Even though breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world, some women still feel uncomfortable doing it in public. There are all sorts of reasons why, ranging from a genuine feeling of shyness, to having a baby who fusses and is easily distracted when they breastfeed. Constant pulling on and off the breast can lead to more exposure of the breast and nipple than having a baby who simply attaches and just gets on with the business of feeding.
Some environments are also more conducive to breastfeeding than others. Mother’s groups, playgroups, going to a friend’s house can all be more comfortable places to breastfeed than, for example, at a football match or a local tavern. In locations where a lot of men gather, women can feel more uncomfortable breastfeeding than if there are mainly women present. But it is important to remember that men, especially fathers themselves, are not usually bothered by the sight of a woman feeding her baby. If you are relaxed and matter of fact about it, then this will flow on to the people around you. After an initial acknowledgment of what you are doing, most people just get on with their own business and don’t even give a backwards glance. The vast majority of people are supportive of breastfeeding and see it as genuinely valuable.
A relaxed mother transfers these feelings onto her baby. If you are tense and on edge when you feed, this may affect your let-down response so your baby does not have the benefit of a complete feed.
It is important for all mothers to advocate for their babies as well – no matter how they feed. Your baby has the right to feed when and where they need to. Little they care for where they are and how others may perceive you both. Babies are not known for their social graces; if they are hungry they let everyone in close vicinity know about it.
Feel good about the fact that you have the convenience of being able to feed your baby wherever you are and that by law, you and your baby are protected. Anti-discrimination legislation protects breastfeeding mothers and it is an offence to exclude or restrict mothers and their breastfeeding babies from public places. Similarly, mothers who bottle feed are entitled to the same rights.
“No I can’t go out, the baby’s due for a feed”
There are some mothers who say they dread feed times so much when they’re out that it is simply easier for them to stay at home, but doing this is just not realistic. Nor is it healthy. Mothers are not meant to isolate themselves from others and it is important to maintain social contacts and interactions.
There is also the issue of normalising breastfeeding in our society and the contribution each and every breastfeeding mother and her baby makes to this. All age brackets benefit from being reminded that this is the way babies are meant to feed. Younger generations of girls, particularly, gain from learning what is involved in breastfeeding.
How to hold a baby, how to cradle them correctly, how to look and talk to a baby when they breastfeed are all valuable lessons which are picked up through casual observation. Feel proud that you are offering your baby the ideal milk, which is designed to help them grow and develop.
Options for Breastfeeding When Away from Home
- If you are in a house, you may want to breastfeed in a separate room away from other people. But it is important you don’t feel pressured or shamed into doing this.
- Find a quiet spot, with a comfortable chair or bed to lie down if this works better for you both.
- Shopping centres usually have parent’s rooms which are set up to support breast and bottle feeding parents. But if you’d prefer, feel free to park yourself wherever it suits you.
- You could sit in your car if this is comfortable or a park bench or on the ground. That’s one of the benefits of breastfeeding; it’s portable and doesn’t require more than a couple of specifics, e.g. your breasts and your baby.
There are many cover options available to breastfeeding mothers, from the most basic cotton or muslin wrap draped carefully over the breasts and baby to the more complex, such as purpose designed shawls and covers.
- Some companies specialise in the manufacture of breastfeeding drapes, shawls, wraps and covers. The internet gives a range of options.
- Baby bonnets are available which fit over the baby’s head and have such a large, soft brim that this covers the mother’s breast entirely. Aside from appearing rather cute, these look like they would work rather well, except in really hot weather.
- Mother’s breastfeeding tops which can be pulled up so the baby has access to the nipple though none of the mother’s breast is exposed.
- American companies often refer to breastfeeding covers as “Nursing Covers”.
- Most fabric sewn covers have adjustable straps; a one size fits all design, different material patterns and are made from easily washable fabric.
- Fabric in covers tends to be opaque, allowing for more discretion and with enough material to drape generously from the mother’s chest, over the baby and down to her waist. Some even claim they are big enough to allow for breastfeeding twins.
- Some mothers use a purpose designed strap across the back of their neck which has clips on either end. These can be used to secure a muslin wrap or small sheet which then covers the baby.
Breastfeeding covers can also be useful for expressing. If you are at work and can’t access a private area, then using a cover can be a practical solution.
Tips to Consider when Choosing a Breastfeeding Cover
- Make sure the fabric is washable, breathable and made of natural fibre.
- Avoid using a cover which is bulky and isn’t easy to drape. If it’s not simple to use then you’re unlikely to use it.
- Check to see the cover has enough of a gap around your neckline so you can check on what the baby is up to.
- Do your research into prices and options. These vary significantly.
- Even if you have basic sewing skills, you could save yourself some money and make your own cover. They are essentially just a square piece of material.
- See how small each cover is when it is folded. Transporting something which is bulky and cumbersome will just be irritating – you will have enough to carry.
Last Published* November, 2021
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.