Breastfeeding in Public

Halton Region is celebrates World Breastfeeding Week 2011 from October 1-7.  Celebrate with us!  This post is the second in a series of three breastfeeding posts.
 

When I was a new mom, I found that it was one thing to breastfeed in the comfort of my own bedroom or living room, and quite another to nurse my baby at the mall or in a restaurant.  While much less of me would be uncovered than when wearing a bikini, (which is a whole other story once we are mothers!) I still found myself retreating to a very overheated or chilly car in the parking lot, or even worse, sitting on the toilet in the ladies’ room because there was nowhere else to sit in privacy.

I remember rushing through my last errands at the mall one day, knowing that my baby was getting hungry.  Instead of sitting on the toilet or in my cold car, I made the decision to drive home before feeding her.  No big surprise, she started crying and trying to eat her hands soon after we set off for home.  Those amazing mommy hormones took over, and soon I found myself with milk trickling down my stomach and forming small puddles on my lap!  Continuing to drive, and trying to focus on the task at hand, I tried to cross my arms over my breasts to stem the flow.  Needless to say, both mom and baby required a change once we arrived home!

Happy to say, in the years since my new mom days, we have made real progress in providing comfortable places for new mothers to feed.  Plus, we are gradually creating an awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding as the natural way to feed a baby, wherever that mom and baby might be.  Baby friendly policies are increasingly in place, welcoming mothers to breastfeed in public spaces, such as waiting rooms, or alternatively, if they wish, to be offered a private space.  Moms can watch for the “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” logo on display at their favourite store, coffee shop or restaurant.

Our right to breastfeed in public is protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code.  No one should prevent a mother from nursing her child simply because she is in a public area.  Mothers should not be asked to “cover up”, be disturbed, or asked to move to another area that is more “discreet”.

But you may still feel uncomfortable breastfeeding your baby in public.  Here are some tips to help you feel more at ease:

  • Become comfortable “latching on” your baby at home, and in front of friends and family.
  • It is possible to be very discreet while breastfeeding.  If it will increase your comfort, try a loose-fitting top that baby can fit under, a special nursing cover-up, or even just drape a receiving blanket over your shoulder.
  • If baby is in a sling, it is possible that no one will even know that you are breastfeeding!
  • Build up your comfort by starting breastfeeding in more quiet public places, such as a park.  It may help to bring someone along with you.  In suitable weather, you may be able to comfortably feed in your car.
  • Observe the ways in which other moms breastfeed in public.  Join a mommy group.  As with so many areas of parenting, we can learn a lot from each other!

Share your experience:

For more tips and hints about breastfeeding in public, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About this guest blogger: 

Sue Gierszewski, RN is a Public Health Nurse in the Early Years Health program. She has worked with this team since 1999.  She coordinates the work of the Halton Breastfeeding Connection, a group of volunteer mothers who provide telephone support to breastfeeding women. She works with new moms and parents through the Baby and Parent Health telephone information line and home visits. Sue also facilitates a Calling New Parents group in Oakville.  Sue is a mother of two grown children.

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