Is it really as scary as the media makes out?
It’s not difficult to see why a lot of women are fearful of breastfeeding in public. Whenever we see anything about feeding babies in public it is usually negative, with women being subjected to rude comments or being asked to cover up. This is the exception, not the norm. Hundreds of babies are being breastfed in public every single day. The vast majority of people will not even notice that you are breastfeeding, and the people who do will either not care or will give you an encouraging smile! Of the tiny amount of people who do have a problem with it, most won’t dare to say anything. Unfortunately, stories about women feeding in public without any sort of negative reaction do not make good news stories, so we don’t hear about those, even though it’s a daily occurrence.
Young babies need to breastfeed at least 8-12 times a day and don’t usually feed in any sort of routine. Unless you are going to lock yourself away for the first year of your baby’s life, chances are they will want to feed whilst you are in a public place at some point. Don’t hide away in the toilets. Nobody wants to eat their dinner surrounded by flecks of fecal matter, babies included. A lot of us are nervous the first couple times we feed in public, but you will soon realise that it is nothing to worry about!
In the UK your right to breastfeed in public is protected by the Equality Act of 2010. This legislation makes it illegal for you to be asked to move or cover up, or suffer any other form of discrimination for breastfeeding in a public place, no matter how old your child is. This applies to all public places and forms of public transport, as well as your workplace, school, university, and your child’s school or nursery. Some places have adopted the ‘breastfeeding welcome scheme’ or the BFN ‘breastfeeding friendly scheme’ and display a sticker in their window telling you that you are welcome to feed there. You don’t have to search around for those though, you’re welcome to feed anywhere and many places which are breastfeeding friendly aren’t aware of the scheme!
In Australia, the federal Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 gives you the same legal protection as in the UK, and as of 2018, breastfeeding in public is a legal right in all 50 states of the USA.
What if someone does say something?
If someone says something to you, the liklihood is that it will be positive! The very first time I breastfed my second baby in public (in a restaurant when he was 10 days old) an elderly lady came up to me and congratulated me in my birth and told me how wonderful it is to see a baby being fed in ‘the normal way’. When this happens, tell other women about it to help them feel more confident!
If someone says something negative to you, call them out. You know your legal rights, you know that breastfeeding is the biological norm, and you know that they are in the wrong. Use your voice, even if it shakes. That person is an idiot, and we’ve got your back. Maybe suggest they throw a blanket over their head or take their dinner to the toilet. You don’t have to justify yourself to people like that!
I want to cover up
You do not have to cover up if you don’t want to, but lots of people do want to, and that’s fine. There are a lot of options to keep your body covered whilst you breastfeed:
- The two top method. This is what I’m doing in the first photo on this post. It was freezing and I didn’t fancy exposing my skin in that weather! Wear your normal clothes with a stretchy vest or nursing vest underneath. When baby needs to feed, pull one top up and one top down. Try this whilst sitting infront of a mirror–you just look like you’re having a cuddle with your baby, can’t see a thing! You can make your own nursing vests by cutting off the straps and making little loops to hook it onto your nursing bra, or by just cutting holes out for your nipples, mean girls style!
- Nursing tops. There are loads out there, but the nice ones often aren’t cheap! There are also a lot of tutorials to convert your own clothes into nursing clothes on pinterest
- Tops/dresses with zips, buttons, or a wrapover design. My favourites are ones which wrap over. So quick and easy! There’s an awesome site called can I breastfeed in it who have lots of tips and tricks for finding breastfeeding-friendly clothes
- If you want to cover more skin, a muslin cloth or small blanket over your shoulder does the trick
- Nursing covers are a good option of you want to be completely covered, most nursing covers alow you to be fully covered whilst still being able to see your baby, but bear in mind that these cover your baby too and lots of babies don’t like that! Older babies will often pull them off, and they can get quite warm it hot weather. They are useful for babies who are easily distracted though.
Emma Pickett shares some great tips for overcoming your fear of breastfeeding in public here.