While nursing in public is often criticized, this criticism is unfounded and stems mainly from people’s cultural beliefs. Breastfeeding in public is legal in the United States, regardless of where you are1. Because nursing is the primary function of your breasts, and hungry babies are impatient and will not wait to get home to eat, you should nurse your baby when she needs it, even if you are at the mall. That being said, it helps to always offer her your breast before leaving home. Unless you stay home throughout your entire nursing relationship, you will undoubtedly have to nurse in public every now and then. If you are uncomfortable with public breastfeeding, here are a few ideas that will make it easier.
Always wear a nursing top and a nursing bra when going out with your infant, even if you don’t plan on being out long – you never know when your baby is going to need a meal. Having easy access to your breasts is key. People will look at you, and having to pull your shirt up and get your breast to come out of a full coverage bra can be quite awkward. Nursing bras have convenient snaps on their straps and nursing tops are usually looser and are designed to provide quick access, so you will reveal surprisingly little skin.
Keep a nursing cover in your diaper bag. If you are not comfortable with passers by looking at your baby while he is eating his lunch, you can try using a nursing cover. Some babies are principally against them though.
Keep a Boppy pillow in the car. Nursing in the back seat of your car at a grocery store parking lot can be very convenient, especially if you have a Boppy pillow – a “U”-shaped pillow that fits around your waist. It allows your baby to get comfortable and gives your arms a break.
La Leche League suggests being on the lookout for convenient spots to breastfeed your baby when arriving at a new public place. It will save you the hassle of running around with a crying infant, looking for a perfect place to nurse2.
All other things aside, your baby’s health and well-being are most important, regardless of who is looking at you and what they may be thinking.