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Maternal instincts urge mothers to feed their babies whenever they are hungry, and mothers often have to do it, even if they are outside… or else deal with a hungry and howling infant! Some women are comfortable and confident in breastfeeding and do not mind exposing a bare breast or two to quell their child’s hunger, but not everyone is that confident. Most women prefer to cover up when feeding their babies when in public.
Breastfeeding your infant in public places like shopping malls, restaurants and any other area where you may be observed by others can be considered breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding is a very intimate experience between mother and child. This is why new mothers often feel uncomfortable at the thought of having to do it where they will be seen.
Is It Legal to Breastfeed in Public?
There have been some breastfeeding in public laws that have been passed to support nursing women. The Ontario Human Rights Commission says that nobody is allowed to harass or ask a nursing mother to stop, cover up or move elsewhere. Breastfeeding in public India is quite normal in rural areas where it is viewed as something natural, unlike urban cities where breasts are often seen as a sexual symbol.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated by women across the country during which they promote the normalization of breastfeeding in public by having breastfeeding events. There was an event held in Bangalore where nursing mothers gathered together in a public area to nurse their children in an attempt to normalise breastfeeding.
Tips for Breastfeeding in Public
Knowing that it is not against the law to feed your baby in public, here are some tips to help you get into the swing of things:
- Dress the Part: Opt for loose button-down shirts or anything that is easy to pull to the side and back in place quickly and efficiently to protect your modesty.
- Practice Makes Perfect: Practice having your baby latch on in front of your partner, a close friend or a relative to see how much exposure you are getting in the process. You can do a mock latching session in front of the mirror if there is nobody around to help.
- Cover Up: Always plan ahead and carry either a shawl or a blanket so that you can drape it around both you and your child, making a temporary tepee for your baby. Just remember to ensure that your baby gets enough air to breathe.
- Sling It: Slings make everything easier for breastfeeding as it makes it look like your baby is simply taking a nap.
- Be a Wallflower: Find a secluded spot where you can feel more comfortable feeding your child. Avoid loos; if you wouldn’t eat in there do not make your child eat there either.
- Turn Away for Latch On: Turn away from anyone around you as you move to help your baby latch on to avoid any accidental exposure as your little one gets settled in to feed. You can turn back once you both are comfortable and you feel sure nothing unnecessary is exposed.
- Ask, and You Shall Receive: Most public establishments like airports, shopping malls and sometimes even amusement parks have areas designated for nursing mothers. However, even if you are in a place that doesn’t, most people quite understand when it comes to nursing babies and would be willing to help you by allowing you the use of a more private area.
- Feed Before the Storm: A fussing child always gets unwanted attention, making it difficult to help your baby latch on without being overly conscious about who is watching. If you are uncomfortable and distracted, you will not be able to calm your baby down for feeding. Make sure you feed your baby on time to avoid being the centre of attention and more importantly, so your baby does not experience stress from hunger.
- Say Cheese: You are doing something important for your child, so if anyone looks at you with disapproval, just give them the biggest new momma smile you can. You are simply doing what is natural, and there is no shame in it.
- Response Ready: It is rare for someone to say something to you about your breastfeeding, but in case they do, it is best to be ready with a response. A few ways to respond are discussed later.
What to Wear When Breastfeeding in a Public Place
Many women prefer to wear nursing tank tops under their clothes as they have built-in bras that make it easy for them to whip out and put things away without much fuss and bother. Other mamas simply don loose shirts or button down ones that make it easy for them to feed their little ones in comfort, while also being reasonably modest about it. Most dresses are not very wise to wear unless the style makes access easy without having to pull up the dress entirely, like the button down dresses. Whatever you decide, ensure that you are comfortable and able to address your baby’s hunger needs immediately.
What to Do If You are Harassed While Breastfeeding in Public
There are a few things you could try if you feel like you are being harassed for breastfeeding your baby in public. Here are a few you can try:
- Move away from people who are criticising you and look for people from whom you will get some support.
- If there is nobody around to lend support, and you feel uncomfortable, take your child and leave. You can always contact the manager or the owner of the establishment at a later time and share your concerns.
- If you are feeling calm enough, simply inform the person that breastfeeding is not a crime and that you are within your rights to breastfeed your child when he is hungry no matter where you are.
- Carry a copy of any laws supporting breastfeeding from where you live in your diaper bag.
- It helps to ask for the name or business card of the person who is making the complaint against you. This will let them know that you will not simply keep silent on the matter, even if you do choose to leave due to your child becoming upset, and that you will be able to identify them if you ever needed to.
- There are bound to be support groups for young mothers that you can reach out to for help or support if you feel the need for it.
Breastfeeding is not something that is really discriminated against, though there are instances where it does occur. Some people take the act the wrong way, especially if they see it sexually. Others are simply uncomfortable by women who breastfeed in public, viewing it through the same lens as the Calgary radio station which once caused a lot of rages when they compared breastfeeding to nose-picking. Most people in general, however, are very accepting and encouraging of the act. Nursing mothers are allowed to feed their children anywhere that they are allowed to be, no matter where they in the world they live.
If you do it modestly and with confidence, using some of the tips suggested here, you can help normalise it and help future mothers feel less anxious about it when the time comes. However an individual chooses to see it, breastfeeding is something that is an essential part of life and as a mother; it is within your rights to see to the needs of your child!
Also Read: Common Breastfeeding Problems & Solutions