Top Tips & Tricks for Comfortably Breastfeeding in Public
There quickly comes a time in a new mother’s life when she feels ready to step out the door with her tiny baby and introduce him or her to the world! Whether it’s for a doctor’s appointment, coffee date, grocery shop, or mom group, she will soon find herself back in the land of the living!
As a mother of two breastfed girls, a Lactation Consultant and former La Leche League leader, I see mothers in clinic and at mom groups who are breastfeeding for the first time in public. And I also see those that have been venturing out for quite some time. Across both groups, I find some are carrying bulky breastfeeding pillows with them in their stroller or trying to drape unruly sweaters and scarves over baby. Ultimately, many seem to feel overwhelmed each time baby demands a feed.
Feeling confident to breastfeed in public can be life-changing. Nursing in public, whenever and wherever, also sends a powerful message to little boys and girl—and not-so-little boys and girls—about the beauty, joy, and norm of breastfeeding. Here are some logistical feeding tips and helpful products to support the nursing mother, with an aim to get her out the house and breastfeeding!
Tip # 1: Learn How to Latch Baby On Well
As a Lactation Consultant in private and clinical practice, I see many mothers who have a hard time latching baby without support from pillows and blankets. Some feel that if they are not in the right chair with their specific props, then nursing is impossible. Therefore, at my first home or clinic visit, I teach a mother a latch that she can do without any props or pillows. Ultimately, baby should never lay on a pillow but rather, should be supported well by mother. A pillow can certainly be added afterwards to provide support but should not be relied upon.
Even with a larger baby, there are positions that mother can learn that will allow her to latch baby well without a pillow. I point out to mothers that I want them to achieve a “coffee shop latch”—something they can do while on the go. This latching also provides better breastfeeding with decreased pain.
If you feel that it’s hard to latch your baby without all of your props and that feeding in public brings you anxiety, consider reaching out to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for help. She can help you master a few different latches, giving you the ease and comfort to nurse anywhere comfortably.
Tip # 2: Consider Good Nursing Attire
Yes! There is such a thing as nursing attire. Clothing—and most of it, stylish—has been designed to help streamline nursing in public. This clothing also provides some discretion should mother feel she needs it. These nursing shirts, sweaters, or dresses usually have a small flap or overlay that, when lifted, allows the breast to be exposed discreetly so baby can latch with very little being seen. And the biggest advantage to nursing attire is that mother can better see baby as he or she latches on, meaning a better latch. In addition, some babies do not like fabric draped over their heads, making a scarf or cover a trickier option.
Good nursing bras can be a great investment. The World Health Organization recommends nursing exclusively for 6 months and then to 2 years and beyond, so there will be many times that nursing in public is a reality. Investing in these (and other) nursing pieces for your first baby means you can use them for many years.
Purchasing a good nursing tank top is a great option that doesn’t require a ton of change in attire otherwise, so you can continue to wear your favourites. Layer it underneath flexible, flowy shirts or sweaters that can be pulled upwards, and your stomach and torso will remain completely covered as you nurse. Other simple nursing shirts can be purchased in basic colours to fit smoothly into your wardrobe.
There are even cozier options for our chilly Canadian winters! And a particularly wonderful investment is a stylish and functional little black dress. Often, they double as maternity dresses, so they can also be worn for special events before baby is born. After baby comes, throw on one of these dresses with fun accessories…the best accessory being your nursing baby, of course!
Tip # 3 – Find a Nursing Cover That Works for You
While nursing attire can be both discreet and functional, there may be some situations that necessitate more of a cover-up than others. Nursing covers, which are larger pieces of fabric that are draped over baby, can be helpful in these situations. Some have a small wire built into them so that mom can look down through the opening, making it easier to latch baby. Light-weight scarves help baby stay cool while nursing underneath.
Stop, Drop and Nurse!
Ultimately, the key with learning the “coffee-shop” latch and finding nursing wear that works is for you to find the joy in your day and ultimately joy while breastfeeding. So join that mom group, participate in a mom & baby fitness class, and go out for a fancy dinner with your partner (you can wear that little black dress!). Happy nursing, mamas!
Taya is a International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in the Toronto area. She is passionate about prenatal breastfeeding education and sees mothers at home, the hospital and in a clinic setting postpartum to help them to reach their breastfeeding goals. She also teaches pre and postnatal pilates and really can’t get enough of babies! She has two daughters, whom she wishes were still babies! Alas, they are growing up too quickly!