A common concern among novice breastfeeding mothers is what to do when your nursing infant needs to be fed and you are away from the safety and comfort of your home, your favorite nursing chair and your breastfeeding pillow. The baby begins to whimper and show signs of hunger. Your palms grow sweaty. The baby starts to wail. Suddenly everyone is looking at you. What to do?

This is a dilemma faced by breastfeeding mothers every day. Sadly, some women decide not to breastfeed because they are so concerned about the possibility of exposing themselves in public. I can now laugh when I remember my first attempt at feeding my new baby. I parked my car in what I thought was a safe, quiet neighborhood, climbed into the back seat and “latched on”. Just as I was feeling pretty darn good about my abilities, I was greeted with cat whistles, cheers and applause. I had chosen to park my car across the street from a high rise building under construction. Apparently, I was the entertainment for the morning coffee break. Oh well.

What expectant women need to know is that, unlike me, mothers are breastfeeding their babies in public frequently and the surrounding population are none the wiser. It does require some experience and knowledge before a mom can calmly and easily nurse her baby without anyone being aware that the baby is actually feeding.

Here are some simple tips to help you get started.

1)To provide you with some sense of modesty, invest in a few articles of “nursing clothing”. At The Pump Station & Nurtury one of our favorite products is the
Bebe au Lait nursing apron.

2) Locate a breastfeeding mothers’ support group in your community. Many new mothers find great comfort in breastfeeding for the first time while among other nursing mothers and new babies in a closed room. Novice mothers can observe experienced mothers nursing without pillows in positions which allow for privacy and modesty.

3) Once you network with other nursing mothers, you can arrange to go out for coffee with a group of experienced moms. Beginners find great comfort in being surrounded by women who breastfeed in any situation. Safety in numbers applies here. If the thought of all the other customers in Starbucks leaving in disgust worries you, stop! Think of yourself as a role model changing the culture for future mothers. And besides, you won’t need to wait in line for your coffee.

4) Next, park your car in an area where you feel safe. You are breastfeeding in public, but the car will provide a sense of privacy, unless of course you have chosen to park under a high rise building during construction.

5) When ready, go to a park during a time when few people are around. This will enable you to feed in public, yet no one is really around to make you feel uncomfortable.

6) Scout out department stores and restaurants that are baby friendly. These facilities will have family lounges, couches, etc. where you will be comfortable and undoubtedly encounter other nursing mothers. Nordstrom is a wonderful example of this.

7) Find a restaurant where you can sit in the back, out of the way of most of the diners. A booth also gives a sense of privacy. Practice here.

The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become. Eventually the sweaty palms resolve and nursing your baby in any environment becomes second nature. Corky Harvey (RN, IBCLC, MS and Co-Founder of The Pump Station) and I were recently interviewed about breastfeeding in public. If you would like in depth information regarding helpful tips, public breastfeeding and the law, and clever gear visit our site on our Resources page or Videojug.com. Search for Corky Harvey and Wendy Haldeman to pull up thirty years of experience in guiding new mothers to breastfeed out of the home.

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Comment by Lynne Kenney on June 25, 2009 at 5:25am
Gosh I wish I had known you when I had babies. I was one of the few moms who fed in public, of course with a blanket (ten yrs ago there were no nursing blankets), by baby two I was calm as a cat but with baby one I wanted some re-assurance. GREAT article, Tweeting it now.
Comment by doula6angelita on June 24, 2009 at 6:47pm
Kudos for the article! I am sharing it with a new mum tomorrow, who is timid about bf in publc. Thanks for this timely reference!
Comment by Diane Sam on June 23, 2009 at 11:00pm
They recently did a whole blogging carnival on this topic at the motherwear blog! Here's a posting comparing a nursing cover to a breastfeeding hat by Wendy Bell at PumpEase.
Comment by Itty Bitty Baby Bunz on June 22, 2009 at 6:05am
Ahh, those first days of NIP - thank you for some great ideas! I think I've used about all of them myself in my own BFing days. After nursing 4 children 15+ months each, you get to laugh about so many "high rise at coffee break" experiences.

Another thought I had was to practice at home w/ your cover , nursing bra, etc - the things you will use in public - but try to practice in front of a mirror so you can get a feel for what others will see when you nurse in public. You'll be surprised at how "normal" you look! Like Mary Ann said, very few people actually know what you're doing and the reason they want to hover and look at the baby is b/c they DON'T have a clue you are nursing that sweet little bundle. lol
Comment by summers_mum on June 19, 2009 at 7:10am
I have a Chocolate Bebe au Lait cover...and OMG I tell ya, I wouldn't go anywhere without it! I have many nursing clothes but for me, I'm still not comfortable enough with that alone...with the cover I can pop my boob out...adjust bubs and get her properly latched on...without rushing into anything cos nobody can see what I was doing...although most ppl ofcourse knewI was feeding...nobody cares the least bit cos I'm completely covered up. I took my cover with me over to Hong Kong and Tokyo not know what the "norm" is over in those cities (I'm based in Sydney) I was really worried I'd get weird looks and tsk tsk's from the japanese since they're all about rules and stuff. But seriously...it was just great! the only thing is...just remember to find a good spot in public against a wall or something so people are not constantly hovering over you...and peaking downwards etc. I can't express enough how much I love my cover! It's the best thing! okay...it's not like they're paying me haha...so I should stop now ;)
Comment by Mary Anne on June 18, 2009 at 6:54pm
I'd like to add that the only people who really knew when I was breastfeeding were my husband and kids.
Comment by Mary Anne on June 18, 2009 at 5:51pm
Nursing clothing is a MUST for public breastfeeding, but if you can't afford nursing tops, I have a tip that will work just as well! Cut some slits into a camisole and wear that under your regular tops as long as you can lift them up from the bottom. To alter the camisoles, position the slits to be a few inches from the nipple towards your arm pits, and have each slit about 3 inches long. The cami's keep your belly covered, and only expose the nipple and small portion of the breast when feeding. Your baby's head will cover the exposed breast. With nursing clothes and the altered camisoles with regular tops, I was able to discreetly nurse everywhere.

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