Why Breastfeeding in Public Matters + Tips to do it Successfully

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I’m curious. Have you tried breastfeeding in public? Or do you want to… and then stop yourself out of shame, fear, or insecurities about what people around you will think? 

You’re not alone, Mama.

These days, intense controversy surrounds breastfeeding and pumping in public.  So much so that before stepping out of their homes, Milk Makin’ Mamas like you often ask themselves questions like:

 Is it appropriate and acceptable for me to breastfeed in public?

If I do breastfeed or pump in public, should I cover up? If I don’t, what will people say?

If I need to pump while I’m out and about, where can I go that’s safe and private?

If I nurse outside of my home, will I be shamed by on-lookers, family or friends?

As moms address these questions a couple of things can happen.

Some moms avoid public displays of breastfeeding altogether, opting instead to meticulously (like, down to the minute) plan outings and errands around their child’s nursing schedule. Their fingers crossed all the while, hoping their baby doesn’t get hungry unexpectedly. (Raise your hand if you relate to this approach!)

Other moms, faced with a hungry baby in public, end up breastfeeding in a dark corner, a parked car or worse still, a bathroom stall! I hate to say it, but even I, in my early breastfeeding days, nursed my baby Cayenne in a restaurant bathroom stall. As I fed Cayenne in the bathroom, I felt horrible. I knew it wasn’t right and I decided I would NEVER do that again.

Mamas who choose to pump often can’t find safe, private places to express their milk, so they, too, end up in those dark corners, parked cars, bathroom stalls or not-so-private rooms at their workplace.

None of these scenarios should happen. To. Any. Mom. Anywhere. Ever.

Let’s be real. Our children don’t only get hungry at home. Breastfeeding moms deserve to feel comfortable and confident in feeding their child with or without a cover, whenever and wherever their child becomes hungry.  And pumping moms deserve access to safe, private, and appropriate spaces to pump and store breast milk for their children!

The best way to for moms to confidently breastfeed and pump outside of their home to receive needed public acceptance and respect is for more women to do it! 

Breastfeeding in public and pumping outside of the home has several personal and community benefits.

  1. The more often that our sons, daughters, peers, and neighbors see mothers feeding their children liquid gold—aka breast milk—the more we normalize breastfeeding in public.
  2. Moms who are uncertain about breastfeeding and pumping may feel more confident about choosing to breastfeed when they see another mama calmly, confidently, and naturally breastfeeding in public.
  3. A pregnant mama planning for her return to work can be inspired by seeing one of her peers pumping and storing milk at the workplace and making a smooth transition back to work from maternity leave.
  4. The more regularly a milk makin’ mama breastfeeds and pumps outside of the home, the more confidence they gain over time. (Pinkie swear!)

Before I give you some tips on how to breastfeed and pump in public, I want to honor the fact that YOU – like so many other new and nursing mamas – may not feel comfortable breastfeeding in public.

And, I get it.  

For some mamas, breastfeeding is a private act that they don’t want to do in the public eye. But, in my experience, more moms are hesitant to breastfeed in public not because it is a private act but because they have been discouraged by the current stigma that surrounds breastfeeding in public.

Here’s the thing. 

If you are one of the many mamas who doesn’t breastfeed in public because you are afraid of being shamed, embarrassed, or harassed, YOU are the perfect mom to try breastfeeding in public.  

Think about it, you can have a hand in reversing the stigma and normalizing public breastfeeding.  How awesome is that?!

Here are 3 tips to help you breastfeed in public… successfully!

  1. Practice at home

Usually, mamas breastfeed at home with little to no modesty—often with one boob or the other hanging out, shirt wet from breast milk.  And why not, you’re at home, right?  

But, when we breastfeed in public, moms need to be more discreet.  So I encourage mamas to practice breastfeeding in ways that keep your breasts out of site at home first. There are several things you can try. 

Try nursing with your shirt on, placing baby under the bottom of your shirt. Button down and loose fitting, flowy shirts work best for this.  Or try taking your breast out of the top of your shirt and covering your baby and breast with a beautiful shawl or scarf.  Choose a breathable fabric like cotton. Experimenting at home will help you to learn what works for you and your baby. 

  1. Choose a location where you feel comfortable

For your first public breastfeeding experience, I suggest you go to a place where you feel comfortable.  Perhaps it’s a place you frequented prior to your child’s birth.  Or, it may be a place that has really comfy seating and a relaxed vibe.  In addition to choosing the right place, try to go at a time when the place you choose will not be super crowded or busy.

  1. Bring a friend or family member with you

Many of us feel more confident when we have a friend or loved one with us when we try something new.  The same is true with breastfeeding in public.  For your first time, bring someone with you to be your cheerleader.

  1. For pregnant mamas: Start thinking about public breastfeeding and pumping before your baby comes

Checking in with your own feelings and thoughts about nursing and pumping outside of the home. Discuss them with your partner/family and design strategies that are in alignment with your values and comfort level. Doing this thought-work in advance can build your confidence in advance, what a blessing. 

Here’s to bustin’ out your boobs whenever—and wherever– your babe gets hungry no matter where you might be! Happy World Breastfeeding Week from me, The Breastfeeding Chef!

 

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Ebeth Johnson is mindful eating & well-life mentor for women who are ready to live deliciously. As a mom, professional chef, plant-based nutritionist and mindful eating coach, Ebeth marries her love of food, cooking, wellness, and mindfulness while supporting women and their families to incorporate nourishing foods and nurturing lifestyle practices into daily life. Ebeth was raised in DC and returned here (after a 15-year stint in the Big Apple) when her child Cayenne was born. When she's not in the kitchen, at the grocery store or DuPont farmers’ market you'll find her roller skating, reading, watching HGTV, making handcrafted beaded jewelry or briskly walking wherever she needs to go. One of her favorite meals is perfectly scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast, sliced avocado and a green salad. She could do without shopping for clothes and shoes.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great info. My breastfeeding days are well behind me. Well, I didn’t have children, so so never had those days. I do, however, know that it’s good for baby and mom. Thanks for being an encouragement to your peers!

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