When a mom is new to breastfeeding, the idea of nursing in public can be somewhat daunting. She may have already been exposed to a less-than-supportive attitude from friends or family regarding breastfeeding. Let’s face it, at least in American society, you will find more uninformed opinions on breastfeeding than you will find opinions that it is the normal and natural way to feed your child. That offers little comfort when confronted with new territory… Nursing In Public (NIP).
The mothers from the Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding Support boards on AOL have contributed some things that they found helpful when they were new to NIP. We hope that it will provide you with tips for making the transition to NIP an easier one for you.
Most of all, remember, that nursing your baby is completely normal and natural to do, regardless of where you are when your baby is hungry. It’s how our bodies were designed to nurture our precious children. It’s just that some folks haven’t figured that out yet. Set a good example for another new mom that may be watching you and just nurse your baby.
1. Use your free hand to undo your bra through your neck hole.
2. Get completely physically comfortable before latching on. There’s nothing worse than having to hold a bad pose because the baby isn’t finished.
3. I like crossing my legs to lift the baby up a bit.
4. Chairs with arms are nice when you have to support the baby’s weight for a longish nursing session.
5. Learn to NIP without special nursing clothes. That way you’ll never have to worry about what you’re wearing when you leave the house. I recommend a loose top worn on the outside of your pants.
In large open areas, like restaurants, food courts in malls, etc:
Choose where to sit carefully. If you try to go away from other people, you will be sitting alone in a sea of empty tables, drawing attention to yourself. If you sit more with a crowd, the activity going on around you will distract any onlookers from what you’re really doing.
By placing a diaper bag or large purse on the table, you can block the view of your chest without a blanket. Think about lines of sight. If someone seems inappropriately curious, place the bag between him and you.
Keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re talking to friends, eating lunch, or what-have-you, you will look normal and inconspicuous.
I remember the first days of nursing in public, what a production. I used to bring this huge receiving blanket that I had made myself and covered everything conceivable showing so that no one would see anything ever. Then I started using my Nojo sling and found that gave quite a bit of coverage, without using anything else. That was nice. I still would worry about pieces of my body showing though and once had the baby unlatch while I was in motion and exposed myself. Thankfully no one noticed or at least didn’t say anything. I got a Maya and it works great. I love the tail for hiding. But lately the thing that works the BEST is just doing it wherever, whenever, wearing oversized shirts and using my arm to shield the spot where I lift it. And then acting as if it is completely normal ,because it is. My life has gotten one hundred percent easier since I started doing this. I am so glad that I let down some of my own perceptions about nursing in public so that I could do so freely.
If possible I would go into a changing room to nurse my babies. While at Sam’s club my under-weight preemie needed to eat and he couldn’t wait. I was so frustrated that there was nowhere private to go and I had a full cart. I pulled up a chair in their very public cafe and proceeded to breastfeed in front of all the hordes of Christmas shoppers. My son had latching problems so discreet breastfeeding was not an option. I didn’t care if the whole world saw me but I was annoyed when people kept coming and looking when they should have realized I needed some privacy.
1. Try to NIP in the public library as a great practice spot. They generally have comfortable chairs, it is quiet (for the most part), and there is plenty of reading material. I did this and could always find just the right “nook” where I didn’t feel there were too many people staring at me. I did take extra throw or nursing pillows at first and tried to go at least once a week in the early months. Great way to get out of the house.
2. If you sit at a booth in a restaurant make sure it is roomy enough to accommodate the baby in front of you without him being smashed up against the table. That being said, booths are more private than tables.
3. If the weather is nice, go to a park. I used to stroll him and sling him on the walking paths and then sit down on a park bench. This gave me exercise and I began to sit closer and closer to other people as my confidence grew.
4. Invest in a cassette tape that does progressive relaxation (I had one for childbirth.) Listen to it at night before bed. Use the techniques you learn from the tape to relax when you are all nervous, the baby is crying, and you think everyone is looking.
5. Don’t let family members tell you that you can’t nurse somewhere. My mother said I couldn’t nurse in church so I told myself, “watch me”, and practically begged the baby to fuss.
6. It is all in your attitude and determination to do what is best for your child. This is one of your first chances to be your child’s biggest advocate. He will get the best nutrition available and you will not be a wimp!
