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Nursing in Public
~ A Message Board Archive

From AmyD: I know that this subject comes up quite a bit around here but I thought that I would start a thread where we can share our practical tips regarding nursing discreetly in public. I will share a couple of my most useful and hopefully you all will chime in!!

  1. Nursing clothing is fantastic! I have always found it so convenient and discreet.

  2. I used to have to sit down and nurse my son every time we were out until I learned how to nurse him in our sling. It was a lifesaver! I can remember the discovery a day that I went shopping with my mother. We were at Mervyn's and I actually got to shop for the first time since Ian was born because he was latched on while in the sling. The best thing was that no one knew.

  3. Learning to latch your baby on without having to look takes some time but is well worth it. People tend to follow where others are looking so if you have to look while you latch it tends to attract looks toward your breasts. When I am with friends, especially male ones, and I need to nurse I try to keep eye contact with the person that I am talking to while I latch the baby on. Most of the time they never know what is happening because they are otherwise engaged.
Please feel free to share what works for you!

From Elaine: I'm a firm believer that EVERY baby has a right to eat whenever and wherever s/he is hungry. Therefore I had little difficulty nursing in public (Skye is 3 now and only nurses before bed, so we don't NIP anymore), but I also feel that we should be respectful of other people. Since I don't "get naked" to nurse my baby, I don't feel like I'm doing anything offensive. Therefore, I simply tried to be discrete and then proceed to feed my baby with little or no hesitation. Here are a few hints for new moms who might be a bit unsure about nursing in public . . .

First, if you are in a wide open public space, such as a mall or public park and you want to acquire a sense of privacy while nursing, simply focus on your baby. Look into her eyes, whisper or sing softly to her and soon you'll find that the outside world seems a million miles away. People will probably not even notice you much less the fact that you are nursing, and even if they do, you'll probably not notice them.

On the other hand, if you are nursing in a public place such as a restaurant, doctor's office, or any other place that requires you to interact with other people, you'll probably want to do the exact opposite. For example, look the waiter/waitress in the eye, speak directly to them. This gives them a place to look (your face) and let's them know that it's OK to look at you, that they don't have to avert there eyes or pretend you aren't there.

I think that the best thing we, as nursing mothers, can do to promote breastfeeding is to become comfortable, confident, and discrete and then nurse our babies in public with no hesitation. I don't think that it is so much that people are offended by women who nurse in public, but rather that for the most part they are shocked to see it simply because in our modern society, it is seen so rarely.

Also, to avoid awkward situations with friends, I generally either made it VERY obvious that I was about to feed Skye so that they could avert their eyes, or go to another room or something, or just say straight out "I need to feed Skye. It doesn't bother me if you stay, but if you want to go in the other room I'll certainly understand." Then if it's a friend of my hubby's who doesn't want to hang around, they can go to the kitchen or the patio or wherever. Of course, hubby goes with them to keep them company. This may seem rude to some people, but I honestly don't feel like it is. After all, I'm feeding my child, in my home and I'm trying to make the situation as easy as possible for them. (No one smokes in our house, so often when I fed Skye, our smoking company used the opportunity to go outside for a puff.)

If I was at someone else's home and I didn't know how they'd react, I'd usually say something about needing to feed Skye ask if they'd like for me to go to another room *JUST* out of consideration for them *NOT* because I felt I should have to, or in family gatherings (like Thanksgiving) I just asked the hostess, "Where would be a good place to nurse Skye?".

Anyway, this is just my long winded way of saying, there is NOTHING wrong with being private about nursing. At the same time, it's nothing shameful nor offensive. Each of us has our own "comfort zone" when it comes to nursing in public.

From missmeg: I try to find someplace private and quiet to nurse Christian. Not because I'm embarrassed or anything, but more because Christian gets distracted if there is a lot of commotion going on around him. I've tried to nurse him in the mall, but he won't stay latched. However, if I take him into the ladies' room at Sears (it has a comfy chair for this purpose) he will concentrate on nursing. It was sooo frustrating that day in the mall. He was screaming bloody murder the whole time, and I finally had a chance to sit on an empty bench in the food court. I got him out, set us both up, and latched him on. He tugged for about 5 seconds and got this huge grin on his face, still with his lips around my breast. Then he looked directly at me, unlatched himself and giggled. He *wouldn't* re-latch, but kept on grinning and giggling. I looked at him lovingly and said, "quit playing with your food!" Now we go to Sears.

From MusicMomma: I don't breastfeed in public very often, but whenever I do, I try to find a comfortable place to sit down (still trying to figure out walking and nursing at the same time). Then I just use a blanket to cover up. Nursing clothing are wonderful! Makes things so much easier. I've even nursed at church and had no problems with it. When I had to stay with my mom for three weeks, if I had to feed JJ, I would ask Mom if I should go to another room or what. She had no problems with me just staying in the living room. After all, I came out of her body and she bathed me, plus I didn't "whip it out" and show the whole world. My stepdad, on the other hand, did have a problem with the possibility of seeing something (which I understand, he's only known me for about 8 years now) so he would go into the kitchen whenever I fed JJ. I told him that I could go back into the bedroom, but he had no problem going into the kitchen since Mom would go with him and talk to him or he would just watch the little TV in there.

