Breastfeeding in public

Every now and then, a news report or story relating to breastfeeding in public pops up and what ensues is usually a heated debate about whether it’s a natural thing or should be seen as taboo. The news has been buzzing around a recent incident in a retail store which sparks the debate again about whether or not nursing in public is okay – and if it is, does it need to be done in a specific way.

Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, leaving the house with a new baby can feel like a mammoth task. But if you feel the need to hide away at home whenever your baby decides they’re hungry, then you’re likely to feel even more tied down or isolated. This is actually a time when you could both benefit from trips out of the house and socialising. How you approach breastfeeding in public is completely up to you.

The first thing to remember is that most new mothers have been through the same thing, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to breastfeed your baby when you’re outside the home. Many mothers find that often people are not even aware they’re breastfeeding and think you and your baby are just having a cuddle.

Breastfeeding when you’re out and about is convenient, hygienic and the most natural and healthy way for your baby to feed. You can be proud of what you’re doing and be one of the growing number of mothers who are making breastfeeding in public more visible and acceptable. After all, it’s an essential part of your baby’s day.

It’s getting easier to find somewhere a little more private to breastfeed in public. Many shopping centres, department stores, baby shops and supermarkets have special feeding rooms where you can breastfeed and change your baby’s nappy.

It may help you to feel more confident if you practice at home first, without pillows and in different chairs. Try different types of clothing that can be easily unbuttoned, or a nursing top. When you’re ready to try breastfeeding in public, get yourself settled into a comfortable chair with good support.

If you think you’re going to feel self-conscious, sit with your back to the majority of people in the restaurant or café, or try to find a quieter place. A scarf or muslin cloth can help you feed more discreetly too if you choose to use one. Just slip it over any bare areas once your baby has latched on.

A good tip is to have a drink of water on hand – breastfeeding is thirsty work! Also, try and avoid sitting too near a heat source as it increases your body temperature.

Here are some tips to help you nurse with comfort and confidence when you are not at home:

  • Make sure you’re dressed with breastfeeding options in mind – ensure your clothing allows you to lift it up, pull it to the side easily or has a hidden flap that gives your baby easy access and you more privacy.
  • It’s all about angles – before you leave the house watch the breastfeeding process in the mirror to see how much exposure you get and practice until you find an angle that works best.
  • Use a blanket or shawl to cover your shoulders so that it can drape over your baby’s head for more privacy.
  • Scout out places to nurse – somewhere quiet and comfortable. Also check for special nursing rooms before you need them.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that both you and baby are calm and comfortable, which makes for a much better breastfeeding experience for both of you. Make YOUR choice about breastfeeding in public, and prepare yourself to make it the natural and simple process it should be.

What are your thoughts on breastfeeding in public? Do you do it? Don’t you do it? What made this decision for you?

*This article is an exclusive column from Dr Diana Du Plessis, spokesperson for Philips Mother and Child Division.

Dr Diana du Plessis

Dr Diana du Plessis

Dr. Diana du Plessis is the Breastfeeding Consultant and spokesperson for Phillips Avent South Africa.
She obtained a B.Soc.Sc (Hons) at the University of the Free State, after which she worked as an operating room registered nurse in the Universitas and National Hospitals in Bloemfontein, receiving the Diploma in Operating Room Technique in 1978. She commenced her academic career in the Department of Nursing (UFS) in 1982 and holds diplomas in Nursing Administration (cum laude), Nursing Education and Community Health Nursing (cum laude) while being employed in the Department of Nursing at the University of the Free State. Later she obtained M.Cur and D.Cur in Midwifery and Neonatology from the University of Johannesburg. Dr du Plessis is in private midwifery clinical practice for the past 19 years.

17 Comments
  1. I breastfed my first born and always found it a struggle to find a place in a mall to breastfeed without someone saying something, its the most natural thing in the world

  2. As a breastfeeding mom, i honestly couldn’t care less about what other people think when i breastfeed in public. At the end of the day, its whats best for my baby and its the most beautiful natural thing to do. I do make sure though that i am covered up. I love breastfeeding my baby and wouldnt have it any other way 🙂

  3. I’m to self conscious to breastfeed in public so would rather time feeding times so I can be at home to breastfeed. So outings are kept short and sweet

  4. Mothers shouldn’t be ashamed of breastfeeding in public as long as both baby and mother are comfortable. .
    After all, breastfeeding is best for babies!

  5. I breastfed in public too. And in did it as part of my everyday life: shopping, eating at a restaurant,what ever. Whenever baby needed it,it was there. For me,personally, I wasn’t going to still hunt out a place and walk to the ends of the earth to find a place especially designated for breastfeeding. But I think its great that efforts have been put in place to offer those moms who prefer to go to a more private place to feed.

    However, personally,I get a bit of bad taste in mouth when the word “discreetly” gets used by many wrt breastfeeding,almost as if it’s something so invasive on others, that now needs a ‘discreet’ approach. When in reality,its really not.

    How I breastfeed will be determined by my BABY and MY comfort levels-not others. I’ve tried cover ups, but both my babies refused to be covered and that was the end of that.

    But what I do really like about the article is that it maintains that its still the mothers choice. Its their choice to cover up or not,find a special place to sit or not. Baby comes first.

  6. I’m all for breastfeeding and I think as moms we need to support those who need to do it. I am probably the type who would cover up though or retreat to a nursing room.

  7. I breastfeed in public. Funny enough, it’s family members (in laws) who have been the most conservative about it – friends and strangers are almost universally supportive. Baby’s hunger comes first, and it’s such an amazing thing to be able to sustain our little ones ourselves.

  8. Thank you for sharing. I breastfed in public, my child was more important that the sensitivities of strangers, that said I was as discreet as possible.

  9. I breastfeed in public. If it is acceptable to bottle feed than it is acceptable to breastfeed.

    Some of the breastfeeding rooms are absolutely disgusting…not much better than a toilet.

    Breastfeeding is normal and we need to treat it as such.

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