Breastfeeding in Public: Can I Really Do This?

I recently taught a breastfeeding class to a group of parents to be. After I had shared my information, the group began asking questions, not about breast pumps or returning to work and breastfeeding, like I would have expected.

Their concern was much more basic: “What do I do when I’m out, you know, at the mall or in a restaurant, and the baby needs to eat? Am I supposed to pack my pump and feed him from a bottle? Do I just give him formula? Am I allowed to whip out my breast, and just feed him? Is it really legal to do that?”

And who can blame them for being so worried? A quick glance at a pregnant woman’s newsfeed will show at least a daily post regarding some poor baby whose meal was cut off by rude, angry onlookers, or worse, customer service representatives at any number of public places who felt they had the authority to throw out a nursing mom for taking care of her baby’s needs. No one wants to be the target of this kind of behavior, but nursing moms and babies go shopping, eat in restaurants, go to doctor’s appointments…you know, live.

Knowing Your Rights

So what’s a mom to do?  If you are a nursing mom or are going to be soon, you should know that in Ohio, you are legally allowed to breastfeed your baby in public. That means anywhere you and your baby are allowed to be, you are allowed to feed him. With your breasts. The same goes for Michigan. (Want to know your breastfeeding rights in each of the 50 United States? Check out this website.)

Just because you are allowed to feed him anywhere, does that mean you will actually be comfortable enough to do it? That depends on you and your baby.

One of the great things about breastfeeding is its portability. The baby’s food is always with you. It requires no heating, no special equipment, no clean up. Give the baby access, and voila, instant meal! What could be easier? Grab a blanket, a Hooter Hider, or just lift your shirt and go for it!

When you and baby are thinking of taking a feeding on the road, you may want to try to join us at the Nursing Moms Group. It is a group of new moms that get together twice a month (the first and third Tuesday of every month, just call 419-291-5666 for our location) to chat about being new moms, talk about breastfeeding, and just be out of the house. It is the perfect place to try out your new skills. And, since everyone is in the same boat as you, it is not awkward or uncomfortable for most people. In fact, that may be the easiest, most supportive place to try breastfeeding in public.

Once you are out, finding a place to sit down and feed can be challenging. A quiet bench in a corner may seem ideal, but isn’t always the reality. Remember, if you aren’t comfortable showing any flesh, most people really have no idea that you are feeding a baby if you toss a blanket or cover on. Did I mention that the amount of skin that is shown is minimal, if at all? A cover usually isn’t even needed!

If You’re Still Unsure About Breastfeeding in Public

Inside the Mamava Breastfeeding Pod
Inside the Mamava Breastfeeding Pod

Still not convinced you can feed the baby away from home? There are other options.

If breastfeeding is going well, and you have been doing it for about a month, you may choose to pump your breasts before you leave, and feed the baby while you are gone with a bottle. You may want to keep your outings short — no longer than the time between feedings — to make sure your milk supply is protected. You don’t want to go longer than the baby would eat before feeding or pumping again. This requires some planning, and extra equipment, but can work for many moms.

If you happen to find yourself at ProMedica Toledo Hospital, and need a place to feed your baby or pump, we recently installed a Mamava Breastfeeding Pod near the Emergency Center atrium. It is a cool little breastfeeding room for visitors and employees to use. It has dim lighting and is a nice quiet place for you and baby and a power outlet for your pump (plus a handy mirror to make sure you don’t miss any buttons when you are done!). Hopefully we will be seeing more of these around town!

If you are a breastfeeding mom, we would love to hear where the best places are for you and baby to feed. E-mail me at Angie.Bauman@Promedica.org or leave a comment below!

 

Angie BaumanAngie Bauman has been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Parent Instructor for ProMedica for the past 6 years. She enjoys teaching parents-to-be about labor and birth, and building confidence in a new mom’s ability to parent and feed her baby. She has also been a Labor and Delivery nurse at ProMedica Toledo Hospital for 13 years. Angie is Mom to 10 year old Lukas, 6 year old Noah and 3 year old Adele, who continually share their own wisdom on how parenting should be done. Angie’s blog, Let’s Spill the Milk! publishes on HealthConnect each month.

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