Breastfeeding out and about – aka IN PUBLIC! Shock horror! (Insert shocked hands up to face emoticon!) Why on earth would any women ever feel the need to get her breasts out in public unless she was trying to flaunt around a sports car and look sexy, or pose provocatively on page 3 of a certain newspaper – now that of course is perfectly ok.However sitting down, creating no fuss and attaching a hungry little helpless baby is an absolute no no. Ladies what do you think you’re doing!? Just stop it, stop it now! Nobody wants to see it, go and hide somewhere and feel ashamed that you are giving your baby milk tailor-made for their every need.
Now calm down and take a breath.
Feeding your baby in public for the first or thirty-fifth time can be scary, very very scary. But it needn’t be. In this post I want to share my experience of feeding in public and any hints or tips I can give you to make things a little easier and less scary.
First of all please know that the law is with you on this one. It is against the law to treat any women unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. In short you can feed anywhere you need to without being asked to stop, move , leave, or being made to feel uncomfortable. There is a really good information sheet produced by maternity action which can be found here. So armed with the right knowledge and backing of the law you may feel more confident about feeding your baby when you need to if you’re out.
But having the knowledge isn’t the same as actually feeding when out and about. When I was a new mum I was petrified of breastfeeding in public, I wasn’t so much worried about what people would say but what they might see. I didn’t want my breasts to be on show to the world. I hadn’t however back then worked out how I could feed discreetly. In my head I had imagined I’d have to sit in the middle of a coffee shop and literally ‘flap out a boob’ leaving myself half-naked, which simply isn’t true. Once you’ve overcome the first few hurdles of breastfeeding and mastered the position and attachment then you can start practising feeding discreetly. Just like learning to ski you can’t learn it all in one session so make sure you’ve got the basics down pat before you try the slightly more complicated moves!
There are lots of breastfeeding covers out there that you can buy to use if you would like to, or a simple muslin would be fine. I used one for quite a while with the boy and it gave me the confidence to know that wherever I went I would be able to feed him. He was quite a fussy feeder and so I was constantly worried that he may be on and off all the time. If you feel you want to use a cover to boost your confidence then go for it! Just make sure that you are not compromising your position and attachment when you do use it as that may make you sore. I haven’t used one at all with Flixster when feeding as I don’t feel that I need to.
Clothing – plan ahead! There are lots of breastfeeding specific clothes out there to buy, and that’s great if you want to invest in a new wardrobe but there are also lots of ordinary everyday items of clothing that will work well when breastfeeding. Spaghetti strap vests become your friend! I tend to layer up and wear a couple of vest tops, one you can pull up and one you can pull down to just below the bra. Then you can drop the cup on your bra and just expose the nipple part of your breast, once the baby is attached you’ll be showing barely anything at all. Wrap dresses or wrap top or pretty much anything with a deep ‘V’ shape neck can be teamed with a vest top – pull the vest top up, drop the bra cup and way you go. A boob tube and a t-shirt over the top, pull the shirt up, pull the boob tube down a little, drop your cup and away you go. Boob tubes are great under pretty much any top as they cover your middle which most new mums certainly don’t want to show and can be pulled down to just under the bra and your other top can be pulled up.
Where to feed – My favourite place is of course the coffee shops of wherever we are, because most of them sell cake! A feed for baby and a treat for me – after all they do say that feeding burns 500 cals a day (why I’m not stick thin I don’t know!) What if you can’t find a coffee shop though or you don’t want to spend money? How about a changing room, are you in a shop that has quite a few changing cubicles. Most shops have seats in them now, or at least somewhere to perch. If you ask nicely enough I’ve never been turned away. Now I realise it’s not ‘in public’ but it will have a seat which most breastfeeders need, and is easily available in most clothes shops! Failing that most book shops have seats too! Often larger shopping centers will have a feeding room so it’s always worth an ask.
When you first start feeding out and about and feel nervous about it have someone with you who can sit with you and chat, it might take your mind off it a bit and also make sure they too are aware of the law so that if anybody does say anything they are with you to defend you. At this point let me reassure you that incidents of anybody saying something to a breastfeeding mum happen far less than you think they do. I myself have fed out and about many many times and have never been made to feel uncomfortable, it does happen but of course those are often the stories that make the news. The millions of mums who feed out and about without incident every single day aren’t news worthy.
So please go out and feed in public if your baby is hungry, don’t let breastfeeding stop you from going out. If you need to start slowly to build up your confidence do that, everyone starts somewhere and those mums that make it look easy undoubtedly were nervous the first time they fed in public. Most of the time you wouldn’t give me a second glance when feeding in public, you’d probably just think I was giving my baby a close hug, but let me tell you it certainly wasn’t like that for me at first. I’ve been there. I’ve been that mum that would panic at the first twitch of baby being unhappy and needing feeding. You can do it, you really can, it just takes practise and the confidence will come.
Please feel free to get in touch with me if you want any further help or pointers, I’m happy to discuss my journey with anyone.