Get More Comfortable Breastfeeding in Public

We’ve got them. Our mothers have them. The project manager you work with, the cashier at Trader Joe’s, and the attorney on the third floor have them. If they’re so normal, why are we so weird about using them ourselves?

Black and white photo shows breastfeeding baby simultaneously holds parents white t-shirt

Breasts. And not just breasts – lactating breasts.

ometimes when we’re visiting a client in her home during the first week after birth, she confides that she’s nervous about breastfeeding in public. Maybe the mom has already had to venture out to the pediatrician’s office and was faced with the task of feeding her newborn. Maybe she’s thinking of planning her first solo Target run with baby. What we’re finding is that new moms are worried about how to breastfeed in public.

Here are six ways to feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public.

Rock a nursing cover.

These days there is no shortage of gorgeous nursing covers. You can even have one custom made with your favorite fabric. (Sarah Gambarelli has a wool cape that doubles as a stylish nursing cover. It’s so lovely we’d wear it even if we weren’t nursing! Milkmaid Goods has soft, stretchy covers that are pretty, too.) Some people treat a cover as a way to maintain modesty and a veil of privacy from the public. Others use it to keep older babies from being distracted. Whatever your reason, if it makes you feel more comfortable, go for it.

Dress in layers.

Whatever top you would wear anyway, start with a basic tank or cami under it. Sweater? Tank first. Silk blouse? Cami underneath. This allows you to pull up as much shirt as you need to get a good visual for getting baby latched properly without airing more skin than you’re comfortable with. Expert tip: Try tucking the edge of your top shirt under your bra and cami straps so it stays up hands-free.

Practice makes perfect.

Worried about how you’re going to pull off comfortably breastfeeding in public without looking (or feeling) like a hot mess? Practice at home in your safe space. If you’re concerned about how much skin is exposed, ask your partner or friend how much they can see when you do it. If you’re worried about how to maneuver everything with only two hands, try keeping baby in the car seat next to you while you practice so you have a likely scenario to go by. Do this before or just before baby starts showing hunger signs – not when it’s half-past feeding time.

Pick a “safe” place for a test run.

How pleasant does a leisurely brunch at Busboys and Poets sound? Or a casual coffee date with friends at Northside? Choose a place you already feel comfortable and give public feeding a trial run there. If it doesn’t go as smoothly as you hoped, you can at least grab a consolation goodie to go. Win-win.

Feeding with the right support.

Meet with a friend who not only won’t judge you if you accidentally flash the café but who will also make you feel more at ease. You could take a friend who’s a veteran mom or offer to grab coffee with a new mom friend who’s as unsure about it as you are. Shoot, this is a perfect opportunity to get out of the house with the help of your postpartum doula! The point is, you’ll feel a lot better if you know at least one other person in the room is supportive of your efforts. Remember – the bottom line is you are feeding someone who’s hungry. Most people won’t treat you like you’re making some sort of statement or testing the waters of public comfort. Your friend can help you remember this.

Free-feed sans cover.

Yes, I know this sounds a little crazy for some. Breastfeeding in public with a cover might just be too much work or feel awkward. Perhaps it’s just too hot for one more layer. Maybe you find yourself in an unplanned situation where you have to feed your baby in public and weren’t planning on it. We say go for it! At the end of the day, just feed your baby. It’s safe to say most people would rather you tend to your baby’s needs than hear a screaming baby and/or see a parent struggling. For the record, Virginia state law says that a breastfeeding mother can feed her baby anywhere she is legally allowed to be – public or private – and can’t be labeled as being indecently exposed or asked to move or cover up. Interested? Learn more about breastfeeding laws in Virginia.