We’re inundated with pictures of gorgeous women in skimpy clothes in our culture, with breasts being highly sexualised, and used in marketing material (often scantily clad) to promote everything from cars to stationary (yes, really!).
They are associated with strong messages of attractiveness and sexuality. With such highly sexualised imagery of breasts it can be bizarre and confronting when you start using them to nurse your baby. Before motherhood it seems as though breasts are personal, private parts of our bodies, only seen by ourselves and our sexual partners.
Then, after childbirth, you’re left with a tiny babe suckling on your breast. The sucking sensation can feel foreign and strange as you look down in wonder at this tiny little being attached to your breast. For some women, getting the right attachment, worrying about supply and even more complicated issues such as tongue tie make the first weeks of breastfeeding stressful. For others, their baby just latches on and they find the whole experience easy and natural.
The next big step is learning to breastfeed in public. Depending on where you do it, you’re just as likely to get a smile of acknowledgement from someone as you are to get an unwelcome comment.
Breastfeeding in public may make you feel exposed and you may worry about ‘flashing’ everyone. However, the more uncomfortable you feel, the harder it becomes to get out of the house. It is very important to acknowledge how you feel as normal, and ease into nursing in public.
The more women who nurse with confidence everywhere and anywhere, the easier it gets for new mums to get out and about, without worrying about what they’ll do when their baby gets hungry.
If you’re worried and unsure, follow our 5 steps to nursing in public with confidence! Feel free to stay at whichever step you’re up to and repeat until you’re ready to move to the next step:
Step 1: Join the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) while you’re pregnant and go along to your local group meeting
It can be really hard to make the effort to go along and meet new, strange people once you have a newborn, so we recommend getting out and meeting your local ABA group before you’ve even had the baby! You’ll have time to make some connections and to see some women nursing with confidence without having your baby to worry about.
Step 2: Once you’ve had your baby, try nursing among friends first
The next step to confident nursing is to try nursing among friends.
The best place is probably going to be your local ABA group. Go along to a group meeting and practice nursing around other mothers, who know what it’s like, and while you’re there, ask about any problems you’ve encountered.
Chances are someone there will have had the same issue and will be able to share their experience.
Step 3: Sort out your wardrobe
By this stage you should have the hang of nursing your baby at home. You may have noticed that some people like nursing under a nursing cover, while others have special breastfeeding tops or dresses that have discrete openings, while still providing coverage.
The most confident of all are comfortable wearing clothes that are loose enough to simply pull down or up, or unbutton.
You need to practice with different clothes and covers and find out what works for you and your baby.
Trying to nurse under a cover can be impossible if your baby tends toward overheating, or doesn’t like being covered, so please don’t feel as though it’s your only option.
A word of warning – don’t have a complicated ‘good’ top that you only wear when you’re going out. Always try nursing in it at home first.
The last thing you want is to be fiddling around with complicated buttons and layers with one hand trying to attach a crying baby with the other, while milk is spurting everywhere and you’re feeling flushed and uncomfortable.
Step 4: Find a place you’re familiar with and sit somewhere discretely, with a friend, while you nurse
New situations are easier to tackle with a friend. Whether your friend is breastfeeding as well, or is just along to lend moral support, it doesn’t matter.
Find somewhere you’re comfortable with, perhaps a local library or cafe, take a friend, and try nursing in public for the first time. You have your wardrobe all sorted, and you’re confident you’ll be able to nurse without fussing around. Chances are no one will even notice what you’re doing.
However, if you are unlucky enough to come across a grumpy concerned citizen, prepare yourself and your friend with a list of responses.
If someone asks you to move to a private room (parent’s room, toilet, discrete corner) simply remind them that asking you to move is discrimination and that your right to breastfeed everywhere and anywhere is protected by law.
Step 5: Take it to the next level, and practice, practice, practice!
The last step is nursing in public by yourself. Once again, go somewhere you’re familiar and comfortable with, and when your baby is hungry, nurse!
You’ll be surprised at how little attention people pay. Most won’t even notice what you’re doing, or if they do, they may smile at you to show you support.
Congratulations! You’re all set for breastfeeding anywhere, anytime you and your baby want.
Love to hear your experience breastfeeding in public, please share with us in the comments below.