Breastfeeding in public can be a daunting thought for any breastfeeding mum. It can be very scary to get your breasts out in front of a friend, relative or in a public place such as a café. However, you can discreetly and easily breastfeed your child in public, and you may well find that no-one even notices what you are doing. Moreover, breastfeeding mothers and babies are protected from discrimination throughout Great Britain (although not in Northern Ireland).
Where can you breastfeed?
Mums are legally allowed to breastfeed in parks, any public transport including buses, trains and aeroplanes, leisure and sports centres and public buildings. You have the right to feed in shops, hotels and restaurants no matter the size of the company. You are also covered by the law in cinemas, theatres, petrol stations and hospitals.
Many mothers visit a friend or a mother and baby room for their first outing, but breastfeeding does not mean that you have to keep yourself and your baby hidden away when you breastfeed, especially if the law is on your side. You will also quickly learn to recognise your baby’s feeding cues, so you can prepare yourself and feel comfortable and ready for him to latch on before he is crying for attention from you, and attracting attention from others.
If you still feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public, you may feel more confident if you attach your baby, and then read a magazine. Sitting in a corner will give you most privacy and, if you are with someone, you could ask them to ensure that you are not in full view of everyone.
Some mothers find that leaking is a problem with a new baby. If your breasts begin to tingle as if they may leak, applying pressure on the nipple with your hand stems the flow, and absorbent breast pads are helpful.
Research breastfeeding friendly places
Research on the internet where other mums have found it comfortable to breastfeed. Breastfeeding in public is a huge topic online, so there are plenty of places you can find advice and suggestions of where to go. After a while you will find regular spots where you feel most comfortable, this could be a park bench or the local café.
Additionally, a number of premises do provide designated rooms in which mothers can breastfeed. Sometimes, however, a hungry baby will not wait! And remember that no breastfeeding mother should feel the need to use public toilets; you wouldn’t eat your dinner in there and your baby shouldn’t have to either.
What to wear?
Being comfortable and having easy access to your breasts while in public is key to help breastfeed more comfortable out of the house. Find a good breastfeeding bra that allows you to get your nipple out without flashing the rest of the world. A patterned top is ideal for hiding any leakage that might occur too. There are also tops specifically designed for breastfeeding but you can also use loose, baggy tops just as long as you can pull it down underneath one of your breasts. Some mums also find it more comfortable if they use a breastfeeding cover/shawl, this way you have material over your chest and the baby. Although you should not feel that you have to cover up but if having a cover enables you to breastfed successfully and longer then it makes sense to use one.
Breastfeeding and the law
Most cultures view a mother breastfeeding her baby as natural. It is again becoming more normal in the UK and happily our government is working to support breastfeeding in public places.
Breastfeeding in public in England
Under the Equality Act 2010, mums cannot be discriminated against, asked to leave a venue or treated unfavourably because they are breastfeeding. The Equality Act provides specific protection for babies under six months, and after that a breastfeeding mother is protected through the sex discrimination provisions in the Act.
Breastfeeding in public in Scotland
Under the Breastfeeding etc. (Scotland) Act 2005, it is an offence to prevent or stop a mother from feeding her child in a public place or licensed premises, so long as the child is lawfully allowed to be there. Under this Act, ‘child’ means anyone under two years of age. The offence carries a fine of up to £2,500.
Lastly, don’t let the negativity stop you
It is your right to feed your baby and if people have opinions on you feeding your baby, it’s there problem not yours. Even if you’re feeling nervous, act confident and if anyone has a negative comment, remind yourself this is a completely natural part of being a mum and the law is behind you. Even if you feel someone is staring at you, stay calm and don’t take it personally, keep your mind on breastfeeding your baby. Remember most people will not say anything to you and let you feed your baby in peace and hopefully you will never receive a negative comment during your breastfeeding experience.