What is the Proper Etiquette for Breastfeeding in Public?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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In general, there are laws in most areas that allow mothers to nurse their baby in public places. Of course, most mothers make an effort to cover up while breastfeeding in public, as some people become offended or shocked when they see a bare breast unexpectedly. Fortunately, there are a few ways that mothers can practice proper etiquette without letting their baby go hungry. They can purchase a breastfeeding cover to place over their nursing baby, and can also wear layers or nursing tank tops to make it easy to breastfeed without exposing much skin. Additionally, many mothers choose to seek out quiet, hidden areas in order to nurse, such as fitting rooms and special parent rooms offered by some stores.


The main concern of some people is seeing a woman's bare breast in public as she takes it out to feed her baby. This may be unexpected and even offensive to some, but the fact is that breastfeeding in public is typically legal, and babies need to eat often. For this reason, proper etiquette usually states that women should compromise by covering their breasts when possible. There is a wide selection of nursing covers available for this very purpose, as the cover is meant to go around the woman's neck, and over both her chest and her baby's head. This way, passers-by see just the cover, though many women choose to remove it once the baby is latched onto the breast since his head should sufficiently shield it from public view.

Some women do not like wearing a breastfeeding cover because their baby tends to throw it off while eating anyway. Additionally, many women just do not like the idea of covering their baby's head with fabric while they eat. Their solution may be to dress appropriately for the possibility of breastfeeding in public, which often includes wearing layers of clothing. For example, they may wear a thin tank top or low cut shirt under a jacket or vest, as this allows them to pull down the shirt while covering the briefly exposed breast with the jacket as the baby latches. There are also nursing tank tops available that work similarly, making breastfeeding in public more comfortable for everyone.

Of course, many women are not comfortable sitting in the middle of a mall or crowded restaurant while breastfeeding, whether or not they have a nursing cover. Such mothers often get around their discomfort regarding breastfeeding in public by seeking out unpopulated areas. For example, they may find a quiet corner booth in a restaurant, where can they nurse their baby without anyone noticing. A fitting room may serve as a breastfeeding sanctuary in a crowded mall, while some public shopping areas have rooms set aside just for parents to change their babies, calm their children, or breastfeed.



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Post 2

@Grivusangel -- I've heard a lot of moms say their kids didn't feed well in a noisy or crowded environment. I don't have children, and I don't mind if women do breastfeed in public, as long as they are a little discreet about it. My mom breastfed both of us and said we didn't care if we ate in the bathroom, as long as it was quiet.

She said her strategy was usually to feed us right before we went anywhere, which generally solved the problem. I think a calming room is a great idea, both for the children and a stressed out mom. I know it's easier to soothe a child when the atmosphere itself is more soothing.

Post 1

This has become a really hotly debated topic lately. I've heard women say it's natural and people should just get over it and no one wants to eat in a bathroom, etc. I've heard others say it's making their kids ask questions they don't want to answer yet, and on and on.

I think every place should have a "calming room" -- a place where moms can take fussy children to nurse, calm down, change them, whatever. The room should have comfy chairs and rockers, pleasant lighting and soothing music.

Here's my rationale: When I had my daughter, she wouldn't eat where it was noisy. Period. She wouldn't latch on for love, money or an empty stomach. It didn't matter if

I was leaking and felt like I was ready to pop, unless it was quiet, oh well. I know other mothers who had the same experiences. My pediatrician said it was because noise bothers me, so it bothered her, too. She picked up on my anxiety. I've gone to the car many times, turned on the radio to classical and she would eat like a pig, then zonk out. Go figure.

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