Breastfeeding in public tends to be controversial. However, if a bottle-fed baby can have her dinner in public, why shouldn’t a breastfed baby have the same rights? I have certainly never seen a public restroom that I would like to feed my baby in! And I’m certainly not going to stay cooped up at home all the time because I’m afraid that my baby will get hungry while we’re gone.
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I nursed my daughter in public from the time that we started going out (when she was about 6 weeks old) until she was no longer wishing to nurse when we were out and about (probably around 2 1/2 or so). My son started nursing in public at the ripe old age of two days, and still nurses pretty often when we are out (he’s 12 months now). If my child is hungry or just wants to nurse, then he gets to nurse. After 12-18 months, I sometimes offer baby a snack or a drink of water to hold him until we can go somewhere more convenient, but if he still insists that he wants to nurse I let him. So far no one has ever commented on it; as far as I can tell, no one has even noticed. We’ve nursed walking through stores (we all love our sling!), at the state fair, at practically every restaurant we’ve ever been to, at parks, at the beach, at a hockey game, at movies and plays… well, we’ve nursed pretty much everywhere.
I, personally, have never put a blanket over my nursing baby, though some moms are more comfortable doing this. I feel it just draws attention to the fact that I’m nursing (I know I always notice this when someone else does it). Besides, I live in Florida and it’s just too hot for something like that! As long as your baby isn’t looking around every few seconds (I’ve experienced this occasionally and now I’m fast), a loose t-shirt and the baby will keep you perfectly covered and modest. If you’ve never nursed in public and are nervous about “what people might see,” practice in front of a mirror or a good friend or your husband. Go to a La Leche League meeting. It’s a good place to practice – there are always mothers nursing there – and you can get tips from experienced mothers on public nursing.
I have heard of mothers getting negative comments and nasty looks when breastfeeding in public. This is really sad. When someone sees a nursing ANIMAL they will say, “oh, how cute!” Shouldn’t a nursing baby get the same reaction (if any at all)? Besides, a nursing baby should be much more welcome than a screaming baby who needs to eat. I know so many nursing moms (including myself) who have gotten really nice comments from the surrounding passengers on airplanes. And, by the way, breastfeeding in public is not illegal and is not indecent exposure – anywhere! Many states have laws expressly saying this. Some moms even carry a copy of the law in their diaper bag or purse. I know that in my state (Florida), a mother is legally allowed to breastfeed her child any place that she is legally allowed to be, so as long as you’re not trespassing, you’re fine.
So if you are breastfeeding, please don’t stay at home! Go out, have some fun, and nurse in public. The more often mothers nurse in public, the more accepted it will become.
More commentaries on breastfeeding in public
Getting Off the Back Room Team from the LLL website
From Bashful to Brazen: The Indiscreet Breastfeeder’s Manifesto by Sundae Horn, from Mothering, Issue 109, November/December 2001
Breastfeeding in Public Is a Basic Civil Right by Nancy M. Solomon
Modest Breastfeeding by Shari Ann Wenzel, from New Beginnings, Vol. 19 No. 5, September-October 2002, pp. 175-176
Baring Breasts for Baby by Rebecca Ephraim, RD, CCN
Eating Out by Shel Franco
Tips for breastfeeding in public
Handling Criticism @ KellyMom
Breastfeeding in Public articles from LLL
Nursing Discreetly by Anne Smith, IBCLC
Have Breasts Will Travel: Nursing Discreetly In Public by Lisa Palazzo, from Mothering, Issue 109, November/December 2001
Tips for Breastfeeding in Public from Elizabeth Lee Designs
Thank You for nursing your baby in public by Lisa Russell
“Caught you nursing” postcards from BESTPART New Zealand
Thank you for nursing cards at BreastfeedingPlace.com
Breastfeeding and the Law @ KellyMom
Summary of laws by state National Conference of State Legislatures