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How to Feel More Confident Breastfeeding in Public

Written by Tammy Bravo-Eby

Are you dreading the thought of having to feed your new baby in public? Read on for some tips on how to gain confidence nursing wherever you are.

I’ve always been a bit reserved. I’m that person who changes in the bathroom stall at the pool instead of the communal change room; the one who has mastered the art of changing shirts without exposing an ounce of skin. When I gave birth to my first daughter and we began our breastfeeding journey (which would last over two and a half years), I was definitely nervous about nursing her in public. In fact, I literally stayed in the house for over six weeks, leaving only for doctors appointments, to avoid having to try at all! I knew that it would have to happen at some point, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it right away. Other mothers made it look so easy, but I fumbled and leaked milk everywhere. It took months for me to feel comfortable nursing in public, but it did get easier. With a little preparation and a lot of positive self-talk, I slowly gained the confidence to do it anywhere. With my second baby, I don’t even give it a second thought. Are you feeling too nervous to try feeding your baby in front of others? Afraid you might end up confined to your home until baby is weaned?

Just Do It!

Sometimes you just have to do something to get over your fear of it. Whether or not you feel comfortable, baby’s gotta eat. Sure, you could always pump a bottle or prepare some formula ahead of time, but that requires time and effort. It also requires tools and clean up. If you really want to nurse your baby, then do it. I promise you that every time you do, you’ll feel a little braver.

Refuse to Use a Washroom

Would you eat your lunch sitting on a public toilet? Me neither. Right from the start, I made a promise to my daughter that she would never have to eat in a bathroom. Making that promise encouraged me to think about my baby instead of the strangers around me who may or may not be bothered by my hungry child.

Dress for Success

Many mothers worry about exposing their breasts while nursing. I did too. But with the right clothes, it’s actually quite easy to feed your baby without showing too much skin. Personally, I find that pairing a fitted, stretchy tank top with a loose t-shirt (sans bra) makes nursing much easier. I simply pull the tee up and the tank top down, exposing as little skin as possible. The tee covers the top of my breast and rests on my baby’s cheek while the tank keeps my belly covered. I have a friend who swears by button-down tops. Find something that works for you and you will feel better feeding your baby in public.

Try a Nursing Cover

If you’re really worried about exposing yourself, try using a nursing cover. There are plenty of different styles on the market, but you could also use a large scarf or receiving blanket draped over your shoulder. Keep in mind that these take some getting used to. You might want to practice at home a few times before you venture out so that both you and your baby get the hang of it. Also, some babies will not tolerate being covered and want to be able to look around while they eat.

Fake Confidence

Whenever I would start to feel shy or embarrassed nursing in public, I would force myself to put on a brave face and look up. I would make eye contact with people and I would smile. And you know what? I never received any negative feedback or nasty looks from anyone. Once or twice I saw someone quickly avert their eyes, but that was the extent of it. Almost every single time, I received a smile in return. And each smile I received made me feel a little bit more courageous.

Find a Mantra That Works For You

At other times when I was feeling worried or exposed, it helped to repeat a mantra to myself. Think: “I will not nurse my baby on a toilet” or “My baby will eat whenever she is hungry.” These made me feel strong and ready should anyone decide they needed to confront me and my hungry baby. Guess what? No one ever did.

Keep a List or Journal

In the first few months of my breastfeeding journey, I kept a list at the back of my journal where I wrote down every new place in which I nursed my daughter. Seeing the list grow made me feel strong and proud. I still have it and it makes me smile to think about how accomplished I felt when I nursed my daughter at the library or the busy farmers market.

Smile at Other Breastfeeding Moms

You know how people who drive Jeeps always honk and wave at each other? Smiling at nursing moms lets them know you support them and builds an unspoken sisterhood. Not only does it give you courage, but it helps other mothers as well, creating a sense of community.

No matter what happens, always remember that it is your right to feed your baby anywhere. No one can ask you to stop, move or cover up. So do what feels best for you, not anyone else. Celebrate your small victories and, above all else, be kind to yourself.  Nursing can be hard work and you’re doing the best you can!


*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.