Breastfeeding in Public: A Not-So-Handy How-To Guide that really won't help you at all

I recently had a conversation with a pregnant woman who was nervous about breastfeeding, especially in public. As I tried to reassure her that she had nothing to fear, Violet decided she wanted to provide a very timely example for our new friend, so I popped her on as always, no problem. I go on and on about how easy it is to be discreet and how no one ever even looks at you, blah blah blah, and right about then Violet pops off and as always, I hold her there until I have my top back in place. Then, continuing to talk, I seamlessly pick Vi up and set her on my lap. But wait… I feel a draft… I look down and realize OH HELLO. THAT’S MY NIPPLE LOOKING AT YOU. I’m sure I helped that girl make the right decision.


Random accidental flashings aside, I mostly do believe what I was saying about breastfeeding in public being easy. Oh sure, there are the occasional fighting, squirming babies latching on then ripping themselves off to look around the room because GOD FORBID THEY MISS SOMETHING and yes, that can get questionably porn-ish at times, but all in all, public nursing is not that bad. To prove my point, I’ll share some of my tits with you. OOPS, I mean, no! I mean my TIPS, I’ll share my TIPS.

Now, newborns are tricky. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and (no matter how many kids you’ve had) neither do you, because every newborn is their own particular brand of pain in the ass. Newborns want the WHOLE boob, not just the nicely concealed nipple, so I prefer a nursing cover in the newborn phase. A cover has its drawbacks, to be sure (see below), but a cover enables you to practically pull off your entire top so your newborn can figure out how to put his little mouth where it belongs. And you’ll have to help maneuver that mouth into place also by grabbing your boob and getting him to open wide and all that, which is definitely gonna turn some pervy college guy on if you’re trying to do it without a blanket or something. Also, with new babies there’s not as much of a distinction between mild hunger fussing and man-overboard, this boat is sinking now-style wailing, so you can guarantee that every head in that restaurant is turned towards you as you struggle to remember the difference between the cradle hold and the football hold while milk is squirting out in pints all over said screaming baby’s face.

Older infants are easier than newborns in one way and more complicated in another. Newborns have one goal in life: to suck your titty. All roads lead to more boob. But infants have other desires in addition to your ta-tas. Like playing with your earrings. Or smiling at your friends. Or cooing at her big brother. Or crawling all over the nasty floor. Or squeezing the shit out of the folds of fat at the back of your arms, then giggling as you howl in pain. All these things take time away from nursing, and infants resent having to face your underarm for however long it takes them to eat.

Nursing toddlers is the easiest. They know what they’re doing and they get in and outta there in record time. I only nursed Noah for 22 months, but I realized in those last several months that we really never even nursed in public anymore. He never really needed to nurse, he only wanted to for comfort right before bed or something. If he was hungry or thirsty he wanted food or a drink, so I was off the hook unless we were in the rocking chair at home, in the dark, with the noise maker on… you get it.

If you are going out and you know you’ll be nursing, dressing in layers is the smartest thing you can do. For infants, I favor the tank top underneath, looser shirt on top method. Loose top layer comes up and over the boob while tank comes down under the boob. Very little actual skin is exposed here, and the baby’s head covers up your nipple while the tank covers the lower half and the loose shirt covers the upper half. Win-win! That is, until baby pulls off to twist around and see what else is in the SAME ROOM YOU HAVE BEEN IN FOR TWO HOURS, and you have to do a quick top down over the exposed boob. I like to keep my hand on the top over the baby’s head for quick shielding and to eliminate as much accidental flashage as possible. When baby is done nursing (or when you’ve had enough of the on-again, off-again bullshit), simply pull the top all the way down, then reach up to adjust the tank and re-clip your nursing bra. And that reminds me…

Just say no to the nursing bra. I have five nursing bras, and when my stretchy, sporty-type bras run out and I have to wear one of them, it sucks. I recommend bras that you don’t have to remember to clip, because when one side is clipped and the other boob is all hanging down to your knees, you’ll end up cock-eyed for half the day without even realizing it.

Nursing with a cover can be good, as I mentioned, when you want a little bit of extra privacy, or when you want that baby to FUCKING FOCUS FOR JUST LIKE, ONE SECOND VIOLET! (Ahem.) If you go with an actual nursing cover as opposed to a blanket, you’ll notice they provide a nice structured u-shape so you can maintain eye contact with your baby. This is really nice until that waiter comes over and stands behind you to get everyone’s order, because then guess who ELSE can make eye contact with your baby? AND YOUR BOOBIE. You’ll either get really good or really crappy service from then on, so it is a calculated risk to be sure. The other reasons nursing with a cover can suck: a) baby hates it and tries to swipe it off, meaning down comes your defense and out comes your knocker, and b) setting yourself up with the cover or blanket actually kind of draws attention TO you instead of AWAY from you, at a time when you really want as little attention as possible. Using a nursing cover is like standing in a crowded room and yelling “HEY GUESS WHAT’S GOING ON UNDER HERE! I’m wearing a big ole blanket even though it’s hotter than balls in here and two chubby legs are sticking out the side! EVERYONE VISUALIZE MY NIPPLES.” Not to mention it takes time to put all that shit on and hold it in place while you try and latch the baby, when the baby is probably freaking out because he’s hungry. And the longer it takes you, the angrier baby gets, which makes you fumble stuff, which makes baby angrier, which makes everyone stare at you while you’re trying to get casually undressed. NO PRESSURE.

You can also go the Ergo route. Now, I had a Moby wrap for Violet when she was teeny, but I could NEVER figure out how to nurse in it. I even watched YouTube videos on the subject and everything. I found she was so tightly strapped to me that she couldn’t possibly have nursed discreetly, so I gave up and unwrapped her every time she wanted to eat. But now we’ve graduated to the Ergo and it is way easier. Well… it is easier. Let’s take out the WAY. That’s going a bit too far. It’s still complicated as shit. You are supposed to easily be able to lower the arm straps so the baby is even with your boob, but I find this almost impossible. First of all, lowering the straps requires some sort of voodoo bending of your arms in order to reach the thing that loosens them… which is resting on your shoulder blades. And I can never get Violet low enough, no matter how loose I make the straps. She’s always hovering somewhere around the upper part of my breast, never close enough to reach it with her mouth. I have to grab my boob and hoist it like three inches north to meet her halfway. But after all that, when the baby finally finds your nipple, it really is one of the more discreet ways to nurse. There’s this handy cover that goes over the baby’s head so you get a nice illusion of privacy. And if you position your arm to cover the glaring side boob that’s just hanging out there by the arm strap, you’re gravy. I definitely prefer sitting down with baby in the cradle position, a cup of coffee in one hand, and a scone within easy reach, but sometimes that’s not possible, so you play the hand you’re dealt and all.

The truth is, y’all, that no matter how easy or difficult nursing (whether in public or at home) may be, it’s so important. I’m amazed at how many women still choose not to breastfeed. I can’t think of a single reason why, if you are able, you wouldn’t nurse your baby. It’s the best thing for them in terms of nutrition AND comfort, it’s the best thing for YOU, and it’s free! And I will so judge you if you decide not to do what you KNOW is best for your baby. So mamas, let’s get out there with our mammary glands and try not to turn any heads. Feel free to print this not-so-handy how-to guide and consult it as needed.

One comment on “Breastfeeding in Public: A Not-So-Handy How-To Guide that really won't help you at all

  1. Rachael says:

    For the Ergo feed, I swear by the 2″ waist band shift🙂 Good on you to advocate for bf’ing in public, given your little one is a class a stinker about doing it!

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