Six Tips for Nursing in Public

Most nursing moms just want to feed their baby and get on with their day – they’re not usually out to make an in-your-face political statement. But when you’re feeding your baby in a comfortable location outside your home, you’re doing something important each time – reminding people that breastfeeding is a normal and biologically designed way to feed an infant. By nursing in public at the park, at church, or in the coffee shop, you’re doing the important work of reestablishing breastfeeding as the cultural norm.

Nursing in public isn’t easy, especially during the earliest weeks. Here are some tips for breastfeeding your baby when you’re out and about.

Practice early and often
Don’t fall into the belief that you need to be at home with the magic nursing pillows to make breastfeeding work. Even in the first weeks, with practice, you’ll soon find it easier to feed your baby in a variety of settings. Each small success develops more confidence into your ability to be flexible and nurse on the go.

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Be with other new moms
Go where the moms go in your area. Baby supply stores and department stores often have a “ladies lounge” or “mother’s room” with comfortable chairs and a changing table. Join a new mothers group or attend a breastfeeding support group near you. These make ideal early outings that allow you to practice feeding and caring for your baby in the supportive company of other mothers and babies.

You’re in charge of where you nurse.
Always choose a place where YOU will feel comfortable nursing. In a restaurant, if you’d prefer a booth or a table or the corner, ask to be seated there. Want to use a fitting room to nurse? Just grab something off a rack and bring it in with you to “try on” – no need to ask for special permission. Do not nurse in a bathroom stall! If you prefer privacy, your car or a fitting room is a cleaner alternative.

Plan your outing with a “Rest & Refuel” stop
Get out every day, but don’t attempt to rush through your errands to be back home within a two-hour window before the next feeding. Instead, anticipate a time and place to sit and rest, have a snack yourself, and nurse your baby before moving on. For example, return a baby gift and walk around the mall, stop at the coffee shop for a snack, nurse, take a bathroom break and diaper change, then continue on to the market, then go home.

Used to a nursing pillow?
Find a bench in a quiet area and park your stroller in front of you, then put the stroller brakes on. Use the stroller frame now as a makeshift footstool to tilt your lap into a better position. Fold up your coat or sweater and rest it across your lap as a nursing pillow. If you still need more “lift,” try placing your diaper bag on your lap (or under your thigh), and place a blanket over that. A rolled up receiving blanket may help to support your baby’s head or your own wrist for a more comfortable feeding position.

What about discreet nursing or cover-ups?
Breastfeeding is normal and doesn’t need to be hidden away, but each woman has her own sense of comfort or modesty. When a mom and baby are nursing, there’s usually nothing much to see, and little skin is left exposed. A nursing tank makes it easy to turn any top into a nursing shirt. Pull up your shirt from the bottom: the nursing tank keeps your side and tummy covered and warm. Once you’ve got your baby settled and latched on comfortably, adjust your clothing, pick your head up, and smile. If there are times or places where you prefer more privacy, a cover up for nursing allows you and your baby to see each other and permits circulating air. The best use of a nursing cover is to make YOU feel more comfortable nursing in a place you otherwise might not.

Looking to meet up with other breastfeeding moms in your area? Baby+Company offers New Mom’s Groups, Breastfeeding Support, and many of our centers host La Leche League meetings. Contact Us for more information or locate your local La Leche League chapter.

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