Data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates breastfeeding is one of the most important things a woman can do to ensure her long-term health and the health of her newborn baby. The centers' public awareness campaign seems to be catching on. In 2010, 49% of all new mothers breastfed their babies for at least six months, a big increase from just a decade earlier, when only 35% did so in 2000.
Breastfeeding, however, is often easier said than done. Not every woman is physically capable of breastfeeding and others find it impossible to work it into an already-busy schedule. Even mothers who embrace the practice find it to be a mission too tricky to accomplish all the time, especially when breastfeeding in public.
These 10 tips for making peace with public breastfeeding may help overcome some of the obstacles. They come from the voice of experience: Chaunie Brusie, a nurse specializing in labor and delivery who breastfed her own three babies.
- Keep a cover-up handy. Specially made cover-ups exist but sometimes all you really need is a season-appropriate baby blanket.
- Ask for a discreetly located booth in the back of a restaurant. Booths provide the most cover to hide behind and the backs of restaurants are usually the emptiest.
- At the mall, find a comfy dressing room with a seat to cozy up in.
- Sneak away to the car. Keep keys with baby supplies so it's easy to slip away to the relaxing privacy of your car during social events.
- Rethink the mission. Instead of viewing breastfeeding as a sometimes-inconvenient chore that must be accomplished, think of it as private time for bonding and cuddling for just you and the baby.
- Stock up on tank tops. A long tank top fits perfectly under most blouses and tops and you can easily slip the tank down on one side under the top while the baby's feeding.
- Stretchy, inexpensive bras may work better than more expensive nursing bras. Sometimes pulling one stretchy cup up or down is more discreet than fumbling with hooks, snaps, and other hardware.
- Expect stares from strangers, rude adults, and curious kiddos.
- Accept your own comfort level. Some breastfeeding moms exhibit no qualms whatsoever at getting down to public feeding but others are more modest. You’ll probably find yourself somewhere in the middle.
- There are no rules. Do what's comfortable for you and your baby; nobody else really matters.
In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, it is perfectly legal to breastfeed your baby in public. It's a maternal thing, not a sex thing.