Let’s talk about breastfeeding in public -it’s one of those things we rarely see when we’re out and about, or maybe it’s just that we’ve never actually noticed? Whatever, it’s something that most of us need to consider while we are breastfeeding and for most of us, just the thought of exposing ourselves in public can be a little daunting! Here at Breastfeeding Together we are huge advocates of responsive feeding, now most of us will know that this is about following our baby’s cues and feeding them as and when they require, but not so many realise that this is also about responding to our own needs too! So in those early days this could mean that if you do need to pop out for short trips, you can offer your baby a breastfeed before you leave, which may well satisfy them enough until you return, meaning you can avoid having to do the deed in public if you don’t yet feel comfortable. As time goes by, both you and your baby will start to become more confident with feeding and it’s at this point most of us want to start getting out and about for longer periods and resuming normal life (whatever that is!) If that time has come, and you are starting to feel a slightly nervous, then don’t worry we all remember the feeling and we are here with our top 10 tips to feeding in public!
1.Start from a good base….
First of all, start with a well fitting bra! It doesn’t need to be a nursing bra but does need to be something that fits well and that you can access easily, so most mums find that a bra with nursing clips or a soft cup style are best especially in the early days. Whatever you chose, a good fit is very important while you are breastfeeding to help prevent blockages which could cause problems such as mastitis. Get yourself measured- or try it yourself here The result may just surprise you! If you like a bit of extra coverage from your bra, then look out for a nursing bra with a modestly panel or ‘A’ frame, which are a little less revealing when the upper layer is unclipped. Practice unclipping or hoiking out a boob-your baby will offer you plenty of practice in this, so by the time you’re ready to leave the house you should have it down to a fine art!
2.Make an inVESTment!
Vest are a staple of most breastfeeding mums wardrobes-They can be worn underneath anything and are perfect for keeping a mumtum underwraps! They can be layered, and pulled up or down for feeding. Specialist nursing vests are available, you can find good ones in the likes of NewLook, H&M, ASOS, Next, the list goes on. Some come with concealed support, so if you are one of those lucky ladies who doesn’t need a lot of scaffolding then you may be able to get away without a bra underneath too.
You can easily use a ‘normal’ vest too though, this can be much less expensive and you’ll often find you have lots already hiding in a drawer somewhere. Look out for one’s which have a lycra content, 2%-5% is good, as this means they will keep their shape while you are stretching them around your breasts several times a day!
There are also a couple of cheeky hacks that you can try with your basic vests to make them feeding friendly. For the first, you only need a vest with a neckline that sits lower at the back. All you need to do is put it on….backwards! This way the top of the vest should sit below the breasts, covering that tummy but giving you one less layer to shift around the breasts. This is great for layering under another top…win!
For the second you will need to be handy with a needle and thread (or have a friend/mum/grandma who is!) Chop through the straps at the back, form a loop at the front and stitch in place. This loop can then be placed over the clip of your nursing bra, so you can move both down together. Clever eh?! Find full instructions on how to do this here
No, its not a secret code- this actually stands for One Up, One Down. This is one of the the simplest ways to feed on the go, and you don’t need any specialist clothing. Take one of your vests and layer it with another top- this can be anything, just something you can pull up easily. Oversized T’s or tunic tops are great for this! The upper layer is pulled up, which provides you with some instant chest coverage, while the vest underneath is pulled down to access the breast, while keeping that mum tum under wraps.
Shirts are another item that we’ve probably all got a few of hanging around at home. Anything with a button or even a zip front is great for easy feeding. If you’d like to retain a little more coverage then pop another of your vests underneath (told you they were handy!) and try unbuttoning from the bottom just leaving a couple of the top buttons fastened to keep more of your chest uncovered.
5.Scarves and coverups
I’ve always loved a nice scarf- the floaty kind that is (not the Harry Potter kind!) and they make a great easy and discrete coverup. Much less cumbersome and far cheaper than some of the specialist nursing covers on the market. Keep one in your bag, and you will always have an instant solution, no matter what else you are wearing. If you have nothing else close to hand, you can easily use a muslin cloth to the same effect… we were never far away from one of these in the early days, aren’t they just are the best for mopping up a multitude of sins? (including that cold brew that you never got round to drinking!) Tuck it under your bra strap at the shoulder to stop it slipping out of place.
6.Practice in front of a mirror
When you look down lovingly as your baby feeds, it can often feel like all you can see is a vast expanse of naked chest, so this has got to be what other people see when they glance over, right? Try feeding while sitting in front of a mirror, as this will show you what other people actually see. They are looking from a totally different angle to you, so it’s often far less than you think, and can help you to see where you need a bit of extra coverage- if anywhere at all!
7.Attend a group
Once you are kitted out and ready to go, you may still feel the need for a little reassurance or perhaps you would like to practice your technique in a friendly environment, then it’s a great idea to pop along to one of our local breastfeeding groups. These run each week across Wigan borough and you will find peer supporters and other mums who will be there to support and guide you, as well as answer any questions may have or just chat with like minded people. Details of our groups can be found here
Once you are ready to ‘go it alone’, look out for our breastfeeding friendly sticker wherever you go. This is a scheme for businesses and venues who are committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for breastfeeding mums. We have a wide range of businesses signed up, from shops and cafes to play centres across the UK! A full list can be found on our website here. Take along a friend, having someone to chat to can take your focus off whoever else is in the room and wondering about what they might be thinking.
9.The Law is on your side
You will find that most people you will come across while breastfeeding will only ever be overwhelmingly positive (that woman looking over at you from the other side of the room, is most probably fondly remembering her own babies, and thinking how well you are doing!) however there is still a small minority that are not quite so supportive. If you happen to encounter negativity, this can be upsetting and a little un-nerving, but do remember that this is THIER problem, not yours and the Law is on your side. Whilst there are no specific ‘breastfeeding’ laws, you are protected under the equality act. This means that you have the same right to be in any public place as the person next to you, whether you are breastfeeding or not and as such you cannot be asked to stop nursing as long as it is safe for you to do. So you might find you want to tell those people to use their eyelids for the purpose god intended, and do not let them put you off!
10.Take the plunge!
Once you are ready, take the plunge! Sometimes we build up that first one in our minds and worry about what other people’s reactions will be. I know I remember my ‘first time’ (Starbucks, Trafford Centre in case you were wondering! I worried so much, yet when it actually came to the crunch no-one even noticed, all that stressing for nothing! Often other people can’t even tell you are feeding as it looks just the same as if you are holding and cuddling your baby. Once you are over that hurdle each time should get easier and before you know it, it’s like second nature. After all what’s more natural than feeding your baby?!