When I was breastfeeding my first child I was very uncomfortable NIP. I didn’t have much support around me at the time and I wasn’t confident with what I was doing. I found if I wore a T-shirt with a large button-down shirt over top, I could NIP rather discreetly and comfortably. The button-down provides some coverage without using an extra blanket or anything else. The best thing to do to increase your confidence is find some other breastfeeding mothers in your area. I grew in my own confidence as I watched others NIP.
- Nicole from PA
Bella wasn’t too good at it at first which of course made me nervous. So, I decided that because she liked to sleep with a blankie by her face, but didn’t like one draped over her head (who can blame her, I certainly wouldn’t want to eat with a blankie over my face), I found one of those tiny satin blankies that they sell at One Step Ahead. I would give her her blankie to snuggle and then nurse her. After a few times when we were out she’d know it was time to nurse and latch right on without making me sweat!! Plus, the little blankie covers any skin that might be showing otherwise.
- Christine Cosmo
At the beginning I felt more confident wearing nursing shirts because it made it more discrete. Now I don’t care
I use nursing shirts because I feel more comfortable with not having to expose my still-rather-flabby stomach.
In the beginning, try to find a dressing room in department stores. The mirrors are usually large and make it easy to see how much you are really showing.
I sometimes use a lightweight blanket/shawl type thing just for latching since my son likes to “play” for a bit before getting down to business.
There are usually at least a few benches that are kind of in secluded areas in most malls, not to hide, but usually quieter and less traffic.
Have confidence! If you’re confident and comfortable with it, then people don’t even notice what you’re doing. If you’re acting uncomfortable, then you’re bringing even more attention to yourself.
- Sarah J.
I went to the Homecoming football game from the college that my husband and I graduated from a year ago. It was so great; my son was being very good for all the people passing him around and he was having fun listening to the music and watching the game (or looking at the lights). Then he got hungry. I NEVER NIP (out of pure fear of someone confronting me) but Aidan never will take a bottle. I have tried every type of bottle and sippy cup; he wants his milk from the source or he will choose to starve. Anyway, so out of necessity I nursed him in the stands of a sold-out football game with my husband on one side and father-in-law on the other.
I thought all was great, until a few minutes into the feeding. Three 40ish aged men turned around and kept staring at me. They were acting like I had whipped my boob out and was showing it to the crowd, then the one guy said so that I could hear it, “That poor kid is going to be confused when he grows up. I would die if my mother had done that to me.”
My heart sank and out of reaction I ended the feeding immediately. I sat for a few minutes with a confused son on my lap. He had no clue what was going on. Then I realized what an idiot I was being by stopping the feeding. I started getting mad and I realized how ridiculous that it is that I keep running to the car or to a dressing room when my son gets hungry in public. Jerks like these guys are in the wrong, not me! So I started over, and this time. I was LOUD about it. “Ooohhhh honey, are you hungry! I bet that tastes good Aidan.”
The guys were, like… so grossed out, and for the rest of the game we were having to deal with them looking back to see if I was nursing, and I nursed two more times during the game. It was a truly liberating experience — no more hiding for me. If I can nurse at a football game with 13,000 people there, I can do it anywhere!
My daughter is a windmill when she begins nursing, always pumping her legs and flailing her arms as she greedily suckles. It takes her a minute to calm down from the excitement. I tried to cover her with a blanket, and suddenly her flailing arms were now flailing with a big flag! Talk about unsubtle!
So I asked my husband to sort of block the view with his body while I latched our daughter. He was so reassuring, “Jo, you can’t really see anything from this angle.” After that, I was able to NIP with or without him present to block the view.
As my father-in-law said while I nursed at the airport, “If anyone looks, all they are going to see is a mama loving her baby the way nature intended!”
One of the best places to learn to NIP is the movie theatre! Take your sling (or not) and once the lights go down, latch baby on. There is usually enough light to see to latch. Baby can nurse comfortably and you can watch a film. This is good for learning the latch, and how much shows, because no one is watching you at all! There’s no reason to feel self-conscious. I bring the sling so when baby is done, he can sleep and I don’t have to hold up his weight. The sling also muffles the sound. Theatres can be loud these days. (But if you go in the middle of the day, they will often turn down the volume.)
- “Lactalina “