Breastfeeding In Public: How To Do It And Deal With Criticism



After being cooped up in the house for days after the baby is born, you step out of the house with the baby. You feed the baby before you leave but the baby is hungry before you get back home.

A hungry baby will not wait and won’t stop crying until fed. This means you have to breastfeed in public, amidst the stares, the comments, and annoyance that people show.

But is breastfeeding in public wrong? How do you feed a breastfeeding child when you are outdoors or in public spaces? MomJunction answers these questions and more in this article.

But first, let’s answer that one question new moms have.

Can You Breastfeed In Public?

Yes. You can breastfeed in public. Most countries have practices that are conducive to breastfeeding in public. Governments and the judiciary recognize the need for a mother to nurse her baby.

For instance, most states in the US have at least one law or rule that permits women to breastfeed in public and exempts them from the clause of “indecent exposure” in public (1).

To summarize, public breastfeeding is an unconditional fundamental right of every mother. But it does not mean it is free from challenges.

[Read: Health Benefits Of Breastfeeding]

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How To Breastfeed In Public?

Breastfeeding in public can be convenient when you observe the following tips (2):

  1. Dress appropriately for breastfeeding: Choose a dress that allows easy access to the breast, like a top that can be unbuttoned from above or can be lifted over the breasts easily. Wear a nursing bra inside. Wearing the right clothes, which remove the need to pull out multiple layers of clothing, makes breastfeeding in public less conspicuous.
  1. Get a nursing shawl: A nursing shawl or blanket lets you cover the infant while he or she breastfeeds. The shawl makes breastfeeding inconspicuous, by preventing people from immediately noticing that you are nursing your baby. When people do not notice, there will be fewer or no stares!
  1. Pack a diaper bag: Pack things like tissues and napkins that you may need to wipe the baby’s mouth or the breast after breastfeeding. It will help eliminate the hassle of shopping for these things at the last moment.
  1. Wear the baby: Carry the baby in a sling carrier to keep the little one close to your chest. This gives them easy access to your breast and makes the task less obvious.
  1. Choose the right place: The best place to breastfeed is where you are most likely to get support. A women’s lounge at the airport or a coffee shop that permits breastfeeding are some excellent places. Some establishments may also have dedicated nursing areas for mothers. But never breastfeed in a bathroom since it is unhygienic. Your baby is also likely to be exposed to several pathogens in there.
  1. Maintain composure: Do not get too conscious about breastfeeding in public. Be your usual self and carry on with ease. When you feel comfortable, you will have better milk let-down, which makes public breastfeeding as good as feeding the baby at home. Also, it finishes the job quickly for the baby.
  1. Be confident: The primary purpose of breastfeeding is to nourish the infant, and your breast milk is the best food for your baby. Therefore, do not be shy or embarrassed, for you are doing what is necessary.
  1. Be aware of your surroundings: Lastly, be mindful of your surroundings. Make sure you are fully aware of your personal belongings when you are breastfeeding. It is essential to stay safe while you’re out with the baby.

Remember, that it is breastfeeding in “public”. So, there are going to be some people around who may not be very supportive.

[Read: How To Avoid Baby Biting While Breastfeeding]

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How To Deal With Criticism While Breastfeeding In Public?

It is vital to learn how to handle a situation where people around are not supportive of breastfeeding in public spaces. If you encounter criticism or objection, here is what you should do:

  1. Stay calm: Nasty comments can hurt. But it is important to remember that picking an argument will not help your cause and may instead garner negative perception about public breastfeeding by mothers. When confronted by negative comments, stay calm and do not react. Continue breastfeeding while avoiding the person who made the remarks. Your objective is to breastfeed the baby whenever needed and not fight with those who are against it.
  1. Reply politely: If you are asked questions about why you breastfeed in public, then politely state that you are doing so to provide nourishment to your little one. You believe that breastfeeding, irrespective of the place, is necessary when the baby is hungry. Be polite in your replies and demeanor. Your relaxed and honest approach may even help change the mindset of some individuals.
  1. Walk away: If you sense that you are getting too many disapproving looks and remarks that you cannot handle, then walk away from the place and see if you can breastfeed your baby somewhere else.
  1. Look for a group where you may get support: Did you see a group of moms in the park? Then go and sit there. You will have moral support in case detractors of public breastfeeding follow you.
  1. Approach the management of the establishment: If you feel the negative remarks are almost threatening, then you can consider approaching the management of the place where you are breastfeeding. If you are at a restaurant or hotel, then contact the manager with the situation. If you face disapproval from the managers themselves, then you can consider filing a complaint with their senior management. Do note that the best step is to walk away from the situation when you are with the baby. Nevertheless, if you sense aggression from members of the public to the point it may harm you or your baby, then do not hesitate to approach the law enforcement agencies.
  1. Join a support group: Join a public breastfeeding support group where other moms can share their ways of dealing with negativity about public breastfeeding. You can get suggestions on how to deal with criticism at specific public places like a park, hotel, restaurant, etc.

[Read: Tips For Breastfeeding Moms]

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Breast milk is the best food for the baby and mothers can provide it through breastfeeding. It is necessary and there is no reason why you should not do so in public. Remember, despite all the scorn public breastfeeding gets, a 2015 survey commissioned by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a significant part of society is open to public breastfeeding and believes that women have a right to breastfeed in public (3).

Although the survey was limited to the American public, it is encouraging for new moms to do what’s best for their baby.

How do you manage to breastfeed in public? Share any tips you have, in our comments section.

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