You're finally holding your precious little new born in your hands and you've decided you're going to breastfeed for as long as you can. Eager to rejoin the outside world, you take a trip to the local Starbucks for coffee and feel slightly worried inside about how you are going to tackle breastfeeding in public. We've heard so many cases in the media about women being 'told off' for nursing their babies in public and at the beginning, it's at the forefront of your mind. Will someone give me a disapproving look? Will I offend anyone? Can I manage to feed discretely without bringing attention to myself?
Of course, there are many first-time mummies, which are naturally confident and able to lift up their tops and feed away. But for those who need a bit more privacy, the very thought of breastfeeding in public can be daunting and overwhelming and there is a constant struggle inside between wanting so much to continue breastfeeding knowing the wonderful benefits for baby, but being put off by not feeling comfortable to feed anytime, anywhere. I for one, contemplated stopping after three months because I feared offending people in restaurants and cafes and even crept off to a quiet corner (and once a toilet) every time I wanted to nurse Jason.
However, we all know, it doesn't have to be this way and it's all a matter of perspective. We as mummies are nurturing our babies and giving them one of the best gifts we can offer in addition to our love and care. This does not stop when we leave the house and inside, we should feel at peace with that. In all the time I have breastfed Jason (over two and a half years), I have never received a disapproving look or heard a negative comment. As soon as I wore my MamaBib, I immediately felt confident as I knew I was covered, it blended in and my baby was free and out in the open - he wasn't under a big, silky, floral number that screamed out "hey everyone, I'm breastfeeding"! Soon after using it, I was travelling all over Europe without any limitation whatsoever.
From over two years of experience, I learned there is a simple art to breastfeeding in public and here are my personal tips and thought patterns.
1. Focus on yourself and your Baby
When baby has awoken for a feed, cover your chest (if you feel you need to), get comfortable and focus on your baby's needs, not what other people may be thinking of you. You are feeding him/her and what a wonderful feeling it is that your milk is available on demand and served at a beautifully warm temperature. No need to make baby wait, just lift him/her up and off you go.
2. There's no need to hide
There is absolutely no need to find a quiet corner or go back to the car. You are being perfectly respectful towards others and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Stay where you are, cover yourself if you feel your top will be too revealing and off you go. A confident mum who stays put will attract positive reactions and even smiles if she looks around, whereas a shy and apologetic mum is more likely to attract a disapproving look.
3. If it's so busy and you need to go somewhere else
You might want to retreat somewhere quieter if you're out at a shopping centre or in an overcrowded place and this is perfectly fine. Large department stores, mother & baby shops and shopping centres usually offer baby changing & feeding facilities so definitely make use of these. I loved the baby feeding room in Bentalls (Kingston) next to Mama's & Papa's and it felt so lovely to retreat somewhere calm and quiet to feed Jason. You might also have a nice conversation with other breastfeeding mummies. I met a lovely lady who was tandum feeding for two years!
4. Wear something with easy access
Try to wear an outfit that will allow you to expose your chest easily, without too much delay. The quicker you're able to pull out the goods, the less likely baby is to insist and the less attention you will draw to yourself. The main idea is to feed baby as quickly as possible. I tend to avoid tight fitting clothes with zips or too many buttons - yes, even my 2 year old has a waiting time of 1-2 minutes before flying into hysterics!
5. Use a breastfeeding cover
A breastfeeding cover, such as the MamaBib for example, will give you the privacy and confidence to nurse baby out and about and you'll be able to wear pretty much anything without exposing your chest or tummy. Whichever cover you use, make sure it's easy to wear, secures well around the neck so it doesn't fall off mid-feed and it's made of a lightweight, breathable fabric. More importantly, baby needs to be comfortable to feed without getting overheated.
6. Feel proud after every Feed
Think to yourself, 'yes, I did it'. You didn't allow any feelings of discomfort or worry to impact the wonderful thing you are doing for your baby and you should feel proud. Baby is well-nourished and content and can now enjoy a nice sleep.
Feeling calm, comfortable and confident on the inside will liberate you and feeding in public will feel like the most natural thing in the world.