10 tips for feeding in public
When your baby needs to eat, there's often no waiting until you get home or until it's a more convenient time. Feeding your baby in public can be a necessity when they're small - but it can also be intimidating, especially when you're still learning to breastfeed and feel self-conscious about it. Frances McInnes shares her suggestions for feeling more comfortable feeding your baby when you're out and about.
- Know your rights. Under the Human Rights Act, it is illegal for someone to stop you breastfeeding in public. You are legally entitled to breastfeed your baby in your workplace or the place where you study, on public transport, in parks and reserves, in cafés, restaurants, and shops, in churches and libraries, and when visiting government departments - basically anywhere. If someone asks you to stop breastfeeding, or to leave because you're breastfeeding, you can make a complaint against them to the Human Rights Commission. Contact 0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS (0800 496 877) to find out more.
- Take along a friend.The first few times you venture out with your baby can be so stressful - so many things to pack and take along, while you're still in a daze from sleep deprivation and haven't quite got your schedule sorted yet. It can be helpful to have a friend there to assist you, especially while you're feeding, to fetch you things from your nappy bag, adjust your shawl if it falls down and you feel like you don't have enough hands to grab it while holding your baby, and to get the coffee while you're getting baby settled at the breast. Having a friend on hand can also give you a bit more confidence, as you won't feel like everyone is looking at you if there are two of you!
- Look for a parents' room. Many shopping malls have parents' rooms with sofas and chairs for breastfeeding mums. As they're semi-private, there won't be as many distractions - or people - around , so you and your baby will be more relaxed and can get the job done faster.
- Invest in a nursing cover. If you're worried about exposing your breasts or tummy while breastfeeding, a special nursing cover can be quite handy. They're designed to be comfortable and discreet but still allow you to see your baby while they're feeding. They come in a range of gorgeous fabrics and colours so you can coordinate with your outfit, and they're compact enough that you can simply keep one in the nappy bag for when you're out.
- Only do what you are comfortable with. Your best friend may have no problem at all breastfeeding her baby while sipping a latte at the local coffee shop. You might not be quite ready to do that yet, and it's okay. It may take you a little while before feeding is second nature. Go at your own pace, and if it's all a bit too much, don't berate yourself if you decide that you just want to go home and try again another day.
- Choose breastfeeding-friendly clothing. Nursing tops, breastfeeding tunics, and nursing dresses are all great options for breastfeeding on the go. They have hidden openings allowing you to feed your baby easily, while keeping clothing displacement to a minimum!
- Get a good, supportive nursing bra. Breastfeeding bras are a no-brainer for the breastfeeding mum, as they are easy to hook and unhook when you switch sides without having to fiddle around too much. Nursing bras come in a range of comfortable fabrics that will make you feel good about wearing them - and when you're tired and a little frazzled, having a pretty breastfeeding bra can give your confidence a nice little boost.
- Take it in steps. Do a test run at a friend's house to start, so you'll still be in a comfortable and accepting environment while you get your bearings and learn what goes where when breastfeeding away from home. Next time, head to a coffee group or mothers' group, to continue to feed in supportive surroundings with other like-minded people. Once you feel confident in those places, venture out to a coffee with a friend, before working up to solo trips.
- Practise makes perfect. Breastfeed your baby in front of a mirror so you can see just what you look like - you may be pleasantly surprised to see that you don't look anything like you think you do, and it's likely that others won't even notice when you're breastfeeding your baby. The truth is, 99.999% of women aren't the least bit interested in flashing their breasts while they breastfeed - and hardly any of the breast is seen anyway, as your baby's head and body will cover almost everything that others can see.
- Give yourself a pep talk. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing you can do for your baby. There's nothing disgusting or gross about it - it's beautiful and it's the perfect way to feed your little one. It's not something that you should feel like you need to hide away. Remind yourself that you are not only feeding your baby, you are creating a special bond with him, and helping him to grow and thrive. You deserve a round of applause!
Published with special thanks to Frances McInnes from www.breastmates.co.nz