Breastfeeding in Public- You’ve Got This

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post is generously made possible by Bamboobies

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Not sure about baring your breast, at least partially, and feeding your baby in public?

Mama, you’ve got this.

If you’re uncomfortable with breastfeeding your baby while out and about you’re not alone. Many women experience some nervousness over feeding their baby away from home. It’s no wonder either, spend any time on social media and it would seem that women are regularly experiencing harassment for breastfeeding in public.

Thankfully, that isn’t really the case. Out of hundreds of thousands of breastfeeding moms every single day, only a a couple of dozen or so will end up on the news talking about harassment she experienced for feeding her baby. A few more may experience negative comments or looks from strangers or more likely, friends and family. But more often than not, breastfeeding in public is either appreciated and encouraged or not even noticed. Far more women have positive breastfeeding in public stories than harassment stories.

With that in mind, there are some steps a breastfeeding mom can take to help her feel more comfortable with breastfeeding in public. Drawing from 17 years of off and on, mostly on, breastfeeding experience and from helping others in their journey, there are a few ways I have found can make it all a little easier.

*A note about covering to breastfeed in public. Covering is a matter of personal preference. Do what works for you and what will help you reach your personal breastfeeding goals. Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to make the decision for yourself, not for others. If you choose to cover, do so because you feel more comfortable covered, not because you want other people to feel more comfortable.

 

You've got this cobranded image 2016 pt.2

Get comfortable. Breastfeeding may be natural but it is a skill to develop for both you and your baby. Getting comfortable with it may take a little time for both of you and being able to develop that skill in the comfort of your own home in those early days will go a long way for when you need to breastfeed on the go. Get comfortable with breastfeeding with your baby, when you feel like you know what you’re doing it will be a lot less intimidating. This doesn’t mean you can’t leave the house until then, just that the more time you spend breastfeeding where you feel safe the more you’ll feel confident in other settings. You’ve got this.

Practice. Does practice make perfect or is it practice makes permanent? Either way, practicing can be a game changer. Practice breastfeeding in public as soon as you can with baby steps. Breastfeed in front of people you feel safe with- your partner, your best friends, family, etc. Work your way up gradually to breastfeed around people you’re not sure are supportive. Two of the most effective ways to practice breastfeeding in public are 1) breastfeed in front of a mirror and 2) practice what you would say if someone was to harass you for feeding your baby. By breastfeeding in front of a mirror or by video recording yourself feeding, you may find you don’t expose as much as you feared. By have a prepared response to possible negative reactions to you feeding your baby, you may find you feel equipped. Plus, the more prepared you are to stand up for your baby’s right to be fed, the less likely you’ll ever need to. You’ve got this.

Get the tools you need. Have boob, feed baby! But you may feel more comfortable with some additional items. A nursing bra or tank, nursing pads (or breast pads) so if you leak your shirt stays dry, breastfeeding top or dress, easy access clothing, a portable breastfeeding pillow, a nursing cover, a water bottle, etc. Figure out what is going to help you feel more comfortable and secure to confidently feed in public. Having clothing that works for you to get a breast out is crucial (avoid back zip up high neck dresses!) whether you’re lifting from the bottom, doing the two layer method so your tummy and back are covered, pulling down from the top, using clothing designed specifically for breastfeeding, or choosing a breastfeeding cover. Having the tools that work for you can be a big confidence boost. You’ve got this.

See it. One of the reasons we may be uncomfortable feeding in public is because we’re not used to seeing it. It seems weird to us and we’re the ones having to do it! Seeing it can help a lot. Look at breastfeeding photos on social media (check out the hashtags #beautifulbfing, #brelfie, #normalizebreastfeeding, and yes, #breastfeeding), attend a parenting group that supports breastfeeding, spend time with friends who are breastfeeding. And if you’re really anxious about breastfeeding in public, go out with other women who breastfeed your first few times. There’s strength in numbers. You’ve got this.

Be informed. Most areas have laws protecting breastfeeding in public. While there aren’t really any teeth to those laws, breastfeeding in public isn’t illegal and is protected in most places. We shouldn’t have to but knowing the law, even having it printed out and with you, puts you in a position of being informed of your rights. Feel confident that the law is on your side. You’ve got this.

Focus. Now that you’ve done the prep work, when it’s time to feed your baby, just focus on feeding your baby. Don’t look for the negative, look at the positive right there in front of you. Shut out the world for just a moment and draw strength and courage in this shared time together. Focus on your baby and let any negative reactions pass you right by. You’ve got this.

Let it go. You are not responsible for the thoughts and feelings of others, particularly when it comes to you caring for your children. Sure, some may disapprove, some may be offended, some may take issue with breastfeeding in public, but it isn’t your job to protect them from what offends them and it certainly isn’t your job to sacrifice your child’s needs for someone else’s comfort. Let it go, you can’t make everyone happy but you can ensure that your little one is. You’ve got this.

You matter. Your baby matters. You deserve to live life fully, feeding your little one with confidence. It isn’t asking too much to feed your baby in peace out in the world as you live your life. You’ve got this.

Breastfeeding in public, you’ve totally got this.

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Check out the Bamboobies nursing shawl, it’s practical for breastfeeding and long after as a fashion accessory!

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View More: http://yourstreetphotography.pass.us/martinwebberfamily1

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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We’re In Public and My Breastfed Baby is Hungry, Now What?!

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Bebe au Lait.

