Breastfeeding for me has been a smooth and enjoyable journey for the most part with both of my boys. It was something I knew I wanted to try and once I did, I knew it was for me. That bond, that closeness, the fact that I could fix all of their upsets and that means whilst out in public as well as at home. I have never had any issues with breastfeeding in public and that isn’t because I am the most confident of people because I’m certainly not. It is because I think that every Mum has every right to feed her baby however and whenever she feels fit and I cannot see why this should affect anybody else. I could rant about this for hours because it is something I am passionate about. Breastfeeding is about your baby’s needs and nobody else’s, not even your own, let alone that stranger sat in a cafe who would rather be ‘offended’ or ‘put off their food’ than look away. Urgh! Anyway, thankfully I have never, ever had this happen to me and these examples are simply what I have heard in the media and are consequently what is putting you off from breastfeeding in public with confidence. In truth, I believe these ‘incidents’ are very rare and those views are certainly not held by the majority of our society but one story in the news can have a huge impact and that then has a knock-on effect on new Mum’s anxiety, their mental health, their confidence and of course on our breastfeeding rates.
The media has a lot to answer for in situations like this. After all, they are never going to be reporting on all of those positive stories, on those who are offering us breastfeeding Mums a free glass of water, a seat, table service, help with cutting up food etc. Oh no, those go almost unnoticed… unless you’re a blogger like me:
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•A Positive breastfeeding Story• We went out for the day yesterday to our local country park and as soon as this guy woke he needed his milk. He will not stop crying until he’s latched on. No dummy works… I’ve tried! I was at the far end of the park and knew I had to quick match it to the cafe. However, as I got there they were shutting. I cheekily snuck in and grabbed a seat because it had started to rain and I didn’t want to feed sat on a bench outside. The young girl working there caught my eye and I mouthed I’m so sorry to her and as she came over she saw what I was doing so she immediately said don’t worry and smiled. I carried on until all the other customers left and then stood up with him still feeding to go. But as I did, the girl came over again and said don’t worry, you can stay here until he’s done, we will be clearing up for half an hour anyway. I was so grateful to her. Neither girl was very old and this was probably just a holiday job for them (being half term) but they were so understanding. All you ever hear are the negative stories. The ones where Mothers have been made to feel as though they should hide away in the toilet or told what they are doing is wrong or asked to leave a public place just for doing the most natural thing for their baby. I didn’t have any negativity shown towards me when I fed Jake and I did it for 9 months. I hope I have more stories to tell like this and don’t have to experience any ignorance as some poor women do. So I want to say a huge thanks to those girls in the cafe at Wellington Country Park because their attitudes towards public breastfeeding needs to be made the norm in this country.
This was quite a while back but I can honestly report to you that a year and a half on I have still not received any negative comments so that is now 20 months with William and I also managed 9 months breastfeeding with Jake and every public feeding has been positive for me.
So, what tips can I pass on to help you with breastfeeding in public?
Dress for Access!
When you are nervous about feeding in public, you need to make yourself as comfortable as you can be but at the same time, have good access for your baby. So first off, pick an outfit that you are happy wearing, you don’t want to feel as though you don’t feel like you on top of feeling anxious so try a few outfits on, think about how you can make this work for breastfeeding, what will give you easy access to your ‘magical’ nipples and what will cover as much skin as you feel comfortable with.
There are so many amazing breastfeeding clothes available to purchase which will either unbutton, unzip or have flaps that fold over, however, I know from personal experience that these aren’t always very affordable so if you can purchase tops secondhand, look on eBay or join groups like ‘can I breastfeed in it?’ you should be able to pick up exactly what you need for much less.
My other tip is to layer your clothes. After giving birth, the last thing you want to be doing is lifting a top to breastfeed, exposing most of your stomach as well as your boob. I had both of my babies in the Winter which meant that layering clothing was easily done. A jumper with a vest top underneath would allow me to lift the jumper and pull the vest top down. I have also done this with 2 vest tops, t-shirts, dresses and so on. A vest top is such an easy item of clothing to add underneath most of your clothing. However, when it comes to the summer months, things can really change.
For starters, you will be warmer from the weather and also from having a hot, sticky little person on you. Secondly, you will want to wear lovely summery items of clothing and you will want to feel nice. My biggest tip would be to look for items that you can unbutton for easy access. If you feel more confident, you could opt for clothing you can pull down and then place a muslin over your shoulder to cover a bit of skin. The most important part is that you don’t struggle for access and that you don’t feel awkward whilst feeding.
