Breastfeeding Out and About

How to normalize breastfeeding without the pressure to cover up a certain way.

Breastfeeding five babies in the past eight years has given me a wealth of different nursing experiences. From people discreetly moving as far away as possible to in-depth breastfeeding stories from well-meaning family members, it feels like I've seen and heard it all.

My youngest baby and I agree that breastfeeding at home with a nursing pillow, a pile of books, and a houseful of crazy kids is our preference. Yet there are times throughout the week when we need to get away.

Luckily I’ve come up with a couple tricks for breastfeeding while out and about.

What to Wear

The clothing options for nursing moms are becoming endless. Over the years, I’ve seen a change from just the standard nursing bras and tanks to specially-designed nursing shirts, nursing dresses, and increasingly-popular nursing scarfs.

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The third trimester is a great time to think about what kind of nursing apparel you want to try. Decide how much of your midsection you’re willing to expose and look for options that fit your comfort level. I personally prefer to keep my stomach covered, so you can almost always find me in a strapless nursing tank.

The first few weeks after baby’s born, try wearing nursing apparel every day (even when you’re home). This will help you and baby become comfortable as you figure out breastfeeding together.

Babies will typically adjust to whatever nursing apparel or covers you’d like, as long as you make sure to practice at home.

With my first baby, I was unsure what nursing apparel to use. Feeling pressured to cover up while breastfeeding, I donned a nursing cover on one of our first big trips out. The problem: I had never practiced with it at home. It was uncomfortable for both of us and we didn’t get a good feeding in.

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This incident led me not to be pressured to cover up a certain way when breastfeeding out and about.

Instead, I make sure to keep a large muslin blanket handy and throw it in-between baby’s head and my arm. It’s ready for a quick cover if baby moves around and exposes me yet doesn’t interfere with him nursing.

Where to Feed

I am a proponent of feeding my hungry baby right where I am.

Feeding baby in the midst of a family gathering, dinner out, or church service means that I don’t need to miss out while socializing, eating, or worshiping. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same. You’ve probably heard stories of nursing moms who were asked to feed their baby elsewhere or cover-up more fully.

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In the United States, breastfeeding in public is legally protected in 49 states. The Pope even supports public breastfeeding. We take advantage of this legal right.

I have nursed in virtually every place imaginable. The top of a mountain, while walking around a store, and most recently, while watching my kids at a playground. I’ve had no shortage of both adults and children wondering what I’m doing or curiously watching me feed my baby.

I can empower our little girls by normalizing breastfeeding. As adults, I hope my daughters won’t feel pressure to sneak away while breastfeeding.

Yet, with this responsibility comes discretion.

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Whereas I am allowed to breastfeed my baby out and about in public, I don’t take it as license to expose myself. Although I don’t use a nursing cover, I’m as careful as possible to avoid exposure. And, with practice, I’ve gotten pretty good.

That is, until my baby gets old enough to get distracted while nursing. Then all bets for modesty are off.

What is your favorite breastfeeding apparel when out and about?

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.

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