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Learning to breastfeed in public by Lisa Butwell

My little boy is 22 months old now and we have been breastfeeding since birth. As we approach his second birthday I can look back and be proud of our breastfeeding journey so far, especially as there was a time in the early days where each feed was a struggle and I didn’t know how we would continue through to the next day, let alone think about long term goals. Thankfully, with a lot of support we worked through each issue and since those difficult first few weeks, breastfeeding has been an incredible experience that has also enabled me to build a special bond with my son.

I was anxious about breastfeeding in public

Amongst those early issues, I also had a dread of breastfeeding in public that was made worse by not feeling confident with my feeding skills. I also felt that I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to breastfeeding in public, almost as if someone had forgotten to tell me the secret to discreet breastfeeding.

It was during my pregnancy when I first started thinking about breastfeeding and I always assumed that it was a skill that would happen naturally and that as a consequence I would feel confident when breastfeeding out and about. So when this didn’t happen I started to dread leaving the house in case my little boy needed a feed. However, I am not very good at sitting in the house all day and wanted to venture out to baby groups, so I realised that I was going to have to ‘bite the bullet’ and address my worry of breastfeeding in public.

So to give me a bit of confidence when breastfeeding outside of the house, I ordered a breastfeeding cover and headed off to my local baby groups. I know that feeding covers are not for everyone but I felt that a little bit of privacy at this stage in our journey would make all the difference to my confidence. Initially, I found breastfeeding very painful and we struggled to achieve a good latch, so this could mean that I was having to unlatch my little boy and retry sometimes 3 or 4 times at the beginning of each feed and just by having the cover this allowed me to do this discreetly.

Breastfeeding in baby groups really helped

Everybody was lovely at all the baby groups we attended and supportive of breastfeeding so I really felt my confidence increasing week by week. This meant that as I started to find breastfeeding easier I was able to abandon the feeding cover and breastfeed confidently without. I am happy to say that we have never looked back and have now breastfed in an every growing long list of places.

My top tips for breastfeeding in public

From my experience of breastfeeding in public I have learnt a few tips that will hopefully help a new mum who is getting started with breastfeeding and may have the same worries.

When going out make sure you have breastfeeding friendly clothes . One recommendation I had was to wear a vest top underneath a regular top, so you can pull the vest top down and the other top up to achieve discreet feeding. While this is a great tip that many people find useful, I found it too fiddly to do quickly so I could never make this method work for me. I also found it too hot to wear two tops during the hot summer months. Alternatively, I found that by just wearing clothes I felt comfortable in that also had easy access for feeding baby was sufficient to achieve breastfeeding discreetly. I made the most of the opportunity to buy myself some nursing tops and a nursing hoodie so I could feel good about myself which is a great way to gain that extra confidence ready for breastfeeding in public.

  • If you are feeling conscious about feeding in front of people then you could accessorise your clothes with a lovely scarf or shawl that you can use when feeding to give yourself a bit of privacy.

  • If you enjoy going out or have older children then it can be handy to learn to breastfeed while your baby is in a sling, as you can carry on with what you are doing while you feed your baby at the same time. This skill took me a while to learn but it was a game changer once we mastered it and we have been on many days out since where I have been able to put this to good use. The major benefit of feeding in a sling is that people do not realise that you are breastfeeding as the sling provides you with plenty of privacy. To learn this skill I found it useful to speak to a sling library as they could advise me how to use my sling safely for breastfeeding.

  • Joining a breastfeeding group can provide you with essential support from lactation specialists and other breastfeeding mums, as well as providing you with fun social events that you can attend. They are a great source of information to go to with any breastfeeding related issues. Looking back I wish that I had made more use of our local breastfeeding services as it can make the early days feel less isolating and surround you with correct and positive breastfeeding advice.

  • Alternatively, if you do not have access to a local breastfeeding service then there are some great supportive breastfeeding groups on social media that can be a useful place to get your breastfeeding questions answered. You may even find that you meet other mums in your local area in these groups. Facebook Group

From my breastfeeding journey so far I have found that the best way to gain confidence when breastfeeding in public is to start going out with your baby and practising. Baby groups will provide a safe and secure place for any mums who are worried about the first time they breastfeed in public. After that first feed you are sure to quickly start feeling comfortable breastfeeding your baby out and about and you will forget why you were worried in the first place.

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