Updated 12 March 2014

Breastfeeding in public

Should or shouldn't you breastfeed in public? If you do, here are some handy hints to make it easier for you and those around you.


In the article "No more boob taboos" the writer re-opens the breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding debate, and she wonders whether breastfeeding in public is acceptable. 

Breastfeeding in public without offending anyone or embarrassing slip-ups takes some practise and a few tips.  Some moms feel uncomfortable with the concept, and there are sectors of society seem to frown upon public breastfeeding - all of which make it more difficult for a new mom out and about with her baby.

Take heart from the fact that you are doing the best for your baby and use these guidelines/tips to make it easier for you:

  • Ask people if they mind: it is courteous to warn those around you that you are about to feed your baby. That way, if they really are offended, it gives them a chance to leave the room!
  • Do it discretely: as long as you are discreet about putting your baby to the breast, most people will not mind you feeding in front of them. Use a blanket or a towelling nappy to cover you while feeding.
  • Wear the right clothes: make sure you have a top on that will open just enough to allow your baby to get access to your breast without exposing you too much. A two-piece outfit is best, as you can just lift up or unbutton the top. You can use a jacket or over-shirt as a "screen" to hide your breast and baby. There are also special maternity T-shirts available.
  • Feed in a sling: a cloth one that goes over your shoulders shields your baby from view.
  • Use a blanket: what would we do without receiving blankets? One of their many uses is to drape discreetly over your shoulder and your baby. Just make sure that your baby does not get too hot, and that he can breathe freely.
  • Hurry up: feed your baby as soon as he starts niggling for food, or you'll soon have a screamer on your hands, which is bound to attract even more attention.
  • Find a place: if you are not in a place that has a special breastfeeding room, find a private place like the change room of a shop, or the corner of a restaurant, with your back to the room.
  • Changing rooms: if you are uncomfortable about feeding in public go to any clothing store nearby and ask them if you can use the changing rooms to quickly feed your baby. This way you will not need to use public toilets which are not really ideal places to feed a baby.
  • Persevere: breastfeeding becomes second nature after a while and you can latch a hungry baby in seconds. In addition, your baby can go longer without a feed, so you may be able to get round your errands without having to feed your baby.

Remember, it is your right to breastfeed your baby – and your baby's right to be fed! So be discreet to minimise any embarrassment, but don't be put off your decision to breastfeed.

(Mary van Ede)


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