Breastfeeding in public

Baby with "to feed" Post-It note on foreheadOne of the undoubted plus points of breastfeeding is that you can do it anytime, anywhere. Until there comes the day when the 'anywhere' in question is the middle of a crowded shopping centre — and your baby ain't going to settle for 'anytime' but right now.

If the prospect of attaching a small child to your breast in full view of a couple of hundred strangers has you squirming with embarrassment, you need these Mumsnet tips.

What should I wear to breastfeed in public?

Some clothes don't lend themselves to a spot of discreet feeding on the bus. Dresses, for example, can make it almost impossible to feed without revealing all.

Your best bet is a baggy top that allows easy access to your breasts and can also hide your baby feeding if you want to be discreet. You can buy special breastfeeding T-shirts but something baggy will generally do. Make sure you have practised the one-handed bra pop with a good feeding bra, so there is no awkward hoiking to be done.

Getting the latch right

The moment that your baby latches on can be the most nerve-wracking for the inaugural public breastfeed. You can feel as if your 'technique' is on show and the pressure is on to get it right. Once your baby's plugged onto your breast, their head will do the job of covering you up and you can pop a muslin square or a scarf over them if you want extra coverage.

Stay calm, concentrate on getting the latch right without worrying about the reactions of people around you, and focus on making sure you and your baby are both comfortable. You will soon be popping him under your top and latching him onto your breast in seconds.

Know your rights and develop a thick skin

Remember, it's not illegal or immoral to breastfeed your baby in public and in many countries, including Scotland, it's your legal right to be left to do so in peace. It is important you feel comfortable and happy feeding your baby.

Try to develop a thick skin, exude confidence (even if you are feeling nervous) and let any negative comments or staring bounce off you. Remind yourself that what you're doing is a completely natural part of being a mum. Remember, most people won't bat an eyelid and will let you feed your baby in peace.

Build up a cache of good places to breastfeed

Necessity is the mother of invention and you will soon build up a bank of good failsafe breastfeeding spots when you're out and about, whether it's a café, a handy bench, changing rooms or shops with special breastfeeding spaces (often near the toilets - a bit bleeugh but handy when your baby's wailing and you can't face another latte).

What Mumsnetters say about breastfeeding in public

  • Wear baggy tops (not buttoned). And choose your feeding bras carefully! Try them on and practise getting them undone one-handed without having to have a great big rummage under your top. SoupDragon
  • At first, I would use a muslin square: I'd tuck one corner under my bra strap on the side I was feeding and use the other end to shield my daughter's head. But after a while, I just got really good at putting her on and no longer needed the muslin square. MammyShirl
  • Practise feeding your baby in front of a mirror first. I did that and realised that other people could see nothing, not even a flash from the front when I was getting him on and off. I, of course, could see everything because I was on the other side looking down. adath
  • I was terrified of breastfeeding in public after I witnessed a poor woman being shouted at by a teenage girl whilst she was breastfeeding in a cafe. I wasn't sure if I could ever do it in public. But I started out feeding in changing rooms, then, after a few months, I no longer cared. I'd feed anywhere. It takes a while to learn how to latch on discreetly but you'll soon be an expert. Bekki

Dealing with negative comments

They come out of nowhere the nanosecond you start to breastfeed (and sometimes when you're only just thinking about trying). They are the naysayers, the bearers of doom-laden warnings and the, frankly, not very helpful at all. So, to help you fend them off, here are some (polite) retorts:

  1. You're feeding that baby too often. "No, I'm not - I'm building my supply. Breastfeeding works on a demand-and-supply basis. The more my baby feeds, the more milk my body will make."
  2. You can't see how much your baby's taking. "As long as my baby's well attached and producing plenty of wet and dirty nappies, she's taking just what she needs. With a bottle, the danger is that, precisely because you can see how much she's taking, you might be tempted to cajole her into taking more than she wants. And that could mean you end up with a baby who routinely eats more than she needs."
  3. Nobody else can help you with the feeding. "Once I've got breastfeeding established, I can express my milk and share feeding that way. If you'd like to help, there are lots of other things I'd love a hand with, such as [insert as appropriate] cooking/cleaning/taking the baby round the block in the pram, perhaps?"
  4. Your breasts will get saggy. "Actually, it's pregnancy that makes women's breasts change size and shape. Because a milk-filled breast is full and round, breastfeeding actually delays the post-natal boob-droop for a bit."
  5. You've got small breasts, so you won't make enough milk. "The size of my breasts has absolutely no impact on the amount of milk they can produce." 
  6. Your baby's six months old - it's officially time to stop. "No, the official advice is to breastfeed exclusively for six months. After six months, I can introduce my baby to other foods but it's recommended that I still keep breastfeeding for another six months - or more."
  7. There's no harm in giving a bottle of formula now and then. "Actually, in the early days, while I'm still establishing my milk supply, regularly skipping a breastfeed to give formula could reduce the amount of milk my breasts produce, which could mean I find breastfeeding much harder work or even have to give it up altogether." For more on this, see Mixed feeding.
  8. Breastfed babies don't sleep through the night; formula-fed babies do. "I know lots of people think this but there's really no evidence to show it's true; in fact, in one of the few studies ever to investigate this, it was the breastfed babies who slept, on average, 30 minutes longer than the formula-fed ones."


Last updated: over 1 year ago