For every new mom who can proudly yank up her shirt and give her baby lunch in the middle of a baseball stadium, there is another woman who breastfeeds her baby in restrooms, parked cars or pumps at home and brings a bottle to avoid the dreaded “NIP,” or nursing in public, experience. If you’re shy about nursing (I was), you might even be afraid to leave the house with your baby, or you could have trouble with letdown, which can be frustrating for you and your baby alike.
But no one should have to nurse in a restroom! Or let anxiety put a premature end to their breastfeeding experience. Here are 10 ways to get the hang of nursing in public—no nudity involved, we promise!
1. Master the “football hold.” It will be easier to nurse discreetly in this position than in others, especially with a smaller baby.
2. Bring a cover up or lightweight blanket. A receiving blanket is a bit too small. I’d go for something more along the lines of a shawl or throw. Or better yet, use a “nursing apron,” designed for this purpose.
3. Use extra support if you’re recently recovering from a c-section. It was very uncomfortable for me to support my newborn without help from a nursing pillow when out in public, but I felt strange about using a Boppy while sitting at a bench in the mall! My solution was to ball up my winter coat around my waist when indoors, then nurse under a blanket. Another option would be to use a second, rolled up blanket as a “pillow” substitute. Or just bring the pillow with you, if that’s easier!
4. Practice at home. The next time you nurse your baby, get the blanket or apron arranged and ask your husband or a friend whether they can “see anything.” You can even ask them to take a few pictures so you can inspect for yourself. Once you’ve been reassured that you’ve got a stealth endeavor going on, you should feel better about taking the act on the road.
5. Dress wisely. I never really liked nursing clothes—they just looked too much like maternity clothes to me—but they’re your best bet if you’re truly anxious about NIP. Otherwise, go for layers and shirts that aren’t too tight, such as:
6. A good bra is a bust-must! I can’t even count the number of reasons why you need to be wearing a properly fitted nursing bra before attempting to breastfeed in public. You could end up with all sorts of wardrobe malfunctions otherwise! The hooks/snaps have to be easy to undo and close up with just one hand. You probably lost some weight (and cleavage) since giving birth, so make sure you’re in the right size. (The older my kids got, the lower in the alphabet I went!)
7. Don’t forget nursing pads. Even if you don’t typically leak, you could sprout some wet patches if your baby only nursed from one side, and better safe than sorry. So you don’t end up with a loose nursing pad landing on the floor after you unhook, go for a product like Johnson’s Nursing Pads, which have an adhesive that sticks securely to fabric.
8. Drink water—lots of it! If you’re stressed about nursing in public, the last thing you need to worry about is supply issues, so drink up before, during and after nursing. Treat yourself to a nice water bottle that allows for easy, one-armed chugging, like a CamelBak eddy.
9. Say hello to herbs. If supply and/or letdown seems to be a recurring problem, consider herbs (unless your doctor says otherwise.) Try Yogi Woman’s Nursing Support Tea, which contains fenugreek and stinging nettle among other herbs.
10. Repeat after me: anyone who “catches you in the act” is watching you do something natural and normal. If someone were to see you breastfeeding, what would be the worst thing that could possibly happen? The disapproval of someone who disapproves of breastfeeding is nothing worth getting upset about! They are the ones with the problem, not you.
Chances are, any older mother who sees you breastfeeding isn’t judging you for being immodest, anyway. She’s thinking wistfully to herself, “Gosh, I really miss those days!” Because just blink your eyes once, and the little baby you’re smuggling under a blanket will be a 10-year-old who thinks you have terrible taste in music. Trust me on this.
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 3 to 10.