In restaurants, I would ask the waitress to seat us in a booth or at least in a table in a corner to give us some privacy (most places they won't mind doing this, they'd much rather deal with this than try to deal with other customers who might get offended). And I would always have a blanket to cover up with.

The point of all this is if I were in public, I would try to be as discreet as possible but wouldn't go out of my way a lot if JJ were really hungry. If at family's house, I would ask what they were most comfortable with. And if I were at home, then my guests would just have to deal with it, even though I would still cover up (if it were just me and DH, I wouldn't even bother covering up).

From mom2mattnat??: I found practicing in front of a mirror with my first baby useful in realizing just how little I was actually exposing. All the exposure was only if someone was looking over my shoulder. And getting dh's honest advice on where I might be peeking out of the side he was nursing on was quite helpful. By the time Natalie came around, I could have cared less!

From mama2ema: I'm not one to hide that I'm breastfeeding. I think it's great to show everyone (not meaning to flash people ). I think it's a wonderful inspiration for new moms and pregnant moms to see another mother breastfeeding her baby. I breastfeed every time Ema is hungry, no matter where we are. I usually prop a diaper up in front of the scoobie on Ema when I latch her on and then I remove it. This way I don't show any skin!

From mom2jazzygirl: I've never been a very modest person and less so when it comes to breastfeeding. My motto is, if you can feed your baby then I can feed mine. I love my nursing clothing for the ease that I can feed my child and to avoid that underarm bulk. In winter, I won't use anything else cause I don't like my stomach uncovered. I usually wear an article of clothing around the house before I wear it out so that I don't have to fumble in public. I do try not to expose myself, but when I have a newborn who is learning to nurse, I don't remain homebound for fear of showing some flesh either. The only time I ever even thought twice about NIP was at my grandmother's house. Otherwise, I really don't care if I am at my house or yours. I have never had any problems, though I did a great job of containing visitors after Caleb was born (you would think they knew me by then to not be so shocked when I fed him without warning)!

From Ann88: I've gotten pretty good at getting her latched on in public and some people have been surprised when they realize she is nursing. My biggest problem is putting the breastpad back in and fastening my bra. Also she now is very nosy and sometimes leaves me exposed. She no longer likes to be covered with a blanket either.

From SusanH: One thing I discovered was that it was much easier for me to wear a normal bra and just push one side up instead of wearing a nursing bra and trying to get that tiny hook back on when DD was through. So I retired my nursing bras and I must say it's nice to have a pretty bra again! Then when she's done all I have to do is slide the cup back down. If I hold her in front of me it's pretty discreet and fast. When DD is being easily distracted, I try to keep one hand near her head so that if she pulls off I can shield myself and pull my shirt down quickly. Fortunately she's mostly out of that phase now, so if she is looking around it usually means she's not really hungry and wants to go play.

From BeccaD: I have started using the fitting rooms in department stores. They usually have nice big chairs. The main reason I don't out in public much is that I teach, mostly all teenage boys, and I am forever running into them. This happened the first time I fed at a restaurant, and the poor kid was so embarrassed! I also make sure I have a crochet blanket with me in case a fitting room isn't handy. I can see through the holes to make eye contact with her, but no one else can see "the action" going on underneath. It's funny, at first DH was VERY uncomfortable with this, but now he tells EVERYONE what I am doing. Just yesterday I was using the fitting room at a department store, and I could him him outside telling the saleslady about how great breastfeeding is . . . so much for discretion!

From Diamondwife: I am not too big on nursing in public . . . not that it bothers me when others do it but I have a hard time doing it myself. The two places I really don't like to see/hear breastfeeding is when I am sitting in church and in a restaurant. I don't know why the restaurant would bother me since I am sitting there eating myself but I hate looking over and seeing a mom breastfeeding her baby (especially if she is immodest about it and letting her chest hang out so everyone can see.) At church I just don't like to hear the noise of the sucking right behind me. I know I probably sound silly! I had promised myself I would get over my inhibition of breastfeeding in public with this baby but so far we have had such a rough go with breastfeeding that I haven't done too much of it unless we are at friends/relatives houses. I make a HORRID painful face when she latches on the one side that I can't stand the thought of doing it in public. I have found that most restrooms now (at least in this area) are catering more to nursing moms by putting a chair in there. I have also found that if I can't find a place at the mall to go to the Motherhood or other maternity stores such as that because they are very open to letting you use their dressing rooms. Motherhood even has a sign up that mentions this. I DO hope that this stupid sore spot will heal so that Mikayla and I can nurse more in public but as for now we usually resort to bottles of either formula or pumped milk when we are out and about.

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