By law, breastfeeding mothers cannot be discriminated against or asked to leave an establishment because they are breastfeeding. If you are receiving a service, like eating at a café or walking around a clothing store, and your little one is hungry then and there, it is completely within your rights to breastfeed your child.
For some mums, the tricky part of having a hungry baby when out-and-about can be the fear of negative reactions from those nearby. You may be nervous about receiving unwanted comments or nasty looks. Maybe you’ve received them in the past, and you’re sick of feeling judged and unsafe while doing one of the most natural things in the world!
You should never have to feel in the wrong or uncomfortable when feeding your little one. Nor should you feel like you can’t leave the house in case you will need to feed.
Some mothers feel tense or anxious when trying to feed in public, which can make the feeding experience difficult for both mum and baby. If you do struggle to feel at ease in the public, that is understandable. There is nothing wrong with seeking out the parent’s room or ducking back to the car. If this is what makes you feel comfortable, listen to your own needs.
Normalising breastfeeding in public could help break up the negative stigma sometimes associated with it. You can be part of the normalising process by:
● Being gentle and understanding of your situation, and hope others follow your lead. Explain to others that as a mother, your baby’s needs are more important than some people’s shock when it comes to seeing breastfeeding.
● Be proud! Breastfeeding mums are performing a beautiful, life-giving act. Feel powerful and strong that you are capable of something so wonderful.
● If you’re comfortable having some level of skin or breast exposed while you’re out for lunch and your little one’s hungry, that is fine. If your personal preference is to feel more covered up, try dressing in layers. Nursing bras are a very suitable way to have minimal exposure during breastfeeding.
● Some mums find it helpful to build up to feeding in public. If you’re nervous about it, try beginning by covering yourself to meet your comfort, and feeding in front of a smaller group of people. Layers can be helpful, like a singlet under a button-down shirt, with a shawl to drape over your shoulders and front.
Some mothers have said that seeing other mums breastfeed in public helped them feel confident to do it themselves. Think of public breastfeeding as a way to encourage fellow parents to ditch the shame, and positively influence the next generation of mothers soon to be in this position.
The best thing you can do is make decisions based on you and your baby’s needs and comforts, not what strangers might think or say. So next time you need to feed in public, listen to your own needs, and manage the situation with your comfort and your little one’s well-being in mind.