Breastfeeding is hard enough within the comfort of your own home. You’re figuring out how to hold the baby while breastfeeding, how to breastfeed comfortably, and how to get the baby to latch properly. There’s no room to be concerned about modesty in that mess!
Then you realize that you’re probably going to want to leave the house for more than the two hours you have in between feedings at some point. You’re going to have to learn how to master breastfeeding in public. But how in the world are you supposed to figure out how to feed your baby and maintain some semblance of modesty?
The good news is that there are lots of tips and tricks you can use to avoid flashing the world while breastfeeding. The bad news is that it takes a bit of practice! But after a few tries you can totally be comfortable breastfeeding anywhere you go.
Tips for breastfeeding in public
First of all, modesty is only an issue if you want it to be. Most of the difficulties with breastfeeding in public come from trying to be modest and trying to be sure not to flash anyone. But there is no law in any state that requires you to cover yourself while you breastfeed. If you are comfortable just whipping a boob out whenever your baby is hungry, go for it. Those who are uncomfortable can avert their eyes or leave the room.
But if you are more comfortable covering yourself in some way, here are some ideas to make things easier.
Find a private place to nurse
While I don’t think anyone should ever ask you to nurse in private, sometimes that is the easiest and most comfortable option. Many of the newer shopping malls, event centers and churches have designated private rooms for nursing moms. You’ll usually find them near the restrooms, but if you can’t find one, just ask.
Use a nursing cover to make breastfeeding in public more comfortable
Using a cover was my go-to choice when I was breastfeeding both of my girls. I actually never had a designated breastfeeding cover with my oldest, I just used a light blanket. Some moms are pros at that, but I always felt like I didn’t have enough hands to get the baby latched on properly and keep myself covered at the same time. Not to mention that the baby would try to kick it off all of the time.
But with my second, I discovered the nursing covers that go all the way around and keep you covered hands-free. They’re super light and stretchy, and basically impossible for the baby to kick off. You also don’t have to wear two shirts to keep your back covered because the cover covers you all the way around.
Wear two shirts while you breastfeed in public
One of the problems with using a nursing cover is that even though you’re covered and quite modest, it draws a lot of attention to what’s going on underneath the cover. Pulling out the cover is basically a giant announcement to the world that you’re breastfeeding: “HELLO MY BABY IS BREASTFEEDING NOW BUT LOOK HOW COVERED I AM.”
Sometimes just the knowledge that breastfeeding is happening makes people around you uncomfortable, regardless of whether or not they can see anything. Not that other people’s comfort should be your main concern at all. But sometimes it’s nicer to breastfeed without anyone even noticing.
That’s where the two-shirt method comes in quite handy.
All you do is layer a nursing tank top underneath whatever other shirt you happen to be wearing. It doesn’t have to be a nursing shirt! When it’s time to breastfeed, you pull your outer shirt up, and pull the nursing tank top down just enough to expose your breast for the baby to latch on.
If you hold the baby the right way, no one will even notice that you’re breastfeeding. They’ll probably just think that the baby is sleeping.
Use a baby carrier to discreetly breastfeed in public
If you need to nurse on the go, you can breastfeed while you have the baby in a baby carrier. It might be a little difficult to do this with a newborn, but it gets easier as they get older and have more head control. It also works best in conjunction with the two shirt method!
The main thing to know about nursing in the carrier is that you’ll need to adjust the straps so that the baby’s head is at breast-level rather than up closer to your chin where she should normally be. Here’s a video to give you an idea of how to do it!
Practice at home to make breastfeeding in public easier
However you decide to breastfeed in public, I encourage you to practice at home before you take it on the go. Do it in front of a mirror, if you can, so that you can see what others will see when you breastfeed in public. That way you can decide if you’re comfortable with how much breast is seen or not seen while you breastfeed.
Whatever you do, don’t resign yourself to staying home forever until you’re done breastfeeding. There are lots of ways to make breastfeeding on the go totally possible!
Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.