Breastfeeding in public: 5 tips to avoid the stress

Breastfeeding in public is a hotly debated and controversial issue in many countries and may feel scary for new mums. Here UK blogger Aly shares her top tips for avoiding stress when breastfeeding in public.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – Mum-of-two Aly, founder of Allmumstalk, breastfeeding in public at a café.
Make sure you have the gear that suits you for breastfeeding in public, but whatever you do: don’t hide!
Photo: Anna Pawleta Photography

Breastfeeding selfies, viral hashtags from celebrities and influentials all over the world, brave breastfeeding photoshoots in all sorts of public spaces…Mums all over the world are finding new ways to normalise breastfeeding in public. And they should! I’m one of them; for me, breastfeeding hasn’t quite been the smoothest ride when I became a new mum to my first born, yet after breastfeeding my son for 2 years and 4 months, here I am, sharing 5 tips after all the lessons I’ve learnt – sometimes the hard way.

ALSO READ: 7 breastfeeding tips for new mums

5 top tips for breastfeeding in public

1. Know your rights

My husband is a lawyer, therefore it may not be quite random that I know how in England and Wales, our right to breastfeed in public is covered by The Equality Act 2010, which states: ‘a business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age.’ (Tip! Find out what the law says in your country. See the fact box further down as well. Editor’s note.) * With this in mind, don’t ever stress over whether you’re ‘allowed’ to breastfeed your child of 2 months or 2 years in a museum or cafe – or even during high tea at the Ritz, enjoying a warm scone while feeding your baby as nature intended.

Whatever you do, DO NOT hide in loos like I did.

2. Know your gear

If you decide to go out and about, then it’s pretty essential to have the right clothing and best accessories in order to make breastfeeding easy as pie.

a. New bra
A nursing bra makes the process more discreet and it should be, in my opinion, the first buy tick on a new mum’s shopping list.

b. Breastfeeding fashion
Having tops designed especially for breastfeeding is ideal, but not mandatory, as you can wear any baggy tops to give you the extra space for handling the process. Make sure that you don’t go for delicate fabrics or plain colours, as baby vomit and milk spillage are real things that every mum will, at one point, experience on their shoulder. Opt instead for bold patterns and prints, and don’t feel that your wardrobe should be limited simply because now there’s a tiny human who needs inside access more often ;)

c. Breastfeeding covers
However, if you’re still a bit shy about breastfeeding your baby in public spaces, you can use a breastfeeding cover, there are so many cool prints you can go for. But don’t feel you really need to invest in one, you can easily go for a large muslin square or even an old scarf, and they would do the same job just as nicely.

ALSO READ: Breastfeeding – and not giving a damn

3. Preparation is the key

This part is very important. A well-packed changing bag can save you from a lot of stress when breastfeeding in public. Make sure you have the gear that suits you and maybe a spare too; for example when it comes to breast pads, pack a few extra, especially during those early days of breastfeeding. Always have a couple of muslin squares ready, they would come in handy in case you forget your breastfeeding cover or the baby decides to spill some milk on your favourite top. Hair bands or elastics are always useful during breastfeeding if you have long hair. My baby loves pulling my hair during feeds.

Just ask yourself, would you accept having your lunch in a restaurant toilet?

4. Join a support group

If you’re still worried that people are staring (even when they’re not) and stressing over the feeding process itself, there are so many breastfeeding support groups where you could ask for advice, guidance and even make friends. It never hurts to have a breastfeeding mama friend to drink coffee with!

5. Don’t hide

Whatever you do, DO NOT hide in loos like I did four years ago in those first few weeks after my son was born. I was a new and inexperienced mum in a city of all faiths, I didn’t want to take any risks and offend someone. That was the mindset which made me fearful and hide in public bathrooms to feed my newborn. Just ask yourself, would you accept having your lunch in a restaurant toilet? Then why would you do this to your child? If anyone gives you a mean comment or tells you to breastfeed somewhere else, just ask them nicely to look away.

ALSO READ: 9 causes of breastfeeding pain & self-help tips

BABYBJÖRN Magazine - Aly from Allmumstalk writes about breastfeeding.
Photo: Anna Pawleta Photography

I’m Aly, founder of AllMumsTalk; London mum of two: four-year-old Lucas and six-month-old Amelie, yes, we’ve named them after the movies you can easily guess ;)…

When I embraced motherhood, I gave up an amazing office job in a top London luxury hotel, which often involved running into Bruce Willis and taking the lift to a meeting with Lady Gaga. All in favour of taming tantrums in the middle of the supermarket veggie aisle, wiping baby bottoms and freelancing full time, mainly from home. That’s when I’m not on my way to an event while babywearing or carrying a toddler’s bike and lunch bag…

Breastfeeding in public is controversial

Breastfeeding in public is a hotly debated and controversial issue in many countries, and attitudes can vary from place to place. Some countries have laws that protect breastfeeding mothers against harassment and discrimination, e.g. the UK and the USA (49 states). Find out what the law says in your country.