Breastfeeding On-the-Go: Information and Tips

For when you need to nurse in public

Woman breast feeding at the park
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When you're breastfeeding a newborn or young infant, it's every two to three hours day and night. It's enough to make you feel tied down and stuck in the house. But it doesn't have to be that way. It's not only possible to leave the house with your breastfed baby, but it's also easy. It might seem intimidating at first, but after you get out and do it, you'll see that breastfeeding on-the-go isn't that scary after all.

And it's better for you and your baby because when you feel more comfortable breastfeeding in a variety of different situations, you're more likely to breastfeed exclusively and for a longer duration of time.

Since you don't have to stay cooped up in the house because you're breastfeeding, take advantage of the freedom and get out and do the things you like to do or have to do. Whether it's taking a break from staying in, running errands, going on an outing, visiting family and friends, or even going on vacation, breastfeeding doesn't have to hold you back. Since you already have your breast milk supply with you, all you need is your child, a few items in a bag, and you're off!

Breastfeeding on-the-go doesn't take much effort, plus it's convenient. When you're breastfeeding:

  • Your breast milk is always ready. You don't have to prepare a bottle for your baby.
  • Your milk is always the right temperature. You don't have to find somewhere to heat it up or find an electric outlet for a bottle warmer.
  • You can pack light. The diaper bag is easier to carry without the weight of extra bottles of formula or water to mix powdered formula.
  • Clean up is a breeze. There won't be any bottles and nipples to clean, and you don't have to put dirty bottles and nipples back into your diaper bag to wash when you get to where you're going.
  • You're saving money. Since you make your own milk and have a natural dispenser, you don't have to buy bottles or disposable formula bottles and nipples to bring with you. Now you'll have that much more to spend on your outing.

Leaving the House, Modesty, and Public Breastfeeding Anxiety

Some women have no problem breastfeeding in public. They will breastfeed wherever they are or in front of whoever is around, and that's great. But not all moms are that confident and relaxed about breastfeeding in public. Leaving the house with a breastfed baby can cause anxiety for some women, especially the first time. So, if you feel uncomfortable and stressed out when you think about breastfeeding in public, you're not alone. Many women feel the same way that you do.

You may be wondering: Where should you feed the baby? How can you be discreet? What should you do if someone says something to you about it? Your concerns are common and understandable. But, with some preparation, a little practice, and a bit of helpful advice, you'll be feeling more comfortable about breastfeeding in public before you know it. The truth is, most of the time when you're out, you can breastfeed, and no one will even notice.

Plus, the more you get out and do it, the more confident, and discreet you'll be.

