Nursing in Public: Tips and Tricks for Making It Work

Learning to breastfeed your baby takes practice. After a sleepy night or two in the hospital and a few days to weeks at home, breastfeeding finally starts to make sense to both you and your baby. However, when it’s time to get outside and return to your normal routine, you’ve got to consider how you and your baby will navigate nursing in public. You may wonder whether or not it’s legal to nurse your baby in public or if you can nurse discreetly and confidently. Before you return to the real world, here’s a few tips and tricks that will make nursing in public a bit easier.

Is it legal to breastfeed in public?

Yes. If your baby is hungry, you’ve got the right to feed your baby no matter where you and your little one find yourselves. In most states, there are laws in place which specifically protect a woman’s right to nurse her baby in public. If you live in a state, such as Idaho, where there are no laws shielding breastfeeding mothers from public indecency laws, know that federal law protects you. You can nurse your baby just about anywhere. The only place it’s strictly illegal to nurse your baby is in a moving vehicle. In many states, other laws exist to further protect your rights as a breastfeeding mother. Some of these laws include mandated nursing and pumping spaces at your place of employment and in daycares.

 Clothing to Make Breastfeeding in Public Easier

Before going out for the first time with your newborn, consider practicing “public” nursing at home. Put on the outfit you hope to wear out and gather any supplies, like a sling or nursing cover, and try nursing comfortably and discreetly. Nursing clothing makes breastfeeding in public a lot easier, especially if you live in a cold climate or are concerned about modesty. You can purchase special nursing shirts on that are first and foremost cute but also provide easy access to your breasts when it’s time for your baby to nurse. This way, you won’t have to stretch out the collars of your shirts or expose your belly when your baby latches on, if that doesn’t feel comfortable for you.

Accessories for Public Nursing

There’s plenty of options available to keep your nursing discreet when you’re out in public. Many companies make specialized nursing covers to protect your privacy, but most women find that a thin muslin blanket or loose knit or cotton shawls also do the trick just fine. Drape the blanket over your baby and your shoulder and let your baby latch onto the breast. Because you may not be able to see your baby’s latch, this trick can take a little practice to perfect. Don’t let yourself be easily discouraged and practice at home before going out if you’re concerned.

Nursing Your Distractible Baby in Public

If you’ve got a baby who is a bit easily distracted, nursing in public can sometimes feel like too much. When there’s so many new things to see, many babies just can’t focus on nursing- whether they are hungry or not. Most infants will go through stages like these. Knowing how to act in these circumstances will make nursing in public much easier.

Look for quiet corners in stores, benches outside of dressing rooms, and cozy chairs or couches in bookstores. Ask for help finding special nursing spots from store clerks, many public spaces have special areas for quiet nursing. Look for areas with less foot traffic, less noise, and low stimulation. Having trouble finding a quiet place? Take advantage of nursing jewelry which gives your baby something to play with while they breastfeed.

Running into Trouble

It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally women have reported feeling harassed while nursing their babies. If you ever feel unsafe while breastfeeding your baby in public, call the police or contact security. If an employee of an establishment, like a restaurant or store, is pressuring you to stop breastfeeding, stay calm and remind them of your legal rights. Make a complaint to the store manager or call their customer service line when you get home. These experiences can sometimes be teaching opportunities for those not used to seeing breastfeeding.

Being the target of this sort of disdain for breastfeeding can be intimidating. Reach out to your friends and ask for their advice or seek solutions on social media. Most importantly, trust yourself and know you are entitled to nurse your baby. Breastfeeding is a human right, no matter where you are.

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