I have a long standing tradition of heading to the beach on New Years and this year was no exception. My husband and I packed up the girls and the pups and hit the road, destination Huntington Dog Beach. When we got there I saw a beautiful site that made my heart smile – a woman perched on a rock, nursing her baby. These kind of moments make me happy, and they are happening more and more often – yet I also saw something else. Her nervousness. Her discomfort. The fervent pull at the cover and quick check to see if she was exposed. This, too, is also happening more often. As more and more mothers venture out and begin Nursing in Public, those episodes of discomfort seem to naturally follow.
Fortunately, there are Tips and Tricks that can make Nursing in Public more Comfortable.
When new moms first approach the idea of nursing in public, it can be a nerve wracking thought. What if people stare? What if someone knows? What if someone says something? Should I even do this? The thoughts and questions can go on and on, building up until you find yourself nursing in the bathroom. Behind the safety of a stall, no one can see you – but is that really where you want to be breastfeeding your baby?
In my world, no. For others, that might be a yes. Everyone’s comfort level is different and I pass no judgment on any which way you choose to feed. But if you DO want begin Nursing in Public, and you are uncomfortable, this guide can help.
Wear a Cover
This is always an option for mothers to consider if they are concerned about prying eyes. There are numerous cover options out there these days that can serve very well, including scarf varieties, slip over covers, lose jacket type covers and even simple baby blankets. If you choose to go this route, you are not alone, many moms Nursing in Public opt for a cover of some kind.
Do see a few great varieties, please see 6 Tips to Make Nursing Through the Holidays Easier
Wear Nursing Friendly Clothes
Nursing friendly clothing is becoming more and more popular. Even mass retailers are getting on the bandwagon, offering tops with easy access, designed to reveal the breast for feeding yet not expose the mother. From dresses to tops, jackets to swimwear – there are options out there.
Here are a few places you can look:
“Hack” Your Clothes
You can also modify, or ‘Hack’ your current wardrobe to suit the purpose. There is a fantastic video from Extremely Good Parenting offers 5 Inexpensive Breastfeeding Clothing Hacks.
Layering is a very good option for those seeking to maintain a bit of privacy while Nursing in Public. You can wear a Nursing tank top, or a regular tank top underneath T-Shirt. When it’s time to Breastfeed, you can pull up the shirt and slip down the tank with none the wiser.
When I was nursing my girls, I LIVED in nursing tanks! Almost every picture of me from that time shows me in one.
Practice at Home
Practice your method of chose in front of a mirror or in front of a loved one. You can see, or they can see, if you are exposed, etc. – and then figure out the maneuvering BEFORE you face the prying public eye.
Start in a ‘Safe’ Place
If you are incredibly nervous about Nursing in Public, then perhaps your first adventure should not be in a crowded restaurant or amusement park (though there are arguments to the contrary – i.e. More people looking around, less people looking at you.) Instead, you can opt to try Nursing in Public the first time at a friends house or one of a family member. Anywhere you feel safe and feel that anyone that does see will not judge, may be the best place to begin this journey.
Use a Carrier
Baby Slings and Carriers are wonderful things! I loved them with both my girls, and nursing seems a breeze in a carrier like the Ergo Baby. I just slipped her down a little bit , attached and then slipped the Sun Shield over her head. No one was ever the wiser.
Unfortunately, looks and even comments will probably will come your way – some time. It helps to have some rebuttals and responses already formulated before the inevitable happens. If, or when, this happens – the following tactics can help:
Since this one is the hardest one to accomplish when someone decides it’s their business to get up in your business about Nursing in Public – I had to put it first. Above all, you need to remain calm. Tell them that you are feeding your baby and that you have a right to do so…even if your voice shakes.
Easier said than done, but honestly – if you can avoid their comments, looks or questions, do so.
Refuse to Move
If you are directed to nurse elsewhere, but you are comfortable where you are at – and you are legally allowed to be there – then stay. Now, if you are more comfortable utilizing that nursing room, then by all means, please do.
Ask for a Manager
If you are confronted at an establishment (not privately owned) by an employee or customer, and the situation has escalated, you have the right to ask for the manager. You will have to remain calm and explain the situation to them as well.
Call the Best For Babes NIP Hotline
If you are still asked to leave, or harassed with no resolution, you can call the Best For Babes NIP (Nurse in Public) Hotline. This toll-free number will contact you to someone who can help, and give you advice on the best course of action to take – and what your rights are there. They can also direct you to legal help if you need it. 1-844-NIP-FREE, or 1-844-647-3733.
Know Your Rights
While the nitty gritty details of Breastfeeding in Public are covered by State Laws, there are Federal Laws on the books as well. HR2490, passed in 1999, had a provision that allows Nursing in Public on all Federal Lands, buildings and properties, as long as the mother is otherwise legally allowed to be there. Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) signed into law in 2010 by President Obama, goes on to protect a Nursing Mother’s right to pump at work, requiring employers of more than 50 employees to allow new mothers reasonable space and time for the first year after a baby’s birth.
For specific State Laws, please see The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) – here you will find links to every State and Territory Breastfeeding Statute, as well as the District of Columbia.
Some mothers have printed their specific state law on a business card, ready to whip out at a moments notice. While I never went that far, I rather think it’s a brilliant move.
Above all remember – It is your right to feed your baby, no matter how you choose to do it. Bottles, breast – what have you. Lactation room or sitting in public – it is YOUR choice, and your baby.
Have you ever been bothered while Nursing in Public? What happened? What did you say? What did they say? Leave a comment – I would love to talk to you!