You and your new baby decide to go on your first outing since he was born. You change him, dress him and nurse him before you leave the house. He falls asleep in his car seat on the way there. Perfect! He’s fed, changed and sleeping peacefully.You’re all set to shop and you’re sure you have at least an hour and a half to get your shopping done before he wakes up and is hungry again. A half hour into your shopping he wakes up and you know he’ll be hungry soon. What do you do? Do you rush home to feed him? Should you go out to your car and feed him there? Maybe you should use the bathroom stall? Unfortunately, this is often how nursing mothers are made to feel when they choose to nurse. So often nursing is seen as offensive or somehow shameful and should be done in private. Any mother who has nursed a baby knows that hiding out is certainly not a practical option.
So, you need to feed your baby in public, but how can you go about it in a discreet and comfortable way for yourself and those around you? Here are some tips that can help you:
1. Know Your Rights!
B.C. and Ontario specifically outline the rights of breastfeeding mothers.
Ontario’s Human Rights Commission states that:
You have rights as a nursing mother. For example, you have the right to breastfeed a child in a public area. No one should prevent you from nursing your child simply because you are in a public area. They should not ask you to “cover up”, disturb you, or ask you to move to another area that is more “discreet”.
B.C.’s Human Rights Commission states that:
Mothers are allowed “to breastfeed / express milk on public benches such as may be found in shopping malls, museums, hospitals, public parks, restaurants, etc.;” and mothers are allowed “to breastfeed their babies while walking in stores, etc.
For the rest of Canada women are protected against sex discrimination by each province’s Human Rights Code. See the Infant Feeding Action Coalition’s website
What it boils down to is that you are allowed to nurse your baby anywhere you choose to and you should not be discriminated against in any way because of it.
2. Get Nursing Clothing.
Technically, you dont need any special clothing to nurse your baby; however, there are many items you can use that will make the experience more comfortable, discreet, and enjoyable for you! If you feel comfortable nursing with regular clothing, great! But if you feel uncomfortable with exposing your belly or your breast, then nursing clothing would be a great option for you.
Here are some items that would help you to nurse discreetly in public.
- Nursing Tops – Nursing tops come in an assortment of styles and different openings for accessing the breast. Many come with a discreet under layer that keeps breast and tummy covered, exposing only the area required for nursing.
- Nursing Bras – A nursing bra provides easy access to the breast without having to remove your entire bra.
- Nursing Cover – A nursing cover covers you and your baby during nursing. Paired with a nursing top, you can feel comfortable nursing your baby anywhere in public!
3. Practice, Practice, Practice. – Practice makes perfect! In the beginning, you and your baby are both learning how to breastfeed. To help yourself feel the most comfortable, practice at home before you try it in public. Once your baby is latched you can fix up your clothing to cover the majority of your breast so that almost nothing is left exposed. Ask a friend or your man how you look or check yourself out in a mirror.
4. Don’t Wait for the Sirens! – Feed your baby before he is starving, screaming and drawing attention. By now you probably know your baby’s schedule and hunger signs so use them!
5. Get Ready. – Get yourself ready before you pick up your baby to nurse. Undo your nursing bra and get your nursing cover and burp cloth ready. Then you can easily pick up your baby, get him latched, and arrange your clothing to cover yourself where you feel necessary. Now, you’re good to go!
6. Be Confident. – You are feeding your baby the best nourishment available. Don’t draw attention by acting nervous or trying to hide. Act like you normally would – chat, read, whatever makes you feel comfortable.
7. Be Considerate. – Be considerate to the people around you who may feel uncomfortable by your nursing. That doesn’t mean you should leave the room or feel the need to hide, and it doesn’t mean that they are allowed to ask you to leave or cover yourself, it just means to be aware. For example, if you’re in a room with a few people, you can just let those around you know that you will be nursing. This way, if they are uncomfortable with your nursing then they have the chance to leave the area.
Why Should I Nurse in Public?
I believe that all women should be encouraged to nurse in public. Why? The 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey questioned new mothers who chose not to breastfeed. The top reason for women choosing not to breastfeed was that they found it “unappealing” or “disgusting”. Women who nurse in public would act as a role model to these women, and would inspire and encourage new mothers to feel comfortable with the option to nurse.
Breastfeeding truly is a beautiful and amazing experience for you and your baby. Hopefully these tips have helped you have the strength to feel confident with your choice to breastfeed and with nursing in public. It would be a shame for a women to choose not to breastfeed or to prematurely wean her baby because she felt self-conscious nursing in public.