Breastfeeding Your Baby in Public: A Ladyguide

So, your baby is obsessed with your boobs. Congratulations. What’s not always so great is how they get hungry anytime, anywhere, and won’t be cajoled into waiting until you get to a comfortable, private place. Which means unless you plan to spend the next year inside your house, you’ll have to feed your kid when you’re out and about (among a society that’s also obsessed with your boobs, albeit in a different way). Here’s how to do it in a way that will keep jerks from saying anything and also keep your kid (and your ta-tas) happy.

Breastfeeding goes well with beer.

1) Wear Layers.
When you’re nursing your kid, you’re really not all that exposed (once you get the hang of it, of course). After that first latch, junior pretty much shields the world from your shameful, shameful body, but this is especially more the case if you wear layers. Nursing tanks are great for this (and like $12 at Target). Try to get one that has a strip of fabric above your breast-al region, too. And wear a hoodie or a drapey shirt over that so you have additional fabric to work with if you really want to stay hidden. Scarves are good, too, but keep in mind that once your kid is like four months old, s/he will just tug at it or pull it off and render any shielding it’s doing moot.

2) Wear Your Baby.
Babies in slings, wraps and carriers are easy to ninja nurse, but you’ll want to practice at home first. Strangers will comment on their cute hair, how well behaved they are and their chubby legs, all the while not noticing that your little sweetheart is sucking away. I’ve had people come right up to my son wanting to see his face and not realize he was snacking until he pulled off with milk on his chin. Ninja nursing has the added benefit of freeing your hands so you can grocery shop, peruse the library stacks, pay your bus fare… whatever.

3) Know Where You Can Sit.
Most big-box stores have a home furnishing section. Know where it is, and go there and sit on the sofa. If there isn’t a furnishing section, find a bench or a stool. Most U.S. states have laws that specifically allow you to breastfeed in any public or private location, though only a few states will punish companies for not complying. (For more details on that, visit this La Leche League page.) While a store is not obligated to provide you a place to sit specifically to feed your baby, you can always ask. If worst comes to worst, there’s always a fitting room.

4) Ignore the Haters.
I know I’ve been lucky. Western Washington, where I live, is pretty damn granola and secular AND has an enforceable breastfeed-wherever-you-are law (meaning that I could lawyer up if I felt discriminated against). I haven’t had many experiences with public judgment while I’ve nursed my son, and I went into it expecting to need to hone my verbal combat skills. Only once, when he was about a month old, did a woman say, “Gross!” to her friend, but she was young and dumb and I just laughed it off as ignorance. Mostly, I get absolutely no response. I also have gotten very good at getting him on and off quickly, and he’s efficient now, to boot, so it’s just not a thing anymore. BUT. I know that’s not the case for everyone. If you get lip from someone, calmly state that your baby is hungry and you will be feeding him or her. Know your rights where you live and cite what you know.

5) Don’t Worry Too Much If You Leave it All Hanging Out.
I was in a restaurant with my partner, my cousin, a friend and my cousin’s boyfriend. We were eating. (I had shrimp and grits.) At one time, kid was nursing in the carrier. Kid fell asleep. I forgot to “close up shop,” and things were left exposed for probably longer than I care to admit. You know what? No one noticed. And if they did, they politely turned away. I felt like giving Puritanical Americans more credit after that day. Sure, some states might be pretty backwards with their keep-the-shame-at-home laws, but when it comes down to it, most people don’t care that your feeding your kid with your sexy, sexy, juggs.

By jennyroseryan

Jenny Rose Ryan is a DIY junkie and a self-professed grandma. (In the sense that she likes to say things like, "Back in my day..." and enjoys doilies, blue hair and making things from scratch.) A frequent contributor to BUST Magazine, Jenny Rose also contributed heavily to the BUST DIY Guide to Life (while 9 months pregnant -- the ultimate do-it-yourself experience), and is an avid runner and marathon-fiend. When not carin' for the grumpy babe, writing or running, you can find her listening to new metal (as opposed to nu metal) and being so horrified by American politics that she bakes instead.

9 replies on “Breastfeeding Your Baby in Public: A Ladyguide”

Contemporary feminists need to reconcile pushing people to “respect” oppressively conservative non-western mores (on the weak grounds of “idk…it’s just their culture!”) and saying that it’s okay  for breastfeeding women to whip ’em out absolutely anywhere they happen to be.

Contemporary feminist or not, I don’t really understand the connection you’re talking about. Are you saying that if someone (feminist or not) is okay with oppressive cultural ideals as long as applied to “others,” then they must be okay with someone who espouses these ideals being annoyed with them for, as you put it, “whip(ping) ’em out?” Personally, I don’t care if someone is annoyed with me. It’s the law.

I don’t think I’m getting the connection. Because I don’t think there is one. Americans ARE okay with seeing naked breasts. Just not when they’re feeding babies. We see a ton more flesh in advertisements and other media then one does when a baby is nursing.

This is what it actually looks like:

(From a New Zealand ad campaign promoting breastfeeding.)


I’m not a mother yet, but since that’s in the foreseeable future, I’ve started thinking about it and reading up on it. Breastfeeding in public is something that never would have crossed my mind as something that would incur strangers’ wrath, but recently, I’ve been reading a lot of articles about the backlash of nursing in public areas. Honestly, I don’t understand what is so upsetting about nurturing the child you birthed in the most natural way possible. If you’re not exposing your titties to the world, why do people care so much?

I never got any negative comments either, although I always had my fighting cap on, just in case, especially once we moved to the South from LA. After she was a year I stopped nursing in public, just because it got a little awkward FOR ME to have a toddler NIP. Anyway she was generally too interested in whatever else was going on to want to nurse at that point.

Mostly I got smiles, actually. And a few thank yous.

I am in the midwest, and never had anybody say anything untoward about me whipping it out in public, even though I expected it at every turn.  By the time I was feeding the kid in public, though, she had usually been cranky enough for long enough that I would have welcomed the chance for somebody to get up in my grill about it so that I could let off some steam and give them a piece of my mind.  Not in a “this is my right!” kind of way, but in a “Here, then YOU TAKE CARE OF THE FUCKING BABY” kind of way.  And my kid wouldn’t allow any sort of cover-ups, either because it was hot, or because she wanted to see what was going on, or because she doesn’t believe in shame.  Either way, though, I have spent a lot of the last year basically topless basically everywhere, and am none the worse for wear.

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