Tips For Breastfeeding In Public

Breastfeeding is completely natural. Learn about your rights when it comes to breastfeeding in public, how to respond to criticism, and tips when it comes to nursing your little one in public spaces.

Breastfeeding Tips for Nursing Your Baby in Public

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural connections between you and your baby, so it’s no wonder many moms choose to breastfeed in public. After all, your little one can't control when or where he or she gets hungry or fussy! Still, breastfeeding moms sometimes experience criticism for nursing their little one(s) in public areas. It’s important to stay confident and know your rights when it comes to breastfeeding in public.

Are There Public Breastfeeding Laws?

A woman's breasts are designed specifically for nourishing her baby. However, in many cultures, breasts are sexualized, and there are those who believe that women who breastfeed in public are indecent. It goes without saying, of course, that this is nonsense.

In fact, 49 states (as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands) have specific laws supporting breastfeeding in public, some of which offer additional protection.

Feel free to review the laws for your specific state, as it may bring added comfort knowing the government supports your baby’s needs and your right to feed them wherever you happen to be.

What to Do if You're Criticized for Breastfeeding in Public

Unfortunately, public breastfeeding criticism does still exist in our culture, but don’t let that stop you from feeding your hungry baby. Here are some ways to respond if someone criticizes you or simply has a question about what you’re doing:

  • Explain the benefits of breastfeeding and your commitment to providing the best nutrition for your little one (pssst – we have a long list of breastfeeding benefits).

  • If someone is being rude or disrespectful to your baby’s needs, it’s okay to ignore them entirely or walk away from the situation, particularly if you don't feel safe. You know you’re doing what’s best for your baby, so don’t feel obligated to explain yourself.

  • Calmly discuss differences in opinion, without accepting their criticism. Disagreements happen, so don’t be afraid to defend your values.

  • Explain the demands of breastfeeding and how often you need to breastfeed in order to provide for your little one.

  • Tell them that every family is different and this is what works best for your family.

What NOT To Do if You're Criticized for Breastfeeding in Public

If a person seems hostile, confrontational, or tries to shame you for breastfeeding in a public place, there are certain actions that you shouldn't take:

  • Do not engage with someone who is physically invading your space and privacy. Don't be afraid to loudly assert your need for them to back away from you and your baby.
  • Do not engage if someone seems threatening or as though they are simply looking for a confrontation. Keep yourself and your baby safe and try to move somewhere visible, where you can easily ask someone else for assistance.
  • Do not be afraid to cause a scene by loudly asking for assistance from others in the public space and/or by asking the hostile person to step away. Your safety - as well as your little one's! - is paramount. 

Tips for Breastfeeding In Public

Some moms have questions about how to breastfeed in a public place discreetly. Here are some suggestions to try:

  • Experiment with different loose-fitting shirts and nursing bras that allow for easy access to your breast.

  • Try a nursing cover if it makes you more comfortable. Many wrap around your shoulders and cover your breasts while feeding.

  • Keep your baby close with a baby sling. Many slings keep your baby in a natural breastfeeding position making it extremely easy to breastfeed on-the-go.

  • Practice how you would breastfeed in public at home. Once it feels comfortable, you can begin breastfeeding in other places outside of the home.

Remember, breastfeeding is one of the healthiest ways to nourish your precious baby. You've made a great choice for your child's wellness by choosing to breastfeed. Unfortunately, babies don't always follow your schedule or understand that a grocery store may be an inconvenient place to be fed. What's most important is ensuring your baby's needs are met - not someone else's ill-conceived notion that naturally feeding your child in public is somehow offensive. We know that couldn't be further from the truth and we've got your back, mama!