Breastfeeding mothers deserve to be commended for doing a good job. It’s true that breast feeding takes up time and energy on the mother’s part, but it does not tie her down. Countless women have gone out of their comfort zone to spend time with their babies outside the home. Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to going out with babies, breastfeeding mothers actually have the advantage over bottle-feeding ones. That’s because they don’t have to pack feeding paraphernalia in their diaper bags. Their milk is always warm and ready.

Babies can get hungry anytime, so as a mother, you have to be ready to provide food. If bottles are not an option for your baby, then breastfeeding is the way to go. The general opinion about mothers nursing their babies in public places is divided. Some people are tolerant seeing them while others are left uncomfortable at the sight of a bare breast with an occasional nipple. Here are steps on how to appropriately breastfeed in public:

1. Know your rights. In the US, women have the right to breastfeed in any place as long as she and her child are legally allowed to be there. Nursing moms are protected from public indecency laws when they do so. At least 44 states specifically have it written down in their laws[1]. So, when you’re at the mall and your child is asking for milk, go ahead and give it to him. It’s your right.

2. Dress the part. Just because breastfeeding moms are exempted from public indecency laws, it doesn’t mean that you will go and get top-naked to feed your child in a public area. Thanks to the assortment of breastfeeding-related products, women can adapt nursing into their daily life without much work.

A good nursing bra is the most important to invest in. It gives your breasts great support when feeding while covering up a good part of them. Nursing tops are convenient and do a great job in discreet feeding. Of course, you can still use your regular clothes to nurse. Just use button-down shirts (opening bottom buttons instead of top ones), low v-neck tops or loose shirts layered with camisoles underneath (to cover your belly).

3. Choose a good location. Feeding your child inside a toilet stall is unacceptable. There are plenty of places you can feed your baby discreetly – indoors or outdoors. When choosing a location, take into account you and your baby’s safety, comfort in feeding and hygiene.

Fortunately, more and more establishments are taking steps in accommodating parenting needs. Look out for nursing rooms or women’s lounges in big shopping malls. Baby stores will more often than not allow you to nurse in their premises. Once you become at ease in breastfeeding, you may be able to nurse while waiting in line at a grocery checkout counter!

4. Cover up. Bring a baby blanket, shawl or a scarf to cover exposed flesh. All you have to do is drape it over your shoulder to create some privacy in your chest area. The baby will almost always want to take those off, but it’s still good to have them there, to save your shy self from embarrassment when your child pops on and off the nipple.

Another clever cover-up is a baby sling. Using it frees both of your hands, too. There are also commercially made cover-ups like baby aprons or curtains. Those will do the job of covering up but at the same time they tend to draw more attention because of their unusual designs.

5. Practice. If you are conscious about how you look, or if you and your baby are still getting the feel of breastfeeding, the best way to overcome it is by practicing. Go ahead and watch yourself in the mirror or watch other women nurse their child.

If you just bought a new nursing top or bra, familiarize yourself first with how it works to avoid a wardrobe malfunction in public.

6. Bring the right attitude. You may get curious stares or comments from other people. It’s okay. Always remember that you are feeding your child in the most natural way. Relax and be confident in what you are doing. The people around you may not even notice it if you act as if breastfeeding is nothing out of the ordinary. If you feel uncomfortable, then the people around you will also feel unease.

Sometimes it’s good to be courteous and ask the person sitting beside you if they mind you nursing, especially on a plane ride. Be considerate of other people so you can assess the situation and avoid offending anybody.


[1]For a full list of breastfeeding-related laws by each state, you may visit: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=14389