Mastering the Art of Nursing in Public
Experts agree that breastfeeding supports the healthy development of your baby and your overall well-being and it establishes a lasting bond with your little one. Breastfeeding is also conveniently portable. But if you’re like many new moms, embarrassment and a fear of judgment may make you nervous about nursing in public.
“Feeding Baby on the go is very doable and takes just a little know-how and practice to get the hang of it,” says Marji Stark, a St. Luke’s International board certified lactation consultant.
Start slow. Give yourself time to adjust to new motherhood and your baby’s feeding habits. Plan to keep your outings short, nurse your infant before you leave home and again before you get out of the car.
“Practice at home in front of the mirror,” says Kelly Josephine, RN, IBCLC, North Kansas City Hospital Lactation Services. And for your first few outings, choose “a low-stress environment such as a park.”
Plan ahead. As you get more comfortable with breastfeeding and predicting when your baby will want to eat, you’ll feel less anxiety when you head out. Wear clothing that makes nursing easy. Many moms opt for nursing tops or tanks with an over-shirt. Light scarves or blankets also can provide coverage. Pack an extra shirt in case of leaks or spills.
“There are many breastfeeding covers that vary in complexity from the type of fabric, slings and other customizations. Find one that works for you,” Josephine says, who recommends BabyWearingInternational.com.
Know where to go. Ask other nursing moms where they breastfeed when they’re out and about. Patronize area businesses and family attractions friendly toward nursing mothers, like Nordstrom’s, Toys R Us, the Kansas City Zoo, Union Station and Kauffman Stadium, which offer special rooms for moms to breastfeed.
“Our Royals recently renovated their breastfeeding room and, wow, does it look amazing,” Stark says. “The team even included a TV so moms won’t miss a play when they slip out of the heat to take care of Baby. Another reason to love our hometown team!”
Seek quiet spots to feed your baby, like clean dressing rooms in department stores and booths or corner tables that offer some privacy in restaurants.
But avoid bathrooms, Stark says. “Babies should not have to eat in a restroom—adults never do.”
You also can seek shelter in your car or ask a friend or family member to help “shield” you while you breastfeed, Josephine says.
Seek support. “New mothers need to be around new mothers,” Stark says.
Most area hospitals offer weekly educational meet-ups for nursing mothers, where they can find encouragement and support from other moms.
“Mothers who attend a breastfeeding support group gain confidence, are more comfortable nursing in public and tend to nurse longer than mothers who do not,” she says.
To find additional support, check out your local La Leche League, Facebook groups like Mom2Mom Global for military families or Breast, Bottle and Beyond, and consult with your pediatrician for a referral to a lactation consultant.
“Once you’ve found your breastfeeding bravado, look for opportunities to encourage mothers coming along behind you. A smile and a thumbs up to a mother nursing on a park bench or at the table next to you goes a long way,” Stark says.
Know the law. When you know your rights, you’ll feel more confident with your choices. Both Kansas and Missouri support breastfeeding mothers. Part of the breastfeeding law in Kansas states: “A mother may breastfeed in any place she has a right to be.” And in Missouri it states that mothers “may breastfeed or express breastmilk in public or private locations where they are authorized to be.”
For more information about state breastfeeding laws and federal laws for working mothers who nurse, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures, NCSL.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx.
Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines resides in Olathe with her husband and their two children. Christa is the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.
Keep track of Baby’s eating habits, sleep and more with free breastfeeding apps:
• My Medela
• Baby Nursing/Breastfeeding
• Baby Feeding Log
• Eat Sleep: Simple Baby Tracking
Did You Know?
• Breastfeed even if you’re sick. Your body makes antibodies that get passed along to your baby through your breast milk, helping to boost your infant’s immune system.
• Breastfeeding can save a family more than $1,200 to $1,500 in formula-related expenses in the first year alone.
• Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in moms.