If you are a first time mother, you will most likely have some apprehension about breastfeeding in public unless you grew up on a hippie commune. The biggest hurdle first time mothers face is the decision to breastfeed in the first place. This can be daunting in the face of formula advertisements and samples, ignorant relatives who think breastfeeding is sinful or well meaning friends who shoo you to the bathroom to nurse. Learning how to be discreet from the get go can help ease you into your breastfeeding relationship so outside influences do not cause you undue stress, force you to hide or worse yet, wean too soon.
Have you ever wondered how you are going to be able to go out with your baby because he needs to feed so often? Do you carefully plan when and where you go so there’s somewhere convenient you can feed your baby? Have you ever sat in a cold, smelly public bathroom wishing your baby would hurry up and finish feeding so you could get out of there?
Once you’ve got the hang of breastfeeding/nursing at home you may wonder how to discreetly breastfeed in public. This is actually much easier than you may think. It is perfectly possible to breastfeed so discreetly that no one will even know that your baby is feeding. It’s also possible to breastfeed ‘on the go’, so you don’t need to find somewhere private to sit and you can keep yourself and your baby covered so that no one can see anything. I’ve found that the key to discreet breastfeeding is to have the right ‘tools’ to do the job.
Useful tools to help you breastfeed your baby discreetly
The most important part of successfully breastfeeding in public is attitude. When you know you are giving your baby the best start in life you can breastfeed with confidence. However, although you know you’re doing the right thing for you and your baby not everyone sees it like that. We all know that many people are uncomfortable with seeing mothers breastfeeding their babies and so I believe it is worth learning how to do it discreetly to minimize other people’s discomfort when in public.
Breastfeeding and Nursing Bras
Many maternity bras can be used for breastfeeding, however sizing is very important when you are breastfeeding. It’s not unusual to experience quite significant changes after giving birth when your milk comes in, and for some time afterwards, for as long as you breastfeed. So be prepared to go through several sizes during this time.
Nursing bras are designed to offer easy access so you can feed your baby quickly, easily and discreetly. You may also use pads, which help absorb excess milk. Some bras have clips or clasps that allow access to one side at a time, while others are simply moved aside. Which styles you choose will be largely a matter of preference and may depend upon other factors such as your bra size. For discreet breastfeeding a bra that allows you to quickly and easily open and close each side, preferably with one hand works best.
Breastfeeding and Nursing clothing
If you want to discreetly feed your baby in a sling or just while you’re sitting in a public place it helps to be able to do it with as little skin showing as possible. When you are feeding your baby and no skin is showing most people will not be aware that that is what you are doing. They will probably just see you holding a sleeping baby in your arms.
Nursing or breastfeeding clothes are specially designed clothes that have concealed openings, or that can be moved up, down, or to the side to give you easy access so that you can quickly feed your baby with a minimum amount of fuss or disruption. Breastfeeding when wearing clothes like this helps you to feel less exposed, not to mention it keeps you warm in cold weather! It also reduces the amount of unwanted attention you may receive in public, as it is very hard to tell that your baby is feeding.
Breastfeeding clothes can help you feed your baby quickly, easily and discreetly. It may be helpful to remember that there is nothing dirty or shameful about feeding your child. When you are breastfeeding, your child’s head will totally cover your breast. Nobody will see anything. The problem arises because ignorant people have a problem with the act of breastfeeding in public not the fact that they saw exposed breast. It is sad that women are so embarrassed of the act of breastfeeding that they feel compelled to hide.
Baby slings and wraps
There are many reasons for carrying your baby in a sling. One of the most useful is that you soon learn your baby’s cues so when you’re carrying her in the sling and she’s hungry you can feed her immediately. What this means is that your baby will rarely cry when she’s hungry, simply because she doesn’t need to. You can give her what she needs without having to stop what you’re doing in order to find somewhere convenient to feed her. So if you’re in the supermarket and she wants to feed, you can do it. Not only is this convenient for you, but it’s very discreet, because nobody else can see what your baby is doing!
How discreet depends on the type of sling or carrier you have and the position you use to feed your baby in. Cradle hold is the most commonly used position for feeding. This position works well in pouches, ring slings and wraps. Most of the time it’s hard to tell what the baby is doing, however, open tails on ring slings provide extra cover for even more privacy.
The snuggle hold or tummy-to-tummy position can also be used for breastfeeding, however, this tends to be a little less discreet. This position is commonly used with other soft fabric carriers like Mei Tais as well as with pouches, ring slings and wraps. Most mothers find it quite difficult to breastfeed in rigid or structured carriers, as they are generally not very adjustable.
As babies start getting more interested in what’s happening around them they can get easily distracted which can make it quite difficult to feed your baby in public at this stage. Discreet breastfeeding becomes almost impossible as he may stop and start at every sound or passer-by. To help prevent this, feeding your baby in a sling means you can protect him from outside distractions, especially if you use the tail of a ring sling to cover him completely. You can also more easily hold him in position by using the sling in addition to your arms.
Another option to ensure your baby feeds discreetly at this stage is to walk around with him feeding in the sling. No one will be able to tell your baby is feeding and he’ll likely be soothed by the familiar rhythm of your movement, losing interest in outside distractions.
For successful discreet breastfeeding it’s important to choose a sling that allows you to easily hold or switch your baby into a natural feeding position with the minimum amount of fuss as well as offering ample cover-up.
Breastfeeding / nursing necklaces
Some mothers find that their baby’s hands can wander while they’re feeding, so it can
be helpful to wear a specially designed nursing necklace. You can then redirect your baby so that she can play with the necklace instead of doing things like playing with your clothes, which may draw attention to the fact that you are breastfeeding. Nursing necklaces can help keep your baby’s attention focused so you can continue to breastfeed discreetly.
With practice you will find you can quickly and easily breastfeed your baby discreetly, anytime, anywhere. It’s like breastfeeding itself, or using a baby sling – practice at home first, watch yourself in a mirror and you’ll soon see how difficult it is to see that your baby is breastfeeding.
If you are at all nervous about breastfeeding/nursing in public, then I hope these tips will help support you with your decision to breastfeed your baby so that you can do it both discreetly and with confidence.
Good luck!!! Please remember to keep at it. Do not let a few naysayers ruin the bond or nutrition between you and your child. You may be unsure of yourself while your baby is a newborn but six months or a year down the road you will realize that the vast majority of total strangers are very supportive and happy to see you nursing. The rest of them usually think your baby is sleeping. You can’t get the time back so nurse proud and nurse long! You can do it!
Author: Karen Hunt
About the author: The author is mother of 2 and founder of natya BABYSLINGS, the stylish UK made baby sling. http://www.natyababyslings.com/
Buy the: Arabella Nursing Privacy Drape – Breast-Feeding
Image Source: The International Women’s Day Demostration in Valencia Spain, March 8, 2008