||by Mary Beth Voelker
The idea of nursing in public often scares new mothers. They worry
about "exposing themselves" and they worry about what
people will say. The truth is that nursing in public is as easy
as nursing at home. When you nurse away from home you need carry
nothing but your baby and a few diapers. You can stay out as long
as you please and never worry about what to do when the baby gets
Here are some tips:
- Choose clothing you can nurse in. You can choose loose T-shirts
that can be lifted and draped around the babies face, button-front
shirts that can be unbuttoned from the bottom, or specially designed
nursing shirts or dresses with concealed access slits. Try a few
options at home to see what best suits your personal style.
- Find a good place. Some women will hide in the bathroom to nurse
but many others consider it unsanitary, even disgusting. Learn
to spot benches and chairs any time you are out in public so that
you will know where to go before the need occurs. Many women learn
to nurse while standing and even walking around but as a beginning
NIPer youll probably be more comfortable seated in a quiet
- Cover up ... or not? Decide whether or not to cover up with
a blanket or scarf. Pro -- no skin can ever show; con -- people
will know that you are doing something under there. Some people
are bothered by exposing skin, others are bothered if people know
that they are breastfeeding. Its your call.
- Practice in front of a mirror. Practice at home until you can
latch-on discreetly. If your husband is the worried one practice
in front of him until he is more comfortable.° Nurse at the
first sign of hunger. A screaming baby draws attention.
- Latch-on, then look up and away from the baby. Look people in
the eye and smile. They will meet your eyes instead of following
them down to your breast.
- Consider a sling. Its easier on your back and baby can sleep
or nurse comfortably and discreetly. Also it lasts much longer
than most baby carriers.
- Baby popping on and off? Consider keeping a scarf, shawl, or
burpcloth draped over your shoulder so that you can quickly twitch
it over your nipple if the baby unlatches. You could also shield
your nipple with your free hand or keep a thumb hooked in the
hem of your T-shirt for quick cover. Older babies who like to
play with Moms clothes can play with the scarf instead or
with a necklace of chunky, baby-safe beads. Bonus -- this also
draws eyes away from your breasts and back toward your face.
- Have confidence. A confident attitude shows. If you know that
you are doing what is best for your baby and that you have the
right to breastfeed wherever you happen to be when the baby gets
hungry your positive attitude will rub off on everyone around
you. Think "This is normal, this is natural, this is right."
Your self-assurance will deter the rare neb-nose who has a problem.
Though you might feel a little self-conscious during your first
NIPing sessions you will soon realize that most people couldnt
care less. They are absorbed in their own little worlds and are
content to leave you alone. The only people who are likely to notice
you nursing your baby are other nursing mothers and small children.
The other nursing mothers will smile and tell you about their own
nursing experiences. The small children will not care.
If Someone is Rude
Rudeness is not common. You will probably never have a negative
experience but, now and then, a stranger with a problem will decide
to inflict it on you by objecting to your breastfeeding. A confident
attitude can help fend this off. Bullies look for timid victims,
not self-assured people who know that they are in the right. If
you look someone in the eye and smile they will know that you are
confident that you are doing what is best for your baby and that
you are not a victim in waiting.
Ideally, you will become so good at discreet nursing that no one
will even know that you are doing it. If they dont know they
have no reason to object. However, once in a while a breastfeeding
mother might encounter a neb-nose looking for trouble.
The first thing is to realize that it is not your problem. It is
the objectors problem. The second is to realize that you are
on safe legal ground. You have the right to breastfeed your baby
any place you are legally entitled to be -- so you're generally
ok, unless you're touring the CIA and spotted a chair in the classified
documents storage area. ;-). In fact, many States have codified
that right in legislation.
If you are normally shy and easily intimidated it might help to
role-play some responses with a friend. The simplest is a frigid
"Excuse me?" which reflects stunned disbelief that any
person could be so nosy and rude. More specifically you can ask
"Do you eat in the bathroom?" or exclaim "Nonsense!
The World Health Organization recommends nursing for at least 2
years." These should take care of simple neb-noses. You might
want to rehearse some informative answers to honest questions as
well. If you are asked to leave by someone with some shade of official
standing know your state laws. Ask to speak to a manager and inform
them that their employee is harassing you, their customer. If the
busybody hasnt the guts to face you and is just making meant
to be overheard comments ignore him/her. Life is too short to waste
energy on idiots.
Remember that your baby has the right to eat when he or she is
hungry, you have the right to nurse even if you happen to show a
few square inches of skin in the process, and you have no obligation
to be polite to someone who has already been rude to you. Chances
are this is a problem you will never encounter. I personally have
nursed 3 babies for a combined total of 4.5 years without ever hearing
a negative comment -- unless you count my mother telling me to cover
up as I sat in my own living room. :-)
Affordable Nursing Clothing
Nursing clothes are wonderful, but they can also be expensive.
Fortunately you have options. You can adapt regular clothing for
nursing wear, or you can get nursing clothes from alternate sources.
Try these ideas:
- Wal-Mart. Many of these stores carry a limited selection of
simple nursing shirts. They arent in the womens department
though. They are back in the baby section along with the baby
books, slings, etc.
- Consignment stores and thrift stores. Most often these will
be hung with the maternity clothes. They may even be stuck in
a storage area out of the way. Ask the staff if they have any.
Some owners/managers will take your name, dress size, and number
and will call you when they get some in stock.
- Garage/Yard/Tag sales. If the sale is full of baby stuff some
of the clothes on the rack might be nursing clothes or they may
have a box in the house that they didnt think they could
- Classified ads. You might find them advertised or you might
advertise that you want them.
- eBay. Just like everything else they may be there or they may
not. It doesnt hurt to take a look.
- Pass-alongs. Dont be proud. If someone offers you their
nursing shirts now that theyve weaned say "Thank you".
Sort out what you like and pass the rest to someone else.
- Gift occasions. If family and friends ask what you want ask
for a gift certificate or even a particular outfit you admire
but cant afford.
- Sew your own. Elizabeth Lee Designs (http://www.elizabethlee.com)
is known for classic, easy to sew patterns for making nursing
clothes. If you dont sew you can probably find someone who
does. Your mother? Grandmother? Friend? Fellow churchgoer? The
teen down the street who took home-ec last year? Learning to sew
is not hard and very basic machines are available for under $150
new. If you give it a try you might even discover a new hobby
to feed your soul while you are preparing to ease feeding your