Ensure that you have comfortable and accessible bras. I’ve had a range over the years and some have been fiddly to do up afterwards, some have bobbled and felt uncomfortable after a bit of wear whereas others have been fantastic. Do some shopping around, read the reviews and try plenty on in shops like Mothercare. I will never forget not being able to do my bra back up one-handed once my baby had finished feeding and being stuck with the flap hanging down under my top. I never wore that bra again after that. We certainly don’t need additional problems when we are already balancing a lot on our plates, literally!
Personally, I don’t think any women should be made to feel as though she should have to cover up but I also understand that this is a personal preference and that bad press, difficulties with latching, large boobs etc. can all play a part in reasons why. There are sleeves and covers which can be purchased to cover you sufficiently but do be careful when covering your baby in the summer months as you don’t want them overheating. Alternatively, you could use a muslin or light blanket either draped on your shoulder to cover your modesty or held above your baby’s head.
Look for the Perfect Spot
Where you choose to feed will have a big impact on how it will make you feel when out in public. You will need room for your arms and also for your baby, a stranger certainly won’t want to be elbowed or have a baby/toddler kicking them! So, give the place you are out at a quick scan to weigh up where feels best to you. I will usually opt for space, perhaps a quieter area so I can relax and so that the little one isn’t distracted, a place that I can sit back or lean helps with comfort and somewhere for the pushchair too as the last thing I want to be doing is trying to shift it out of people’s way whilst I am feeding.
Have Somebody With You
If you are very nervous about trying breastfeeding out in public, make sure you have somebody for support with you. They will be there to reassure you, to help you with your things, to get you water or food in a cafe and to chat to which will help to ease any anxiety. Once you get used to your rhythm and used to how your baby feeds, you will start to feel more confident about feeding out in public even if you are alone.
Know Your Rights
And stick by them! You have every right to feed your baby wherever they need it and anybody who tells you otherwise and tries to stop you or asks you to leave is breaking the law. You do NOT have to feed in a toilet (please don’t, please don’t ever feel like you have to do this), you do not owe anybody an apology– their issue, not yours if they don’t like it and you certainly do not need to leave any establishment. If you are discriminated against you can make a complaint to the organisation who has discriminated against you and if it can’t be resolved to your satisfaction you can bring an action in a county court in England and Wales or a sheriffs court in Scotland.
The Equality Act states:
“It is sex discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. It applies to anyone providing services, benefits, facilities and premises to the public, public bodies, further and higher education bodies and association. Service providers include most organisations that deal directly with the public. Service providers must not discriminate, harass or victimise a woman because she is breastfeeding. Discrimination includes refusing to provide a service, providing a lower standard of service or providing a service on different terms”
Focus on Your Baby
My attitude towards feeding my baby in public is that it is a need to do. There is no alternative, my baby has never fed from a bottle, he doesn’t like my expressed milk and he feeds perfectly straight from the breast. If I couldn’t do this for him I would have a very distraught baby on my hands and that is far more important to me than ‘offending’ anybody who could simply look away. I also adore looking at my feeding baby, so I am never looking around at other people. That moment is special and that bond won’t be there forever so I soak it up every chance I get. By not making eye contact with strangers, not causing a scene, by showing them that this is what I am doing and I am going to sit and just get on with it, helps to make breastfeeding in public the norm.
Don’t Give a Sh*t!!
If you can get to this point, fantastic! Honestly, it is what has got me through breastfeeding in public and doing it anywhere and everywhere:
- Theme park
- In a queue
- At Disneyworld
- Miniature train
My baby needs that milk and I am the only one who can provide it so my attitude has had to be not to give a sh*t and ignoring everybody else and doing what is required of me as a Mother. And if anybody does look at you, just simply smile at them they may be looking on in admiration (I always do!) and you will usually receive a smile back.
Those are my top tips for breastfeeding in public and I really hope they can help you in some way, even if it means you can get out of the house a little more, you now know your rights and can go about your life without revolving timings around feeds. Breastfeeding is such a lovely journey to be able to go on and I don’t believe that anything should prevent you from carrying it out.
If you have any further questions please do just drop me a message or leave a comment.
You may also like:
- How Different Breastfeeding Positions Can Help with Feeding Your Baby
- Breastfeeding- Why All The Controversy?
- Breastfeeding and Teething
- Breastfeeding Beyond 18 Months
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