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Afraid to Breastfeed in Public?
Afraid to breastfeed in public? You’re not alone. A UK study published last year by Maternal & Child Nutrition shows that many women are afraid to breast or formula feed in public. Reasons of fear, humiliation, shame and judgement were cited as emotions experienced.
The World Health Organisation recommends that mothers should breastfeed for 2 years or beyond. Many women feel pressured by how they are expected to breastfeed which can be exacerbated by the ‘breast is best’ mantra. Those that are unable to breastfeed reported guilt and feelings of failure as a mother. First time mothers, in particular, can feel overwhelmed by the realities of motherhood: ‘I needed someone there, I needed support, I had no idea what I was doing’.
The cultural sexualisation of women’s breasts makes many women feel it is morally and socially unacceptable to expose their body to breastfeed in public. Only a small number of the participants in the study actually breastfed in public, with some reporting being ‘looked at weird’, ‘tutted at’ or asked to leave the premises.
Tips to help build confidence
* Before going out for the first time try breastfeeding in front of a mirror so you know exactly how much you are exposing
* Some women build up their confidence by breastfeeding in front of family and friends before breastfeeding in public
* Wear nursing friendly clothing. There are specially designed nursing tops and breastfeeding dresses with discreet openings that allow access for baby to attach.
* Plan your outing. Is there a parenting room available or a seat available in a pleasant area?
* Try to breastfeed your baby before they get too hungry and they start to fuss and cry - it’s easier to nurse when both you and baby are calm and comfortable
* Babies can sometimes be distracted in unfamiliar locations. For example, when breastfeeding at a wedding, it might be an idea to bring a nursing cover to minimise distractions for your baby and to provide extra privacy should you need it.
In Australia, mothers have the right to breastfeed in public places. The Australian Breastfeeding Association have put together a terrific resource about your legal rights when breastfeeding in public, https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/breastfeeding-and-law/legalright