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Even Shy Moms Can Nurse in Public
by Jeri Carr
We went visiting out of town today, and on our drive home we pulled off the freeway to help our four year-old daughter find her pet rock that she had dropped in the car. The area looked unfamiliar to me, but my husband commented, "We've been here before. When our daughter was a baby, we stopped here when we were looking for a place to nurse her." He explained that we ended up going somewhere else because this place hadn't been secluded enough for me.
Today, more than four years after the time he recollected, I laughed at the thought because just a few miles back I had nursed our son, our second child, in our car at a grocery store not caring who saw me. We began talking about how nervous I used to be about nursing in public, and I remembered our first long road trip with our first child. During that trip, when it came time to nurse our sleepy newborn, we began looking for a reclusive place to park the car. We drove through the parking lot of a grocery store, and I anxiously told my husband that it had too many people in it. We looked some more and finally chose an empty church parking lot.
Nursing my baby while sitting in our car in a busy parking lot doesn't make me nervous anymore, and I've breastfed my children in many public places. I admit, though, that I still don't feel comfortable nursing "anywhere at anytime," but remembering how fearful I used to be helped me realize how much my confidence has grown, and my experience has shown me that having the confidence to nurse in public can make life much easier and more pleasant for a nursing mom and her child. After all, no one wants to eat in the bathroom.
Breastfeeding is the natural way to comfort and feed our babies, so why shouldn't we be able to nurse them where we want to and when they need it? I believe those words with all my heart, but the confidence it takes to nurse in public doesn't come easily to some of us, so I've put together some confidence-building suggestions for mothers who would like to nurse in public, but who are nervous about it.
- Latch on in private. Latching on can be awkward in the early weeks, but it will soon become second nature. Until you feel comfortable getting baby attached to the breast in public, one option is to go to a private place to do it; then come out and sit down. Or you can ask a friend to sit in front of you or hold up a blanket for you while your baby latches on.
- Nurse in a sling. A sling is a cloth baby carrier that is worn over one shoulder. The fabric creates a pouch in which you can lay your baby and nurse him discreetly in the cradle hold. It’s also very convenient because you can walk around while nursing and have one or two hands free to do other things. Nursing in a sling can be especially easy when mom wears nursing clothing.
- Wear clothing that makes discreet nursing easier. Buy or make nursing shirts or dresses with flaps that cover strategically-placed slots. Other clothing that
makes nursing in public easier include loose-fitting shirts that can be lifted from the bottom and button-up blouses that can be unbuttoned from the waist. Your baby’s
body will usually cover the exposed area, and the shirt will cover your baby’s mouth. For extra coverage at an inexpensive price, get a tee-shirt, cut two slits in it, and wear the tee-shirt under a larger shirt or sweater, or you can put a receiving blanket loosely around or under your baby to help hide any midriff that is exposed.
- Wear a nursing bra. Look for one that is easy to unfasten and fasten with one hand. Practice doing this at home. Or, if you have smaller breasts, you might be able to get away without wearing a bra sometimes.
- Breastfeed on cue. Watch your baby for pre-cry cues such as rooting, squirming, and chewing on his hand. If you offer to nurse before he gets too hungry, he won’t be so distressed and will be able to latch on easier and draw less attention to the two of you.
- Practice at home in front of a mirror. This will help you see what other people see. Make adjustments if necessary. Take notice of how much it looks like you are cuddling your baby or like he is sleeping.
- Socialize with other breastfeeding mothers. Practice nursing in public at a breastfeeding support group such as La Leche League. Go to the mall with a breastfeeding friend
and nurse together. Being around other nursing moms and seeing them nurse can give you the confidence boost you need.
- Cover up. If you feel most comfortable with extra coverage, you can put a baby blanket or cloth diaper on your shoulder and drape it over your baby or use a nursing cape. Some babies dislike being covered up, especially as they get older, but others enjoy it and it can give them a quiet place to nurse that is relatively free from distractions. While covering up in this way successfully hides the breastfeeding baby, it can draw more attention to the fact that a mother is nursing.
- Act confident, and you will feel more confident. Look around and smile. Have a good attitude, and people are likely to be more positive about public breastfeeding.
Remember that our breasts were made for nursing our babies. Breastfeeding in public is not a shameful thing. It is not gross or being immodest. You are simply meeting your baby's needs: isn't that what a mom is for?
This article was first published on Suite.com.