Tips for Breastfeeding On-the-Go

  1. Don't fight with your clothes. You might want to wear a cute outfit or a dress, especially if you haven't been out in a while or you're going somewhere special. It feels good to look nice. But you have to think about comfort and the ease of breastfeeding. Luckily, there are some super cute nursing outfits and dresses or even non-nursing clothing choices that will work. A nursing bra that you can operate with one hand will make it easier and less conspicuous when it's feeding time. Tops and dresses with access panels in the front let you breastfeed without having to expose much of your skin. If you don't have nursing clothes, a button-down blouse or a loose-fitting top will work just as well. Outfits with patterns can camouflage small wet spots that make it through, while jackets, sweaters, and vests are perfect for covering up larger unexpected leaks. You may also want to try dressing in layers. A tank top under a looser shirt or sweatshirt can keep your belly covered when you lift the outer piece of clothing to nurse.
  1. When in doubt, cover up. Once you get used to it, breastfeeding in nursing clothes can be just as discreet as using a nursing cover up since the baby's head usually keeps you covered pretty well during feedings. But, if you still feel uncomfortable and need a little more privacy, that's OK, too. That's what breastfeeding covers are for. They provide extra privacy and can make you feel more confident if you need to breastfeed when other people are around. A shawl, scarf, jacket, vest, or receiving blanket can also work well to keep you covered up.
  2. Think like a kangaroo. A mother kangaroo keeps her baby in a pouch, and that's where the baby nurses. If you have a newborn or young infant, you can also keep your little one close to your body. Not in a pouch, but in a sling or a carrier. Then, when it's time to breastfeed, just adjust your child into position and carry on with what you're doing. It's a great way to keep breastfeeding hidden (and free up your hands) while you're out and about. Just be sure to choose a safe product and follow all the instructions and safety precautions included with the sling or carrier.
  3. A little practice goes a long way. At home, try breastfeeding in front of a mirror to see how it looks. Practice without a cover, with a cover, in a sling, etc. You can work on getting into a comfortable position and getting your baby latched on quickly and discreetly before you venture out in public. You might find that it's not as bad as you thought and hardly noticeable that you're breastfeeding. Or it may take some adjustments and a little while to get the hang of it.
  4. Stake out some breastfeeding spots before you head out. Look up your destination before you arrive to find out where to go for some privacy. If you make a plan before you go, it may help to relieve some of the anxiety. Many attractions such as zoos, theme parks, airports, and stadiums now have designated quiet places or rooms for moms to breastfeed or pump right on site. If you can't find an area set aside for breastfeeding, you can go into a dressing room in a store, ask for a corner booth at a restaurant, or head to your car for some private time. While you don't have to be banned to the bathroom, if that's where you feel comfortable, it's an option, too. And don't forget to check the internet or ask your friends. Sometimes you can find great tips on out of the way spots from other breastfeeding moms who've been where you're going.
  5. Feed a hungry baby. Try not to wait too long to feed your baby once you notice she's hungry. It will be less obvious if your child is calmer when it's time to nurse. An overly hungry and cranky baby may start crying or fussing as you try to get her latched on. It will draw more attention and make it more noticeable that you're breastfeeding when you're trying to be discreet. 
  6. Don't worry; it's not weird. Try to remember that breastfeeding your baby is normal and not something that you have to feel ashamed about or hide. Others may not like it or understand it, but that's their issue, not yours. You have every right to breastfeed your baby in public, and in most places, the law protects your right to do so. Do not let anyone try to chase you away or make you feel like you're doing something wrong. Still, if anyone does makes a remark or asks you to stop, just remain calm and ignore them. If you'd like to enlighten them on your rights, you can do that, too. And, while it's easy to focus on the few negative people and comments, the reality is that most people are friendly or mind their own business.

Bringing Pumped Breast Milk on Your Outings

If you don't feel comfortable breastfeeding while you're out, you have the option to pump and bring your expressed breast milk with you. However, your breasts will still fill up with breast milk. If you're not going to be out for too long and you can handle a little breast engorgement, then you should be OK. But if you're going to be out for more than a few hours, you may need to find a place to pump. You'll also need to store your expressed breast milk safely until you get home. It may just be easier to find a quiet place to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding Toddlers On-the-Go

By the time your child's a toddler, you'll be an expert at breastfeeding on-the-go. But, then all of sudden you have a new issue. Discreet breastfeeding with a toddler can be a little tricky. And, while it's becoming more normalized to breastfeed an infant, that's not always true when it comes to toddlers. On top of that, toddlers who breastfeed can start to undress you in public or grab at your breasts. They can talk and yell, too. You're likely to get a variety of looks if you breastfeed an older child in public. Now, if you're confident and can handle that, go for it. But, if it bothers you then you may have to come up with some rules for your toddler when you're out. A code word is a great way for your little one to let you know that she wants to nurse. When your child says the word, you can find a private place to feed her. Of course, at some point, you may decide that breastfeeding only happens at home, and that's OK, too.

Sources:

Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

Stuebe AM, Bonuck K. What predicts intent to breastfeed exclusively? Breastfeeding knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs in a diverse urban population. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2011 December 1;6(6):413-20.

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