My Che is now 9 months old. At this point, we are planning on putting all of our eggs in one basket (oo pressure, kid) — so I have this knowledge and experience that I can at least share. I hope if you are looking for some advice on breastfeeding in public that you find this post helpful.
When I began nursing my newborn, I was a bit hesitant about how and where to nurse. I knew one thing for sure — I did not want to be “banished” from a room. I didn’t want to have to go hide myself at holidays or when we had visitors, as we so often did in the beginning. I’m social. I like to chat it up. I also know that I would have a hard time merely staying at home all day. I needed to get out of the house. This, of course, involved feeding Che on the go.
At the time, I did search on the internet for good places to breastfeed. I quickly learned that this is still word of mouth type information, one can only assume because of the taboo around it.
So how did I maneuver in this new territory? When it came to guests at our house or visiting others, I would usually ask, “Do you mind if I nurse.” I think that is actually particularly generous and considerate on my part, because the reality is my kid had to eat whether anyone else liked it or not. Only once did I have a really awkward situation where I was banished to a room — a room with children in it. But in such situations, if I was not “welcome” to nurse where I was, then I’d ask my husband or someone to hang out with me. There were a few instances when I nursed privately when around older, more traditional folks, but even that was pretty rare. I do recommend asking a buddy to hang with you. I found that the overwhelming majority of people were completely fine with me breastfeeding. Even in the instances of being “banished,” several people seemed to want to accompany me into my banishment.
The next road to navigate: where to breastfeed in public. I think I feared more people not being okay with it. Luckily, I have not yet encountered any kind of rude looks or stares. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if many people even notice when I breastfeed. They don’t.
Initially, I looked for nursing-friendly places. I live in West Hartford, CT — so here is a run-down of some of the good local places as well as generic places. It was fall/winter when my son and I were out and he nursed often, so we went to the West Farms Mall. A lot. The bathroom off of the men’s department in Nordstrom has a separate nursing room, which is quite nice, though I preferred the main lounge in the bathroom because it has comfy couches. Nordstrom even has free wifi, though it is a bit slow.
The family bathroom in the middle of the mall downstairs is also a great place to nurse. It’s definitely not as comfy as Nordstrom, but it works.
In West Hartford Center, I found Reuben’s Deli to be particularly friendly — not just to breastfeeding, but to babies in general. The Noah Webster Library (main branch in WeHa Center) is also breastfeeding friendly. I nursed there once in a pinch — early on when I was more nervous about it. I went into the stacks and quietly nursed. Once I asked if there was anywhere I could nurse in the library, a librarian told me — you can nurse anywhere in the library. If you want privacy, you can use the parent conference room, which is in the children’s department. Let me also make a plug for the awesome facilities at the children’s room in the library!
Another great thing is if you ask, I found places were often very willing to accommodate. As my husband and I tried to open a bank account for Che, I asked if they minded if I nursed as we waited, and an officer opened a meeting room for me. Asking opens doors, literally.
It wasn’t long before I got over my nervousness about breastfeeding in public. I had a nursing cover, but it was a pain in the ass to use. I quickly gave that up. Then my favorite places to nurse where usually coffee joints or some kind of restaurant. I have nursed in many Starbucks and the like. If we went out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — nursing was usually part of the event.
I traveled with my baby — with my husband and alone. I’ve nursed in rest areas. It was actually in New Jersey at a rest area where I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone breastfeeding in public. Then I further realized, I don’t think most people are even remotely aware that I am breastfeeding when I am. I think I just missed it when others have nursed in public. So if you are feeling nervous about it, think of that reality check.
Obviously nursing at playgroups, doctors’ offices, baby stores, La Leche meetings, etc are all welcomed and encouraged.
Once my son hit about 6 or 7 months, my public breastfeeding habits changed a bit. I still do it, but less frequently — partly because he is also eating solids, but partly because he is more aware of the world now and gets very distracted. Even so, I feed my kid on the run frequently, and it is perfectly fine.
The bottom line is that you need to feed your kid. In most states, you are protected by the law. And the vast majority of the time no one cares — or notices.