When I need to feed my baby, I want to do it now. I don’t want to fuss with covers. I don’t want to find a discrete location. I don’t want to remove myself from the action. I want to feed my baby and keep doing what I was doing.
I exclusively breastfed Kate for the first year of her life. Not so much because I wanted to but because that girl refused the bottle. And when I say refused I mean screamed her brains out and acted as if we were pouring fire down her throat. Bleary eyed and strung out, Dan and I trekked to Babys R Us in search of the most boob-like nipple on the market. And we tried them all! And she hated them all!
This left me without any choice but to exclusively breastfeed her. Both a blessing. And a challenge. Because it meant I had to get real good and real comfortable with breastfeeding her, on demand, in any location. Or else never leave my house.
Never leaving wasn’t an option. So through trial and error, I became the on-demand, any-time feeding service.
I struggled a lot at first and required 7,165 pillows stuffed in and all around me to make the process work. But that meant I couldn’t ever leave the house. So slowly I started using less and less accouterments and testing out different positions at home. And then the day came when I felt like I could take my show on the road.
After breastfeeding three babies (at truck stops, at the grocery, while getting my hair colored) in public, I feel completely confident and not at all afraid to get the job done. At a recently MOPS meeting one of the ladies asked me about strategies and tips for breastfeeding in public. I wish I had these ideas before I started nursing, so I thought I’d share for those moms also trying to get more comfortable nursing in public.
Tip #1: Relax. No one is looking at you.
This is probably the hardest part to overcome. I was SURE everyone was staring at me. But, really, they aren’t. I can’t tell you how many times people didn’t even know I was nursing. I know this because I’d be at some sort of thing in public where at some point I flipped my baby onto his or her side to eat, maneuvered my clothes, and kept on doing what I was doing, and someone would come up to me to admire my baby and say, “oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were nursing.”
Along with relaxing, stay calm. The calmer I was, the easier it was to get my baby to latch and eat. The more flustered I got, the less likely my baby was going to get with the program.
If the baby is having a hard time getting started, maybe go somewhere private to get going, then come back to whatever you were doing, if that makes you more comfortable.
Tip #2: Practice at home.
Practice at home without all your stuff. Get comfortable holding the baby in your arms rather than using a pillow. Try walking while nursing. Try nursing while typing at your computer. I knew I got real good when I was nursing Kate with one arm and mopping with the other while cradling my phone in my neck and talking with my mom.
Tip #3: Wear the right stuff.
Bras and such are personal preferences. However, if you just go with a nursing bra and a regular shirt, you’re going to have to be okay with exposing half of your body when you pull up your shirt. I’m personally not cool with that. So instead I purchased five white Gilligan and O’Malley nursing tanks from Target, and I wear one under my shirt every single day. That way, when I pulled up my shirt, I still had a shirt underneath, so I wasn’t exposing half of my body. I’ve used this method with all my babies, and it works beautifully. Yes, that means you are wearing two shirts, which, in the summer months makes me a titch sweatier than normal. But, to me, this system is the key to nursing comfortably in public.
(I’ve also used Undercover Mama, but I personally prefer the nursing tanks.)
Tip #4: Have your burp cloth at the ready.
I’m never without a burp cloth (and a decent sized one at that) because all my babies spit up. And I mean spit up. Like a lot. I sometimes tuck the burp cloth between the baby and my tank after the baby gets going as a barrier in case he or she started dribbling (so I don’t get soaking wet). And sometimes I drape the burp cloth loosely over my shoulder on the side the baby is nursing, so when he or she pops off, I’m not totally exposed.
Tip #5: Make your first few times nursing in public at the easiest settings.
Try the first few times in an easy setting. Maybe at a friend’s house or at a not-so-busy time at the grocery. Go for an early or late lunch so there won’t be so many people and you’ll have the pick of the seating. Keeping upping the ante. I recently nursed my baby at a wedding…during the ceremony. You got to do what you got to do.
Tip #6: Get crafty using your favorite baby carrier.
The day I learned to breastfeed while my baby was in the Ergo was life changing. This is another thing that I’d recommend practicing at home. Get the feel for it then take your show on the road. I already love the freedom that comes with wearing my babies, so wearing while breastfeeding was the ultimate. I’ve nursed Thomas in the Ergo down the aisles at Wegmans and Costco many times.
Breastfeeding is hard! And breastfeeding a squirmy baby in public isn’t easy. But I promise the more you do it, the better you (and your baby) will get at it. I know people have had terrible experiences nursing in public. That makes me sad. I personally haven’t ever had anyone say anything but encouraging and kind words to me, and for that, I’m grateful. And if someone ever said anything nasty, well then, I’ll just use my boob like a Nerf gun and squirt them in the eye. Just kidding! (Or am I?!)
So go on, Mama! Nurse that baby. You can do it!