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How to Breastfeed in Public Like a Boss

Photograph by Getty Images

There are plenty of things a new mom needs to figure out when her baby comes along. Is the kid ever going to sleep through the night? (The answer, by the way, is yes ... probably.) Will the baby ever be potty trained? (Also yes! Eventually.) Will absolutely everything go wrong that could possibly got wrong? (Ohhhh, yes. Definitely.)

Chief among these parenting decisions, many would argue, is whether or not to breastfeed. Assuming she wants to, the baby wants to, mom's body is willing and able to produce the milk, and she can actually find a comfortable nursing position that doesn't make her baby's latch feel like a car battery clamp on her nipple, many new moms truly enjoy the experience of nursing.

Unless, of course, they try to leave the house.

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Mothers are legally allowed to nurse almost everywhere ("Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location," states the NCSL), so what's the problem? Well, all too often mothers who openly breastfeed encounter outraged and offended strangers, misinformed business owners who ask them to stop or super-creepy boob oglers who don't want them to stop—for all the wrong reasons. These moms want to feed their babies, but they don't want to be singled out, stared at, asked to leave or forced to cover up.

If you really applied yourself you could probably teach your baby to suckle through (a straw) instead of doing something gross, like letting your baby come into physical contact with your nipple.

I've spent over four years of my life as a happily breastfeeding mama, and although I did occasionally venture out into the world during meal time, I never did find a great solution for public nursing—at least not one that satisfied strangers' desires to avoid seeing my boobs, my own desire to pretend I had a shred of modesty left, and most importantly, my babies' desire to get some food and stop screaming, for the love of all that's holy.

Some argue that the responsibility lies with the moms, who should go ahead and nurse their babies if that's what they want to do and stop worrying about everyone else's reaction. But let's get real—plenty of mamas who are open-minded about breastfeeding still mind if strangers see their breasts. Most people agree that nursing mothers should be afforded some privacy, but lame attempts to accommodate nursing moms like the airport that converted a bathroom stall into a "Nursing Lounge" are generally met with public scorn. Yet one wonders, who should foot the bill for providing comfortable areas for breastfeeding that fall somewhere realistic on a scale from "velvet-draped private spa" to "germ-infested toilet"?

Unfortunately there's no definite solution, yet the Internet will continue debating it for an eternity. Maybe the best response is for moms to take the power back by exerting some control over the situation—I mean, how hard could it be to ensure you have an issue-free public breastfeeding experience?

Here's a list of items nursing moms should cram into their diaper bags (there's PLENTY of room in there for more stuff, right?) in preparation for making baby's meal enjoyable for everyone.

1. Hand sanitizer in a 57-gallon jug

It's to spread liberally onto your surroundings.

2. Selection of nursing bras

Now you can ask for the manager's opinion on which one offers the most appropriate coverage for their establishment.

3. Lanolin

If everyone's going to put your nipples in the spotlight, you better make sure they're supple!

4. Magazines to pass out

Strangers can have something interesting to look at besides your boobs.

5. Nursing covers for people who still think covering up is the solution

If it's so reasonable, they shouldn't mind hanging out in the darkness while smothered under a blanket until you're finished.

6. Hazmat suits

Put this on when someone's concerned that your nursing is "unsanitary."

7. Binoculars, in case people decide to stare

It would be rude not to show them you're equally interested in what they're doing!

8. Straws

If you really applied yourself you could probably teach your baby to suckle through one instead of doing something gross, like letting your baby come into physical contact with your nipple, the way nature intended.

9. Chairs

In the event you get shamed into nursing in a secondary location, you'll want to be sure your friends can join you to continue your conversation in the bathroom or locker room. Fun!

10. The phone number for a good topless dancer

You can distract fellow patrons from your scandalous exposure with a more socially acceptable display of breasts.

11. A cape, a tent or (preferably) a doomsday device to blot out the sun

This is to minimize the chance that some hapless, innocent bystander might witness your infant having lunch.

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Oh yeah, don't forget your baby and your boobs.

Wait—those last two things are all you really need, aren't they?

But anyone with any sense already knew that.

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