger cues. Every baby is different, but if you are observant, you will notice your baby may root, suck on his/her fist and or begin to get fussy. This is a signal to nurse immediately. Putting things off with a pacifier or a bottle will just make your breast-fed baby miserable and unhappy. It is so much better to feed at the first signs of fussiness or hunger. After a baby has tried every way to get your attention, they will start crying hysterically as a last resort. A screaming, miserable baby, whether breast-fed or bottle-fed, attracts lots of negative attention, and that is just what we are trying to avoid. A confident mother who is in tune with her baby and meets their needs quickly is much more likely to have a successful public nursing experience.
5. Find a Good Spot for Feeding
This is one of the most critical steps to successful public nursing. If you are in a restaurant, mall, airport or any crowded area, try to sit so you have a little privacy. A booth is great, as long as there is enough room to maneuver. Sit so that you can see what is going on. On an airplane, they often offer mothers an aisle seat, but for discreet nursing a window seat is best because it offers you at least one private side. If you can't get any privacy, turn your back while you get your baby latched on, then adjust your clothing and turn back around. Look up at people and make eye contact. Talk to them, laugh, have fun. You can do all of this while you nurse.
6. What If Someone Is Staring At Me?
This can really be an uncomfortable situation. The best thing to do is to return their gaze without backing down. This will usually cause them to look away. This won't happen very often and is much more likely to happen if you have a screaming baby. A nursing baby is a quiet baby and usually doesn't attract much attention. Remember, the whole idea of discreet public nursing is to act like nothing is out of the ordinary. Most people will truly have no idea you are nursing your baby.