Breastfeeding is a practical necessity for those nourishing their babies with their own milk from their breast. It’s also a beautiful and natural bonding ritual shared between mother and baby. Yet, many breastfeeding mothers find themselves fearful and anxious about the idea of breastfeeding in public.
The sexualisation of the breast has meant that when you breastfeed in public, it becomes a spectacle and something women are regularly shamed for. The societal belief that mothers should ‘cover up’ in public pushes some mothers and babies into hiding and makes the realities of breastfeeding for longer much harder.
Don’t give up, mammas! The ‘normalize breastfeeding’ movement is growing stronger, encouraging you to feed and nurture your baby freely and supporting you on your breastfeeding journey.
It won’t always be easy; all breastfeeding mothers have both positive and negative experiences along the way. From the kindness of a stranger, to the unbearable pain of cold nipples, breastfeeding in public is a rollercoaster ride.
Here are 10 things that will probably happen to you when you breastfeed in public:
#1: People Won’t Notice
That first feed can be pretty daunting. You start your breastfeeding journey surrounded by midwives who have just seen your entire undercarriage, so the thought of flashing them a little nipple isn’t scary. Then it’s just you and your partner who has seen your nipples enough times for you not to worry about letting it all hang out. Then slowly you start breastfeeding in front of friends and family, and your confidence grows. Then it’s time to crack open the nursing bra at your local cafe, and suddenly it seems a little scary again. You build yourself up for the moment by going through a pep talk in your mind, you expect strangers to recoil horrified and then… nobody even notices. You sit there breastfeeding your baby for a good 40 minutes and nobody even looks over. Talk about an anticlimax.
#2: A Stranger Will Congratulate You
At some point during your breastfeeding career, a stranger will come over to give you a slap on the back for breastfeeding. Hopefully it won’t be an actual slap on the back, because that might give your baby hiccups mid-feed. It might be a woman whose breastfeeding days are long behind her who simply wants to let you know you’re doing a great job. It could be a grandad whose daughter is currently working hard to establish breastfeeding. It could be anyone, but it will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. It’s always nice when somebody acknowledges the things you do for your children.
#3: Your Nipples Will Get Cold
Breastfeeding at home, snuggled up under a blanket, in front of a cosy fire is lovely. Breastfeeding your newborn in the snow whilst your three year old makes a snowman, is not. As your baby feeds, you will battle to keep as much of your breast and nipples covered as possible, but there is no way to keep out the chill of winter. When your baby finishes, the temperature of your nipple will drop so fast it will feel like it has been turned to stone. That is some serious ouch.
#4: You Will Flash Your Nipples At People
Even with the best of intentions, strangers are going to get an eye full at some point during your breastfeeding journey. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you should never feel you have to cover up. But it’s important to remember that even if you do your absolute best to keep yourself covered, you will likely at some point flash a room full of strangers.
By the time your baby is around four months old, he will suddenly be interested and everything. Long gone are the days when nothing could keep him from finishing his feed. All of a sudden he’ll be popping off every time he hears a new noise. Whilst your baby is busy people watching, your nipple will just Be There. Waiting. Awkwardly. Under the watchful eyes of a room full of strangers.
#5: You Will Unwittingly Start Impromptu Breastmilk Fights
Breastmilk comes out fast, like, really fast. Your baby knows this and, being a hilarious little joker, will almost certainly use it against you publicly at some point. You’ll be sat in a cafe with your friend, feeding your baby, when all of a sudden he will unlatch. Your baby will not have sent your breasts a memo that he’s about to do this, and so milk will continue to spurt out. Not in just one direction, but in about five different directions. You will be like a human sprinkler. The breastmilk will spurt all over your crotch, your friend’s arm and your lunch as you desperately try to latch your baby on again as a means of flood prevention.
#6: Someone Will Lean In Way Too Close To Your Breast
It’s not always obvious when a mother is breastfeeding. In fact, sometimes people will assume you are simply holding your sleeping baby. These people will come over to say hi, and they’ll lean right in so they can get a good look of your baby’s face. You know, the one attached to your nipple. Yep. When they realise their error, they will do one of two things. Panic and become very awkward whilst hot footing it out of the door, or pretend they knew all along and simply continue to stay way too close to your breast area as a way of saving face.
#7: You’ll Put It Off Too Long
It’s inevitable that sometimes feeds will get delayed. It could be that you’re busy when you first notice your baby’s hunger cues, or it could be that you’re not in a great location for a feed. Whatever the reason, by the time you find the time and space to feed your baby, your job will be a lot harder. Those gentle hunger cues have been replaced by red, angry cries, and your baby is no longer in a fit state to latch. This will not be an easy feed. Your baby is fed up, and it will take much longer than normal for him to latch. In the meantime, you’ll be the woman with her nipple out. Oh, and everyone will be looking over because your baby is crying, so don’t think they haven’t seen your nipple. They so have.
For more information on hunger cues, please read the BellyBelly article : Baby Hunger Cues
#8: You’ll Get Picky About Where You Go
If there’s a risk you’re going to end up stuck somewhere for 40 minutes while you feed your baby, you’re within your rights to be selective over the places you visit. All of a sudden, the hipster cafes with tall bar seats and huge glass walls of your past don’t seem to have what you’re looking for. You’ll start choosing where to eat based on important things like privacy, comfort and nappy changing facilities. Anywhere that offers free drinks to breastfeeding mothers will be your absolute favourite. And if they have cake too, you’ll be there everyday.
#9: You Will Get Rage When All The Comfy Seats Are Gone
Breastfeeding should pretty much guarantee you comfort wherever you go. After all, you are likely to end up stuck in your seat for a while, using your arms to support your baby. This is much easier to do when you’re surrounded by cushions and your bum isn’t dead from sitting on a hard wooden seat. As soon as you enter a venue, you’ll do a panicked search for the comfy seats. If you find them, you will march over to them and plonk yourself and your baby down, you have earned these seats. If there are none, there will be hell to pay. And anyone foolish enough to be baby-less and in those seats will have to deal with your angry face for the duration of their stay.
#10: Other Breastfeeding Mothers Will Smile At You
If you’ve breastfeed in public, expect to get some serious smile support from your breastfeeding sisters. Whether they’re breastfeeding this very minute or haven’t fed a baby for years, they will always give you a big smile. It’s the secret language of breastfeeding, the reassuring smiles shared between strangers in coffee shops. You will find yourself doling them out in the future too.
For more information on babies breastfeed in public, please read the BellyBelly articles: