By Elizabeth Peters
While the decision whether to formula feed or breastfeed is a mother’s personal choice, it is estimated that 75% of new moms choose to breastfeed their newborns, with many making the choice to breastfeed exclusively. But breastfeeding exclusively comes with its own sets of issues, one of which is that you are your baby’s one and only source of food, meaning you have to be available for a feeding whenever your baby needs one, even when that time may not always be the most convenient for you – such as when you are out in public. Many women cringe at the thought of nursing in public, with strangers around, and that is understandable - but locking yourself at home for four months to avoid having to breastfeed in public isn’t healthy for you, either. The fact is, nursing mothers are going to find themselves in situations where they have to be in public with their baby during feeding time, but nursing in public doesn’t have to be a scary experience. First, know that you have the legal right to nurse in public, by law, and that nursing mothers are exempt from indecent exposure laws. Most states have laws that give nursing women the right to nurse in public at any place that the mother and child have the right to be, which covers most all public places. You can see a full explanation of the breastfeeding laws surrounding your state online here. Even with the protection of the law behind them, many women find themselves cringing at the thought of nursing in public for the first time. If the thought of breastfeeding in public has you coming down with a case of the jitters, follow these five simple steps to becoming able to breastfeed in public with confidence.
Pick a Spot in Advance
When breastfeeding in public, odds are you will be somewhere that you are familiar with or frequent often, such as the coffee shop where you meet up with friends, or the grocery store where you buy your groceries. To make your feeding experience more comfortable, and to ease your mind, when you are at these places look around and decide where you would be most comfortable feeding, such as a booth in the back, a bench tucked into a corner of the store, or a dressing room in your favorite department store. Knowing in advance that you have a comfortable spot available for nursing will help ease your mind about going to those places with your baby when you may need to feed.
Dress for Success
Dressing in clothing that provides easy access for feedings with minimal exposure can go a long way toward making you feel more confident during public feedings. Button up and wrap around shirts work well for this, or you can purchase nursing blouses made with hidden built-in flaps made specifically for breastfeeding.
Use a Mirror
If you are nervous about exposing too much skin while breastfeeding in public, practice breastfeeding your baby in your selected blouse while standing in front of a mirror so you can see firsthand how exposed you will, or won’t, be. Practice different positions until you find one that you are comfortable using in public. Seeing firsthand what the public around you will be seeing can go a long way in easing your nervousness about public feedings.
Bring a Blanket
Baby blankets work great as a covering to shield your feeding baby from the view of passerby. Carry one in your diaper bag and lay it across your shoulders and over your baby’s head when breastfeeding in public.
Stick to Your Feeding Schedule
Don’t deny feeding your baby in public at his scheduled feeding time just because you’re too nervous or you are busy at that moment. The hungrier your baby becomes, the more fussy and loud he will get, which will not only draw a lot of attention when you finally do stop to feed him, and it will also make the experience much more stressful than it needs to be for both of you. It is best to find a quiet, semi-secluded spot and feed him at the right time when you will both be calm and relaxed.
Remember that practice makes perfect. Breastfeeding in public may seem scary at first, but follow these steps and after completing a few public feedings you will be breastfeeding in public like a pro!
Elizabeth Peters is a freelance writer who specializes in the parenting/family niche. When she is not writing for clients she can be found blogging about parenting on her own blog at TheMommyVortex.com. She currently resides in Alabama with her husband and two young children. Connect with her on Twitter: @themommyvortex
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