The phrase “normalise breastfeeding” makes me cringe somewhat. Why? Because it implies that breastfeeding is not a normal part of life or way to feed baby. Granted breastfeeding is not possible or suitable for everyone - “fed is best” after all - but it seems ridiculous to me that we need to raise the profile of breastfeeding in public as an acceptable practice. Yet we do if only to make mums more comfortable doing it and less self conscious.
Now I must confess that I’m one to avert my eyes when a mother is latching on her baby but that's out of respect for their privacy/modesty, not because I disapprove a flash of nipple or them nursing.
When I first became a mum, I remember there was one woman on the aeroplane with us who’s toddler walked up the aisle, stopping next to her aisle seat then proceeded to lift up her mum’s oversized tshirt up (worn sans bra) and fed right there in the aisle, boob clearly hanging free. Whilst I applaud any woman for breastfeeding how she pleases for as long as she pleases, I was more than happy to be secluded by the window breastfeeding my 5 month old, thankful of the discretion my nursing top offered.
Call me prude but I just didn’t want other people to see my breasts and was mindful of not putting others in a potentially uncomfortable position should the sight of my nipple disturb them (older generation of men or teenage boys mainly). To me, my breasts are intimate & private. Having said that, I fed my two children everywhere and anywhere - right up to 16 months. I was far more easy going and carefree about breastfeeding in public with baby number two as it's just a little more of a juggle with an impatient toddler - the urgency of getting the baby fed quickly takes precedence rather than finding an ideal moment or secluded spot! Thankfully my boy was satisfied with quick 10-20 minute feeds.
Never once did I receive negative comments. I think I was more embarrassed (or oblivious) than vice versa. I’m happy to feed my babies and have family members cop the occasional eyeful but preferably not my dad or brother and you won’t find me on the beach topless. That’s just the way I am and I know I’m not alone! But I didn't stay at home - I was out and about getting on with life, meeting friends, adventuring with my baby & toddler.
Breastfeeding never stopped us. So for the mums out there who are new to breastfeeding or like me, prefer a little more discretion, here are some tips for latching on and feeding discreetly.
But the best tip I can offer, is have self belief and confidence! Go mamas!
Know your rights
In the UK it is legal for you to breastfeed almost anywhere you like unless it's against their policy (like a men's club for instance). A toilet or baby changing area are sometimes offered as a nursing area but these are not suitable for feeding your baby as they are unhygienic and full of lingering faeces germs which you and baby should not be exposed to. For a breakdown of legal advice for nursing in public, follow this link. Its also details what to do in the event of receiving criticism.
Latching on & off
Latching on & off are the key moments when you are likely to expose most flesh and breast whilst nursing your baby. If you are self conscious about this, angle away from onlookers or shield behind a friend or the edge of a scarf/cardigan whilst you latch on or off. Once baby is feeding well at the breast, there’s usually little flesh exposed and looks more like a baby having a cuddle.
Practice in the mirror
Sit down at home in front of a mirror and practice breastfeeding your baby to see for yourself how much flesh is actually on show and which tops suit you and your baby best. If you’re feeling self conscious, take a few extra moments to practice latching on and off discretely. Follow this link for more advice on establishing a good latch.
Find the right clothing
Nursing clothes like ours are specifically designed to keep your post natal tummy covered whilst offering access to feed your baby discreetly via hidden nursing openings. If you’re feeling self conscious, you will find that nursing wear minimises ‘exposure’ and will boost your confidence to breastfeed in public. Our Pinterest boards are full of easy styling ideas to keep you looking on trend.
Respond to early hunger cues
Learn to interpret your baby’s hunger cues and prepare yourself for feeding. People are less likely to notice you if you are sat quietly breastfeeding than if you wait until your baby is crying for a feed. On the flip side, if you try to feed too early, then baby may not be ready to feed and your efforts will result in fussing at the breast or your baby not taking a full feed. Familiarising yourself with your baby's cues and routine are the key to your success.
Find an appropriate spot
Babies tend to stay latched on & feed better at the breast if you are in a quiet subdued atmosphere than when there is lots of noisy activity nearby. This is especially true as a baby gets older and more curious of it’s surroundings. For older babies, have a muslin cloth to hand to cover your breast if baby pops on and off to look around. This will not only preserve your modesty but also catch any milk spraying mid flow.
It’s important to feel comfortable and have support under your arm when nursing. So when you are looking for an appropriate spot, think of which breastfeeding positions you and baby prefer and choose a comfortable seat that allows for this. In any situation, try using your nappy bag in lieu of a nursing pillow for resting your supporting arm on whilst you feed.
Where to feed indoors
Establishments displaying a Breastfeeding Friendly sticker on their entrance door are good places to stop. Otherwise in any other place, find a seat which offers relative privacy (like a booth or sofa chair that offers more side coverage than a dining chair) or somewhere you can shield yourself from onlookers with the buggy or potted plant.
Remember to stay relaxed and offer any onlookers a smile whilst you nurse. Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things to do and you shouldn’t assume that anyone looking is criticising you, they may simply be looking on you fondly, perhaps remembering their own nursing days.
Nurse in a sling or carrier
Breastfeeding in a sling or carrier can be a good way of keeping baby close, focused and out of the public eye whilst breastfeeding. Here's our guide for breastfeeding whilst baby wearing . Your carrier’s manufacturer should also provide guidelines for breastfeeding using your sling for the best way to nurse on the go.