Nursing is universally recognized as the best way to nourish a new baby. The International Pediatric Association and other world-renowned health organizations agree that breastfeeding provides a growing child with the ideally balanced nutrition that they need to thrive.
The protein, healthy fats, and sugars in your milk are just what your baby needs to grow up strong and healthy. In addition, a mother’s milk actually changes throughout a baby’s development, allowing it to accommodate the changing nutritional needs of a growing child. The female body is impressive!
In addition to its nutritional benefits, breastfeeding can have immensely positive health effects on babies and mamas alike. Breast milk gives an invaluable boost to your little one’s immune system, too, by transmitting the antibodies and immune cells created by your own immune system to their developing one.
Nursing Comes With Endless Benefits
Notably, breastfeeding is not only beneficial to the infant–it helps you, too! Moms who breastfeed are less likely to develop certain conditions, including ovarian and breast cancers. They are also less likely to develop type two diabetes.
Overall, breastfeeding is a very healthy choice for both you and your little one.
With all this in mind, it makes sense that doctors recommend breastfeeding a new baby exclusively (meaning that breast milk is the only food your little one consumes) until at least six months of age. Then, they suggest that you continue breastfeeding in addition to other foods until your child reaches at least one year of age. These timelines maximize the health benefits to your little one and facilitate mama-baby bonding, too.
Breastfeeding exclusively is no small feat.
Since the breasts operate on a supply-and-demand basis, you will need to feed your child frequently in order to maintain a hearty milk supply. Fortunately, babies are frequently hungry, and the hunger patterns of your little one are likely to align with your own body’s schedule.
Doctors recommend staying hydrated, eating well, and feeding or pumping about every two to four hours to maintain an optimum milk supply. This schedule should align with your baby’s meal times – but if not, keep the cycle regular by pumping on a regular basis.
Challenges To Exclusive Breastfeeding
But, wait–we know you’re a busy lady! Feeding a little one so frequently is all well and good when you’re staying at home, but in reality, you’ve got things to do and places to be.
How can you be expected to continue nursing on such a strict schedule when your life and responsibilities demand that you enter the public world? Whether you need to go to work, run errands, or simply take a walk to escape the house, it’s inevitable that at some time or another, you will find yourself in public when your baby is telling you they’re ready for a meal.
Breastfeeding in public may seem intimidating, but don’t worry: it’s more common than you think! Take the following tips and tricks into consideration as you prepare to feed in public for the first time.
Know Your Rights
In all U.S. states and Canada, there are laws in place that protect your right to nurse your child whenever and wherever you choose. These laws apply to all public spaces, including restaurants and outdoor areas.
Therefore, go forward with the confidence that the law is on your side! Nobody has the right to ask you to move, cover-up, or stop nursing. There is no reason you should not breastfeed your child at any time and place that works for you.
Experiment With Different Clothing Options
Your clothing choices will affect how easy it is to feed your child in public, so experiment with different options to discover what works best for you and your little one.
When selecting clothing, consider your comfort level with nursing in public. You may choose to wear loose, flowy tops that can be easily pulled up or down to give your little one access to your breast. Some women prefer button-down shirts or wrap dresses.
Whatever makes you most comfortable is what you should wear!
Similarly, your choice of a bra will make a big difference when it comes to breastfeeding your little one. Some “mama bras,” with buttons to allow easy feedings, are available at maternity stores and online.
However, as with shirts and dresses, whatever route you choose here is absolutely up to you!
Consider a Blanket or Cover If You Feel Uncomfortable
Even if you are fully unbothered about nursing in public, it is good to be prepared for the odd situation in which you feel uncomfortable. Pack a nursing apron or light blanket in your diaper bag to be used as a cover-up during latching, feeding, or both.
With a cover, you’ll be prepared to nurse with greater discretion if you so choose. But remember–you are under no obligation to use it, and it’s intended only to enhance your own comfort!
If you choose to use a cover or blanket, it’s a good idea to practice nursing with the cover-up while you’re in the comfort of your own home. Then, when it’s time to nurse in public, you can proceed with confidence that everything will be smooth for you and your little one.
Seek a Support System
The years spent caring for a young baby are an exciting time, but it can be overwhelming and confusing, too. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
Joining a mom’s group or a playgroup of similarly-aged children can be a great way to get the support you need to grow your confidence in all things, baby. Nursing mamas’ groups are a great place to talk about any questions and doubts you may have in a supportive environment.
In addition to a mama’s group, it’s a great idea to be open with your partner, family, and friends about any of your needs and concerns during this time.
Your partner or friends can support you as you nurse in public by addressing your concerns or helping you maintain privacy. And if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, your support system is there to listen and give you the confidence you need!
Care For Yourself
Breastfeeding is a phenomenal way to care for your baby and is a practice that has a lasting impact on their life. However, it can be very demanding on you, too.
During this time, make sure you are getting as much rest as possible and leaning on your support system of family and friends to help you manage the demands of motherhood. In addition, make sure to stay hydrated and nourished; this will not only protect your health but will amplify your milk production, too.
If breastfeeding in public makes you anxious or nervous, take it slowly and seek support. There is no right or wrong way to go about this, so avoid being self-critical or doubtful, and be mindful of negative self-talk.
Feel free to experiment and discover what works for you!
Inevitably, you won’t always have an easy time nursing your child in public, but this doesn’t mean you should give up. Always remember that by nursing your little one, you’re making a decision that will keep them healthy and have a lasting, positive impact on the rest of their life and yours.
Breaking the Stigma
At Greater Than, we understand that breastfeeding can be intimidating and challenging to successfully nurse their little ones exclusively until the recommended age of six months.
For many women, the challenge of continuing to nurse beyond the familiar comfort of their home poses a significant hurdle during their nursing journey.
By nursing in public, you are helping to break the stigma surrounding this natural and healthy behavior and setting an excellent example for other women and moms-to-be. Use these techniques, and don’t be afraid to lean on your support system, and you and your baby will be well on your way to enjoying the lasting benefits of breastfeeding!
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