The thought of breastfeeding in public may make new moms anxious and self-conscious. If you’re new to mommyhood and aren’t sure how to confidently feed your baby in public, Natalie Nelson offers some practical advice that will give you the tools to ensure your baby is fed and happy… no matter where you are.
I remember my first public breastfeeding experience and it certainly did not go according to plan. My little babe was three weeks old; I had been cooped up at home since his birth and was already climbing the walls. My darling husband could see that I needed a change of scenery and to get out into the grown-up world for some fresh air. It was a Saturday morning and we decided to tootle down to the local mall for some breakfast. With babe and all necessary paraphernalia in tow, we headed on out. So far so good.
We hadn’t been seated for more than five minutes when the smallest member of our party of three decided to wake up and announce to the world – loudly – that it was his feeding time. Trying my very best not to look flustered, and failing miserably, I attempted the public feeding thing. Everything went wrong: I had an award-winning ‘nip slip’, couldn’t get my son to latch and finally landed up wailing in unison with him. Gingerly my dear darling husband suggested I go and find a bathroom. Too mortified to put up a fight, babe and I headed off to the public ablution facilities.
It was not a successful first attempt, but the good news is that it did get better, especially after seeking advice from my midwife. She gave me the following tips:
Practise, practise, practise
This is such a great tip, especially if you are not feeling confident in your ability to carry off a flawless feed in public. If you choose to cover up with a feeding scarf, practise with it at home. This way you’ll get the hang of it and not feel flustered in the midst of trying to calm a wailing baby. Practise in different positions and in different seats, like the ones you may find yourself on in public. Practise feeding without a nursing pillow, especially if this is what you use at home. And finally, practise in front of your hubby or a friend. It does take a certain amount of confidence to feed in front of an audience, and what better place to gain that than at home?
Dress for success
When you step out of home – the place where it’s safe to have cabbage leaves dangling out of your top and breastmilk stains adorning your clothes – you will want to do it in style, but still knowing that you have easy access to your breasts without displaying them unnecessarily. Wear feeding bras that are easy to operate. Consider layering your clothing if you are concerned about showing tummy flesh or too much breast. This way you can move clothing around to cover the necessary parts. Whatever you choose to wear, make sure you are comfortable and confident in it.
As with most things in life, breastfeeding in public is all about the planning. Know what you will need when you need to feed babe, and know where it is in your bag. The trick to pulling off a flawless feed is anticipating the what-ifs and how to counteract them. Do you need a burp cloth? Breast pads for afterwards? What do you need to support your arm while your baby feeds? Planning will ensure you’re prepared for the little things that could go awry.
Use a baby cover
If you are not confident at first or simply prefer to be covered up, use a baby cover. There are many fabulous options available, from scarves and wraps, to capes. These are especially great for newborns, but can be a little trickier when baby has discovered that there is a big wide world out there and curiosity gets the better of him – he may not enjoy being cut off from that big wide world during a feed. By this stage, confidence shouldn’t be an issue, so it will all be down to personal choice as to whether or not you wish to cover up.
Recognise your baby’s cues
It shouldn’t be too long before you are able to see the tell-tale signs of a hungry babe, which comes with getting to know your baby and his feeding patterns. Knowing these signs is essential as you will be able to meet babe’s needs before he becomes inconsolable.
Have someone with you
Until you are comfortable and confident, it is a good idea to have someone with you. Whether it’s your partner, a family member or a friend, they will be able to help and encourage you and assist you should you become flustered.
Smile and make eye contact
When you breastfeed in public, expect people to look, and when they do, the best way to diffuse discomfort is to smile and make eye contact. Though we believe that we live in a progressive world, there are some people that will still make comments and pass criticism. Don’t take offense; it is not worth causing a scene. You are not doing anything illegal. Just realise that some people are closed minded and are not tolerant of public breastfeeding, but this is absolutely no reason for you to stop feeding in public. Remember that it’s a human right to feed your child when he’s hungry.
For some, public breastfeeding is a cinch; for others it doesn’t come easily and that’s okay. Keep at it because you are doing the best for your child. When you feel nervous or self-conscious, take a deep breath and relax. And if that doesn’t help, look at your baby and remember that you are a good mommy doing the best for your baby.