You don’t hear much about shy moms breastfeeding in public. Rather you mostly hear viral stories about the opposite. You hear about the brave and proud mom when told to cover up while breastfeeding, instead of stopping, responded by creatively covering her own face with a blanket. Stories like that are so empowering and inspiring. But for a shy mom, I felt all the more frustrated that I could not overcome my fear of breastfeeding in public. It terrified me.
Feeding Baby In Public Is Inevitable
At first, I caved into my fears and I didn’t go in public much with my baby. If we did go out in public, I made sure we returned home by his meal times. So I was that mom, who was both a slave to nap time and meal time. It was isolating. I felt guilty for us both, as I knew my son loved nothing more than to be out discovering and exploring the world around him. Plus, sometimes it was inevitable that we had to go out during feeding times. I knew I had to make a change.
Finally, I bit the bullet, and broke through the shackles of shyness. I finally began breastfeeding him in public. Those first few times breastfeeding in public were downright scary. My thoughts would race of every conceivable scenario of what could go wrong (and sometimes they did). Think: crowded room, exposed breast, screaming baby, and all eyes on you. It took all I had not to tuck my son under my arm and sprint straight home like Usain Bolt (and never enter a public setting ever again). Sometimes even when everything went just right, breastfeeding in public still terrified me.
As mothers, we all face different obstacles in our motherhood journey. Breastfeeding my baby (who wouldn’t take a bottle) in public was an obstacle I had to overcome for my son’s happiness and my own, because no one should feel trapped at home. For the mothers like me, here are some tips and tricks that helped me gain confidence to breastfeed in public, because no one should be afraid to feed their baby in public:
Practice At Home
Practice makes perfect, and breastfeeding is no different. Practice at home exactly like you plan to breastfeed in public. If you are going to use a nursing scarf, try it at home and see how baby reacts. Some babies, particularly older babies, refuse to be covered up when nursing. In that case, just cover part of baby or practice blocking yourself with the stroller. Invite people over to your home and practice breastfeeding in front of them. Pro Tip: There is no requirement that you have to tell your friends that this is why they were invited over.
Practice In A Familiar Public Place
Once you feel comfortable breastfeeding at home in front of other people, move on to somewhere else you feel comfortable and familiar. For instance, try to breastfeed in a mom-friendly location or mom meet up. I found that locations with other mothers were an easy place to start. I began breastfeeding in front of other moms at a local breastfeeding support group. That group gave me the encouragement, tips, and confidence to try other public places. I found the more I practiced in front of other people, the more confident I became.
Hide In Plain Sight
Breastfeeding in public does not mean you need to breastfeed in front of everyone. Particularly if you have a baby that does not want to miss a moment of the action. It was much easier to find a quiet corner or nook to breastfeed discreetly (and a less likely chance baby will become distracted). For instance, if we were at a busy store or restaurant, I would take my son outside to breastfeed. If I couldn’t find a discreet location, as a last resort, I would breastfeed in my car.
Recognize the Hunger Cues
At first, successful breastfeeding can be a lot about timing. I learned to recognize my baby’s early hunger signs. I learned this hard way, by procrastinating those first times. It was near impossible to breastfeed my ravenous baby, in public and in private. Finally I realized that procrastination was not my friend. It was much easier to breastfeed a calm baby than a crying baby. If he ever did become upset, once again, I would calm him down before attempting to breastfeed.
Wear Nursing-Friendly Clothes
Again, another lesson learned the hard way. There is nothing worse than hearing your baby’s hunger cries while struggling to breastfeed because your clothes are too tight. It is much easier to wear clothes that are loose and accessible.. Alternatively, you can nurse baby while baby while in a carrier. Unfortunately, I never developed this skill, but I imagine it would be a great way to balance privacy and comfort.
Join A Breastfeeding Support Group
Locally, I attended the Halifax Health Breastfeeding Support Group which helped me realize that breastfeeding is not a big deal! It is a normal and natural process. I met other moms going though the same thing and also going through their own struggles. It was with these women that I eventually conquered my fears to breastfeed in public and life changed for the better.
Looking back I realize that I let myself get too much into my head. No one is paying attention to a mother trying to breastfeed her baby. The only thing people care about is that your baby isn’t crying. But, hindsight is 20/20. So for the other moms that are fearful of exposure, use the stroller as a barrier to block anyone from seeing you. For further coverage, use a nursing scarf or blanket to cover yourself and baby. I preferred a light nursing scarf style rather than a structured cover.
DBM Pro Tip: If you choose to cover yourself with a nursing scarf, make sure you practice beforehand so you know how your baby will react to being covered. Some babies refuse to latch if they are covered up (another lesson learned the hard way).
Bring a Bottle
If you are worried that you cannot do it, take the pressure off yourself and bring a bottle for baby instead. There is no point in adding unnecessary pressure to yourself. Consider it a bump in the road to your final destination. Remember, the most important thing is that you feed your baby, not that you breastfeed in public.
People always have opinions about how mothers should parent their babies. Breastfeeding is no different. Someone at some point will be a offended by a breastfeeding mother in public. Remember, it is legal in every state to breastfeed in public. Focus on your baby and remember the purpose of why you are breastfeeding baby in public, and that is to provide baby the proper nourishment! Most people would prefer a happy content fed baby than a screaming hungry baby. And to the people that have a problem with it, bye Felicia.
To my fellow shy moms, I hope you gain something from the tricks I learned along the way. Because without a doubt, there is nothing to be afraid of. Once I overcame the shyness of breastfeeding in public, I became both a happier and a better mom. Enjoy the journey!
If you enjoyed this, you may like 10 Things To Expect When Weaning A Toddler.
Photo Credit: KVdesigns