Most women who have tried to breastfeed and met with any degree of success know that it doesn’t come without difficulties. These difficulties range from trouble latching, mastering the football hold and other tried and true methods, learning the lingo of nurses or lactation consultants, wrestling with the noisy beast, er…I mean… breast pump, and figuring out how to squeeze in a shower and some sleep. And this is all before you leave the house. Add trying to breastfeed in public and you have the makings of a new-mom-meltdown.
As a first time mom, my play group compatriots and I shared stories and advice aplenty. One frequent topic was breastfeeding in public. With my firstborn, the question was whether to do it.
But as many of us moved on to our second pregnancy and birth, the questions became whereand how to do it. So what follows are a few tips from one mom who’s been there.
Best Places To Breastfeed
Photo by c r z
The best places list is based on three criteria:
- Minimal Distractions for Baby
- Privacy or Crowded Anonymity
- Somewhat Comfortable Seating
In no particular order, they are…
- The Mall – These days, most with the stores we want to shop in have great family lounges adjacent to the restrooms. Large rooms with changing tables and dedicated nursing alcoves – usually about three – describe most shopping mall family lounges. I loved the nursing alcoves. I’ve been in some with doors and others with floor to ceiling curtains, cutting down on noise and distraction.
- Dressing Rooms – There are a lot of great things about The Gap, not the least of which is their collection of wearable maternity garb. They keep me coming back to clothe my kiddos with their roomy dressing rooms and one dedicated dressing room-turned nursing room. What I like about The Gap is that the restrooms are nearby. Restrooms matter when your breastfeeding, as you probably know, because you’re trying to stay hydrated and your uterine muscles are still out of shape and because we know what our babies do after they eat.
- The Park – In good weather, I love the park because I can plant myself anywhere, creating privacy by putting distance between myself and others. Under a tree sitting cross-legged was one of my favorites. Eddie Bauer and others make great picnic blankets with nylon waterproofing on one side. I kept one of these in my diaper bag and used it as a changing pad too.
- The Movie Theatre – If not getting out is getting you down, watch the paper for their “Diaper Days” showings of films, which are usually around noontime. They lower the volume to protect little ears and you get some much needed entertainment.
- The Public Library – Recent court challenges have refused to restrict library patrons’ access to explicit content (ie porn) on library computers. Suffice it to say that the library is a welcoming place for nursing babes in arms. As are some of the big bookstore chains. In both places, I’ve found stools and chairs in the children’s area and fed my babies without interruption or hassle.
How To Stay Under the Radar – Outfits
This comes down to two necessary wearables, one for you and one for baby.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ve likely invested in some quick access nursing bras and tanks. If you’re like me, you’d rather not show the loose folds of skin in the tummy region, which can flop out if you’re wearing a nursing bra and a shirt. Hoist the shirt up and voila, my muffin top was there in the flesh for all to see. No thank you.
So I encourage you to opt for a nursing tank top (very reasonably priced and well made at Target) and a loose shirt over it. For a splurge, I’d recommend Glamourmom Nursing Bra tanktop, which are reinforced with spandex (available online at Amazon). They’re also longer than the average tank and some have lace trim. I appreciated the stretchy snugness around my middle, which smoothed out the appearance of whatever shirt I wore over it.
What about nursing shirts? I had a couple of these, but I’m not a big fan. The openings and fabric folds underneath always ended riding up above the outer rim of the scoop-necked shirt. Not pretty. And the shirt alone doesn’t offer enough coverage if you want to be a bit discreet.
That’s how to outfit you; now for baby.
When breastfeeding in public, the sling is the thing. Truly. Although I once breastfed with my daughter facing inward in a front carrier, it was not pleasant for either of us. Here are a few recommendations:
Ring slings are a better choice than other slings simply because the extra fabric works as an instant nursing cover. Just pull up one corner of the extra fabric length hanging down from the ring. Tuck the corner under the strap of your opposite bra shoulder strap.
Wraps: If baby hates to be covered up (and what baby doesn’t want to stare up at mom while eating), Didymos and Moby wraps are helpful in this case because there’s a little more built-in coverage for you and baby. Baby’s head is usually tucked into one section of the wrap that goes down under their bum and up over your shoulder. It’s not like he can wrestle this fabric out of the way. But on the downside, it’s a lot harder to get baby positioned and latched on in a front-carry wrap.
How To Deal With The Rudeness of Strangers
For all its difficulties, expensive accessories, and judgmental inquiries, breastfeeding my babies brought me a sense of satisfaction, calm, and relaxation unique unto itself.
This is not to say that I never encountered invasive and ignorant strangers. It is lawful to breastfeed in any public place where food is served or allowed. You probably don’t want to get into a conversation with a rude person who makes a comment while your feeding your baby. It can’t be good f0r the letdown, so ignoring the remark and turning your head the other way is best.
But if they persist, however well-meaning they may (or may not) be, tell them any of the following (these go from tame to mildly tenacious):
1. “Please take up your concern with the management.”
2. “I’m not in the habit of taking advice from strangers, thanks.”
3. “Please be courteous and allow my child to eat.”
4. “Oh,” (in a surprised tone, like something just dawned on you) “you must not be aware of the law, which allows babies to eat anywhere you can. Now you are. Have a good day.”
5. “Did your mother refuse to feed you as a child?”
Okay, so maybe the last one’s a bit cheeky. But it takes only one invasive remark to transport most moms from meek to militant on this subject. Where ever you are on this spectrum, make the process as easy as possible with friendly places, cozy spaces, and snug ring slings, then shut the world out feed your baby in peace.