The thought of breastfeeding in public is often daunting for women experiencing breastfeeding for the first time. They are often self conscious while learning and the thought of having to do it in public may cause some anxious feelings. This is very common.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be done straight away or at all if that is what they choose. While at some point most women will manage this easily, it is a very personal decision. While your baby is young and feeding frequently finding time to go out without your baby may be challenging and for some, near on impossible. Reassurance that breastfeeding in public is something that can be done later usually helps alleviate the anxiety associated with this. Breastfeeding is a learned skill – it takes time to become comfortable and proficient with it. Once women are comfortable feeding at home, they may consider feeding when out. Commonly this happens out of necessity rather than choice, in that they find they have to go to the shops, doctor or other business to attend and it just happens. Usually they are pleasantly surprised and quite proud of their achievement that once seemed an overwhelming hurdle.
To help make breastfeeding in public easier being conscious and purposeful in what you wear can make a huge difference. Wearing tops with easy accessibility for breastfeeding is helpful. Either buttoning down the front, having a panel for access under the bra line or having easy access from the bottom or neck of the shirt are all helpful. Some women also use a wrap or blanket or specially made breastfeeding cover. This is draped over the mothers should and over baby so that the mother can breastfeed in public and remain completely discreet.
Once more confident in breastfeeding in public, women then often progress to feeding in more public places such as benches in shopping centres or footpaths, coffee shops or the car, even while walking. Aiming to time the feed so the baby is not starving hungry, squirming and crying can help keep you calm and the baby so the experience is nicer and successful for both of you.
Breastfeeding is a completely natural activity and should be widely accepted. Women should not be forced, encouraged, or directed to breastfeed in a toilet and this completely unacceptable. That is the equivalent of the rest of us eating our meals in the toilet which we would refuse to do. Nor should they feel shamed about breastfeeding in public.
Public education about the acceptance of breastfeeding in public needs continued support. Thankfully there are many groups and organisations who continue this work daily.