There is now growing awareness about breastfeeding, and nursing a baby in public is gaining more acceptance. Even so, many mothers feel torn between meeting their child’s needs outside of the home, and are wary of others’ opinions and remarks. Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable about breastfeeding in public.
Your Personal Attitude?
Your first tool in learning to breastfeed in public comes from reflecting on your attitudes and being aware of your personal comfort zone. How do you feel about breastfeeding your baby in different locations?
Many new mothers face confidence issues when out in public. Gunilla Tegen, mother to 14-month-old Aden, shares, “I never felt confident breastfeeding in public so I would always pump if I went out. I felt that having people look at me for being different would have been too much when I was already a new mother with insecurities and doubts.”
However, if you choose to breastfeed only in the privacy of your home, you may unintentionally limit breastfeeding, your baby’s access to his food source, and your milk supply.
Try it! Affirm your decision to breastfeed. Remind yourself that you are an empowered mother who is making a well-thought-through choice about feeding her baby. This is more helpful than thinking that you are doing something that is taboo.
Before actually breastfeeding outside your home, practice in front of a mirror. Try to schedule your first few public feedings when you are with other mothers or at mothers’ group gatherings. Being surrounded by mums who are comfortable breastfeeding in public, and watching and learning from them will boost your confidence.
Breastfeeding in Progress!
Rest assured that the most that anyone will see are glimpses of skin. Your baby’s body will actually cover most of the area around your waist. The only awkward moment is when your baby is latching on; you can overcome this by turning your body away slightly when latching.
For added coverage, try these:
“A nursing cover can look like a stylish apron while a nursing shawl is more like a poncho. Whichever you prefer, look for one that provides generous coverage and has a rigid, open neckline that allows your baby to look back at you when nursing. This keeps him from fidgeting or struggling with the cover and ‘exposing’ a mother who wishes to be discreet,” advices Pearline Foo of babywearing boutique Baby Slings & Carriers, herself a mother of two breastfed babies.
Nursing covers are available in a variety of colours, designs and fabrics, making them a fashion accessory as well. One thing to note: nursing covers offer complete coverage but tend to draw attention. Without the cover, no one may even notice that your baby is feeding!
Cardigans & Shawls
These can be worn or draped around your shoulders to cover areas that your baby’s body does not cover.
Drape a baby blanket (or a clean nappy) over your shoulder on the side where your baby is nursing. Or you could wrap your baby in a blanket and pull the edge of the blanket nearer his head up over your breast.
Slings & Wraps
Regina Hermelin, mother of 13-month-old Bianca, shares how she nursed in public: “I started breastfeeding in slings and baby carriers quite early, and that made my life so much easier. With the right sling or carrier, it was easy feeding Bianca on the go. I could be on the move, with my hands free, and she would be nursing in the sling. This has been my way of getting things done and getting out and about with Bianca. Sling nursing in public has been quite a life saver for us!”
As you and your baby become more practiced at breastfeeding discreetly in public, your confidence will grow. Pearline Foo shares, “I went from being totally afraid of nursing in front of my own family to being confident with nursing in public. As I grew more confident, it became easier and I was comfortable not going to a special family room to nurse.”
Breastfeeding is not a show. While some mums are comfortable just lifting up their shirt to let baby nurse, others may prefer to do so in a less open environment. Practically every mall in Singapore has a nursing or family room where you can feed baby in peace, away from curious eyes. If not, you can look for a quiet corner without too much human traffic.
Cafes and eating places are natural choices because people are there to eat and interact with their companions, taking focus away from you nursing your child. Older children may require supervision in an eating place. In this case, outdoor locations such as parks may be a better bet.
Baby Moods, Tandem Feeds
Another consideration for breastfeeding in public is your child’s age. A newborn might need a lot of guidance with latching and maintaining the latch throughout the feeding.
If you are breastfeeding an older toddler or nursing through a pregnancy, you may face more challenges and unwanted attention; this is because extended breastfeeding is already shrouded in misinformation and negative public perception. Tandem nursing discreetly is difficult. You also have to see to the needs of two children.
The temperament of your baby also matters. Some babies go from demonstrating feeding cues to wailing within minutes, while others are more relaxed! Specific issues such as an overactive letdown that causes your baby to sputter or a slow flow that causes your baby to pull backwards at your nipple need to be considered as well. In such situations, forethought and planning will help you nurse successfully in public.
Define What’s Normal
Children, teenagers and mothers-to-be are influenced by the culture around them. When they are surrounded by breastfeeding mother-baby pairs, they grow to believe in the normalcy of breastfeeding. When you breastfeed openly, you are defining how babies are normally fed; you are creating awareness and affecting change.
Meeting your young child’s needs through breastfeeding is natural and deeply beautiful. On the other hand, you may feel that your act of nourishing your baby does not need to be part of popular debate, or you may dislike the extra attention. It is purely your choice.
Anita Daubaras is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding counsellor. She is also mother to four children, all breastfed into toddlerhood.