Breastfeeding in Public: Moms Whipping Them Out
While few would argue that breast is not best, a storm of controversy world-wide confirms that whether or not breastfeeding in public is acceptable is arguable. Roughly two out of every three breastfeeding mothers feel uncomfortable or embarrassed while breastfeeding in public, even in countries where breastfeeding is legally protected such as the US and UK. However, the social stigma against public breastfeeding doesn’t have to discourage moms from breastfeeding, you can make a difference simply by learning how to breastfeeding publicly comfortably.
Confidence as a mom:
A lack of confidence and overall poor body image is one reason often cited by mothers who choose not to breastfeed in public. Pregnancy undeniably alters a woman’s body, and for some, those changes are not so welcome. Stretch marks, weigh gain, and body or breast shape changes often lead new moms to cringe at the idea even a thin peak of skin may be publicly exposed while breastfeeding. If this is an issue for you, it can help to remember that different is not always bad. Often our own opinion of our bodies is more critical than those of others. If you seek out other moms, or images of other moms online, you’ll find stretch marks, loose skin, and all manner of pregnancy-body woes are commonplace and simply a byproduct of bringing life into the world. They don’t make you any less beautiful, and you shouldn’t be ashamed. Instead of focusing on the negative attributes of your new body, find positive changes to accentuate.
In most countries where public breastfeeding is embraced, discreet feeding is encouraged. For mothers who may feel uncomfortable in the public gaze, covering up creates an easy solution. While there are specialty breastfeeding cover-ups available, most experienced moms can attest a blanket works just as well. If your baby is one who isn’t interested in keeping his or her face covered, you can opt to wear a loose fitting shirt with excess fabric. The extra fabric can be bunched around the breast so that no bare skin is exposed—well, unless your baby moves his or her head. Shirt styles such as baby dolls, button-up and empire waist tops offer a fashionable solution which also help to conceal that baby belly pouch which many new moms have trouble losing.
A quiet meal:
If you find yourself still too uncomfortable to nurse in public, or with a baby who plays with his or her boobs as much as he or she eats, it often isn’t difficult to find a quiet less busy area to breastfeed. This is not to say you should go squirming off embarrassed to a restroom, but for instance, at a restaurant you could choose a back table where there are fewer patrons or a booth with high walls. In the mall, you could choose a dressing room or a lesser frequented section of the building where there may be benches.
Breastfeeding without the boob:
Finally, if you just can’t handle breastfeeding publicly, you can express breast milk and bottle feed while in public to offer the benefits of breastfeeding without discomfort. In infants where breastfeeding is well-established the occasional use of a bottle rarely causes any latch or nipple confusion issues. Most babies can switch between bottle and breast without issue.
Planning your public outings can also prove helpful. If you feed your baby before leaving, it may be possible to not feed in public at all or to coordinate feedings for times you may be in a more private setting such as your car, a friend or family member’s house, or where you can stop at a quiet park bench. If you have a plan to handle breastfeeding in public, you are less likely to get caught with a screaming baby and no idea how you want to handle the situation.
Dealing with negativity:
No matter how you choose to feed your baby in public, remember that breastfeeding is your choice, and a wise choice in regards to infant nutrition that is supported by a plethora of health benefits. Nonetheless, you may run into some who do not feel public breastfeeding is acceptable whether the law supports it and you are being discreet or not.
The following options are suggested by the La Leche League to deal with criticism:
-Ignore it. You can simply walk away or change the subject without comment.
-Inform the offender. You can offer insight into why breast is best and why public breastfeeding is acceptable.
-Make a joke. You can make light of the situation by making a humorous comment.
-Show acknowledgement. You can acknowledge the offender’s view and allow them to further share their opinion.
-Be empathetic. You can relate with the individuals view by showing empathy, but respectfully disagree.
In many cases, it’s possible and ideal to employ more than one reaction. The way you prefer to deal with confrontation, as well as the circumstances of the particular incident, will determine the best way for you to handle criticism while breastfeeding publicly. Keep in mind that parenting is full of choices with no right or wrong answer. Many of those choices are hotly debated and have ardent supporters and protestors. Your life as a mother will be full of moments where people disagree with your choices. Do your research. Make your decision. Be confident in your choice, and don’t let others bring you down.
The more moms who stand up, or sit down in this case, and whip out a boob in public for their baby, the more likely it is that the social stigma leaving moms across the world squeamish about public breastfeeding will disappear. You can make a difference.
1. 67 Percent of UK mothers feel embarrassed breastfeeding in public.
2. 67 percent of US mothers also feel embarrassed breastfeeding in public/feel mothers should not breastfeed publicly.
Amanda Vin Zant is a contributing women’s health writer.