Friday, December 16, 2011

Nursing in Public

When I have a newborn, I think I tend to feel a little... unsteady or unsure of myself when it comes to nursing in public. Its like it is new all over again. (Though I do wonder if it will be different with Spencer since it won't be completely new.)

I think maybe I try harder to be discreet with a little baby than I do with a toddler. I don't nurse in public often with a toddler, but then again toddlers just don't nurse as often as babies.

The question that came to mind for me recently was, "who's comfort is our concern?" I know some women are uncomfortable nursing in public. Still, is the discomfort their own modesty? Is it a fear of drawing attention? Perhaps mothers don't want to make others uncomfortable. Or, is it our spouses?

Breastfeeding on a park benchBreastfeeding on a Park Bench
Click image for Photo Credit.

I'm not modest when it comes to my body. I lost that modesty ages ago. And I tend to not notice the discomfort of strangers. I don't even mind any extra attention (at all).

I recently nursed my 2 year old daughter in the waiting room of a pediatric clinic. My husband was not entirely comfortable with the scene. It isn't actually the nursing that bothers him, it is the moment when our daughter suddenly unlatches and sits up. Sometimes I just can't cover up fast enough because there is rarely any warning and she is completely mobile on her own (unlike an infant).

Do you nurse in public? Are you any more reserved depending on who is around or who is with you? Do you put the feelings of others ahead of your own? How do you balance all of this with your own comfort level and needs of your child?


  1. "I think maybe I try harder to be discreet with a little baby than I do with a toddler. I don't nurse in public often with a toddler, but then again toddlers just don't nurse as often as babies."

    :) Perhaps it's because your breasts look HUGE next to a tiny newborn?

    I nursed in public all the time. I never cared, but perhaps I should have. Once my son stopped breastfeeding, one friend remarked that she was relieved she didn't have to look at my breasts anymore. Of course, they're still on my blog banner... amazingly made by the same friend!

    If you want to nurse in public without people seeing, a mei tai is great for that!


  2. I'm much more comfortable with nursing a newborn in public than a toddler, because newborns stay still! Also I feel like people were less judgemental when Josh was 10 lbs and newborn than now at 21 mos and 35lbs. He looks much older than he actually is just because he's so big, and I think that's part of why I hesitate to nurse him in public now. I see nothing wrong with nursing a 5yo, but I know that the bigger he gets, the more people will have a problem, and that makes me uncomfortable, too.

    Plus with a newborn you nurse so much and for so ling that nip is practically required!

  3. I have thought a lot about this, and I realize that personally, I really don't worry about anyone's comfort except the comfort of my babies. Now, in certain situations, this is a tad different. Like if I'm nursing Joseph in church, I'll make sure I'm not flashing my belly or side boob :) but most of the time, I just nurse. Both of my babies are big enough now that they cover what needs covering with their bodies, unless their being particularly squirmy. I'm lucky to have a medium frame, and not much in the way of a bust. So nursing in public is really easy for me. For others, I know that it is much more of a challenge. I think the ease that I have been blessed with makes my worry close to nothing. . . I just worry that my baby eats and my preschooler is comforted should she need nursing while we're out.

  4. I don't let other people's hang ups bother me in other aspects, I certainly don't let them affect my decisions to my child's well being. I do have a harder time nursing a newborn in public, but I think that is just my need to focus on still learning a new baby's latch (even after nursing 2, and still nursing even) and a need to be on alert for protective reasons. Not from people, just a survival instinct I think. :-)

  5. Hmmm....good question. Sure everyone is all over the map.

    Like others, I also tend(ed) not to care when I nursed my daughter in public. I often wore her in a sling (mei tai) so no one could see anyway. I will say, though, that it seemed folks couldn't help but stick their face into the sling to see her -- sure they got an eyeful then! There were times where it wasn't so discreet, though.

    I guess most of me felt like it was important to nurse in public. Part of me (a little piece) did have the "should I cover up" thought now and again. I think that concern was for others.

    However, I believe my concern for my baby and for other nursing mothers who may need support or encouragement and for future mamas who have (probably) never seen breastfeeding before was greater than my concern for others' discomfort (their own issue), so I didn't have much of an inner argument about flashing my nipple to the world.....even when she was a toddler and nipple flashing became more commonplace.

    I will say that both my homebirth experience and breastfeeding made me feel the natural state of my body to the point that I fully understood the role my breasts and nipples play in the cycle of life -- propriety and politeness be gone! These are not just sexual playthings!


  6. I had a hard time NIP when ~B~ was a newborn, just because I felt like need to be topless to do it comfortably, so for the first 8 weeks I didn't. But from about then till about 9-10 months I would NIP anywhere.. It didn't bother me and if it bother others I really didn't care.. Because for some reason in our society it's ok for a 14 year old to show off more breast then you would see while a woman nurses.. so I say the more people see women nursing the more proper view of a woman's body will be respected... I would have continued to NIP but ~B~ just became to active to and nosy to NIP. And it was more of a hassle then anything else. My husband was weird in the beginning but then he would be like 'just nurse him here who cares!' (because he had a new respect for what breast really are for) ;)

  7. I nurse Aodhan in public all the time - and he is just turning 30 months this week. He was born in Brussels, where, generally, ppl didn't bat an eye at a woman nursing. I have noted since moving back home to Canada that ppl seem uncomfortable on occasion. To be honest, and not glib, I don't care about other people when it relates to nursing because A) it's my young son's need and right to nurse and B) we are humans and that's what my human breasts are there for. I don't care if someone sees some skin or even some nipple - you'd have to be staring pretty darn hard.
    I wish you loads of luck NIP with your newest little one - I found the slings so helpful when he was a newborn.

  8. I don't care for the most part. I try to be discreet, but I don't use a blanket and I don't sweat too much over what people may or may not be noticing. But when my husband's with me ... it's different. I just feel awkward, and he usually used to throw a blanket over me. I never knew if he was trying to be helpful or whether he really thought I needed to be more covered. And it was never a good time to ask. It was a source of anxiety sometimes. I did feel that he had the right to a little consideration, seeing as he is my husband and he is getting stared at too. I didn't want to make him feel awkward. So I would leave the blanket on, but it was a pain.

    So, YES, who you're with does make a big difference!


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