 

Breastfeeding in public, at once a basic concept (feed the baby when the baby is hungry and no, moms can’t and shouldn’t just never leave the house) and somehow a complex and controversial issue. As mammals who happen to be higher thinking and social creatures, it’s also unavoidable. Often I am asked by moms how to breastfeed in public or how I became comfortable with doing so. At the time I wasn’t really aware of my journey, I just had to feed my baby. Initially I went some place private and covered (just in case someone came in) but as time went on that not only became impractical for my life realities, the isolation I experienced with a frequently feeding baby made me decide I didn’t care what other people thought. With my second baby I ditched my cover as well and just went about my business of feeding her after a male nurse that played in the worship band I was leading told me that I should just feed my baby and stop fighting with her to keep the cover on because “it’s just boobs, we’ll all live. Just feed her.” It was a progression and with each of my children I became more comfortable and more skilled with feeding in general, feeding in public in particular. What do you do when your breastfed baby gets hungry and you’re out in public? Is there anything that can make this easier for anxious breastfeeding moms? If I had to break it down into the most important tips though, it would be something like this:

Don’t rush yourself. If you’re worried or anxious it may be best to wait until you’re really ready.  Your baby picks up on your stress and you both deserve a relaxed feeding time. 

Get familiar with what breastfeeding actually looks like. Look at images of other moms Breastfeeding.  If you’ve never seen anyone else breastfeed it can be intimidating to feel like a pioneer in your area. But you’re not alone, millions of women all around the world breastfeed in public. Check out the hashtag #BeautifulBfing on Instagram for a stream of breastfeeding photos.

A Leaky breastfeeding in public at a beach.

A Leaky breastfeeding in public at a beach.

There is no should. Whatever makes you and your baby comfortable and helps you accomplish your breastfeeding goals and not being stuck at home is what you should do.  Covered with a pretty Bébé au Lait or a lightweight baby blanket, without a cover at all, finding a private spot, using a bottles of expressed milk, or mixing up a bottle of formula; this isn’t a pass/fail in mothering, it’s just another progression in the parenting journey. Do what works for you and your baby and helps you reach the goals you’ve established for yourself.

Breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover. When you're a model family at an adorable cafe. Thanks to Bebe au Lait for this image.

Breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover. When you’re a model family at an adorable cafe. Thanks to Bebe au Lait for this image.


Dress for success. If you find yourself needing to practically strip to feed your baby, your breastfeeding in public experience could be greatly inhibited not to mention stressful. A form fitting dress with a high neckline, non stretchy fabric, and a zipper up the back isn’t going to work out so well when your baby is hungry. Dress how you are comfortable but make sure you can get a boob out when necessary. Breastfeeding tops or dresses specially designed to make it simple are super easy (see Amamante, A Mother’s Boutique) or try layering a tank- either a regular one with a stretchy neckline or some kind of nursing tank (I’m a fan of Undercover Mama, the Naked Nursing Tank, Rumina, The Dairy Fairy nursing tank, and Melinda G‘s nursing tank) so you can pull your top up and the bottom layer down (demo video here), and necklines that stretch enough to pull a breast out are all good options. If you’re not sure then check and try it at home before you head out the door. 

Practice makes easier.  Like everything else about parenting, there is no “perfect” in breastfeeding so practice won’t make anything perfect but it will make it easier. If you’re uneasy about breastfeeding in public but really want to, practice with a cover in front if a mirror, then without a cover in front of a mirror. See what it really looks like and how much of your body actually shows. Then branch out and take a few selfies of you breastfeeding from several different angles and don’t worry about posting them on social media unless you want to. After that, try breastfeeding while attending your local breastfeeding support group or other gathering where there will be other breastfeeding pairs. From there expand to Breastfeeding in front of trusted friends within your own home, their home, and finally in the general public.

Be informed. Know your legal rights. Find out for sure what the law is where you will be and have it written down and with you. It’s highly unlikely you will be approached but it can help you relax to know your rights and be prepared with that information. And as silly as it may seem, understand the difference between feeding a baby in public vs. taking a dump in public, urinating in public, or sex acts in public.

Be confident. Feeding your child and meeting their needs is not wrong. Even if you have to pretend to overcome nervousness, having a confident air can go a long way in developing your own confidence and could just make anyone that would think twice before messing with you. Don’t be looking for trouble, be all eyes for your baby or cheerfully smile at people you see notice you. If you seem comfortable and relaxed then it’s likely the people around you will be as well.

Get comfortable. Remember that to take care of someone else you have to be taken care of too. If you need support for your arms or your breast while breastfeeding at home, you’ll be more comfortable in public with that too. A diaper bag can double as a pillow, so can a baby blanket or baby carrier and there are some neat portable nursing pillows on the market. Have a bottle of water and a little snack for you and if possible, find a spot with some back support. If you use a nipple shield or must hold your breast as you feed your baby, the more you focus on getting you and your baby comfortable, the quicker you will be through any awkward stage of the latch so try not to worry about what others may see.

If you're comfortable like this at home, you may want to take the pillow with you for out in public.

If you’re comfortable like this at home, you may want to take the pillow with you for out in public.

Focus on what is important. Look at your baby, see how much they need and enjoy being fed. Taking a moment to remember why you’re doing this can help take the pressure of on how to do it and everyone else will think and puts it on why. Your baby is the best reason there is. 

Just do it. While you don’t need to rush and force yourself, at some point you just need to jump in and do it. You may be surprised at the confidence boost you have when you realize it’s no big deal. 

Share the experience. You’re not alone and most people want to see you reach your goals, even goals for breastfeeding and being comfortable feeding your baby while out and about. Talk about it, in person and online, maybe even with photos. You’ll end up getting cheered on, hearing support, and probably encouraging someone else who has been anxious about leaving the house with their baby too. Yes, there may be nay-sayers but they aren’t as common or as loud as it seems, specially not when you can remember all you’ve gone through to get this far for your baby.

Happy breastfeeding wherever you feed your baby!

This and other breastfeeding support and information can be found at theleakyboob.com

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