Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nursing in public

Breastfeeding in public does not have to be a source of anxiety for new moms, but all too often that is what it becomes. As much as you might insist that you will never breastfeed your baby in public, if you plan on leaving your house at all during your baby's first year, you will likely eventually need to nurse in public at some point. Believe me, sometimes it is simply too hot in July to sit in the car and nurse your baby. Usually a gradual transition to nursing in public makes new moms most comfortable. I managed to avoid nursing in public for about the first three months after my daughter was born, then one day at the car dealership getting a routine oil change, I had no other choice but to nurse in public. To get used to the idea, I simply went outside from the very comfortable, air-conditioned waiting area, and sat down alone on a bench and used a baby blanket partially draped over my shoulder to provide coverage. After just a few times of nursing in public, I became a pro and was never uncomfortable again. I couldn't believe how quickly I became confident with nursing in public.

There are some helpful hints to keep in mind to make nursing your baby in public easier:

1. It is helpful to utilize available resources for nursing moms. Many larger department stores have rooms exclusively devoted to nursing mothers. You can sit in relative comfort and nurse without being disrupted.

2. If you can't find a room designated for nursing mothers, you can utilize a dressing room of a store that isn't busy. This is a good option if you are not comfortable sitting in a busy area where people will see you.

3. Most malls have several seating options throughout the mall, and you could easily use any of the numerous oversized chairs or benches that malls have. Of the numerous times (probably hundreds) I nursed in public, I never received one negative comment. Usually most people can't even tell the difference between a nursing baby and a baby who is simply sleeping.

4. Buy a baby sling. Most cloth baby carriers allow a mother to nurse a baby while the baby is in the sling. This provides coverage for the mother and makes breastfeeding incredibly convenient. Baby slings enabled me to nurse virtually any place that I was. I could walk throughout a grocery store and continue to shop and nurse simultaneously.

5. Wear a cardigan or shirt with buttons over a cotton shirt. You can easily lift your shirt to nurse and still have coverage from the top layer of clothing.

6. You will absolutely need a bra designed specifically for nursing mothers. Nursing bras enable you to quickly unfasten the front portion, making nursing in public very easy.

7. Many companies also make clothing specifically for nursing mothers. Such clothing provides coverage and makes nursing easy.

8. Avoid using restrooms to nurse. Using a restroom to nurse a baby really isn't a suitable option. You will basically have only one seating option, which won't be comfortable! The sound of running water and flushing toilets can also be disruptive to your baby, so you would be much better off finding a quiet area in the mall.

9. Even nursing on a plane can be incredibly easy too. The few times that my daughter and I flew, my husband was always with us. We bought a seat for her anyway to make sure that in the event of an emergency we would all have an oxygen mask. So, when I needed to nurse her, which was literally the entire 5 hours of a cross-country flight, I simply sat in the window seat. If you are traveling alone and seated in close proximity to strangers, do realize that most reasonable adults would clearly rather sit next to a content nursing baby, than a crying baby. After our cross-country flight, nearby passengers commented that they didn't even realize a toddler was on board.

10. Occasionally you might encounter someone eager to cause a confrontation. Quietly remind such an individual of your rights as a nursing mother (research and know your rights in the state you live or the area where you will be traveling). If the person continues to harass you, you can always notify mall security or the appropriate authorities wherever you happen to be.

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