Ask the Moms, part 18 – Nursing in Public

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Categories Ask the Moms, Breastfeeding, Feeding, Formula, Infants

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The HDYDI moms have made no secret of the fact that we’re big fans of getting out of the house with your babies whenever possible.  But just because we think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  Case in point, a question from our reader: how on earth do you get out of the house when you’re exclusively breastfeeding multiple newborns?!  Getting out of the house can be a production on its own, so how can that fit into a life when there are two babies who want to nurse every 1.5-2 hours?  As always, we have some suggestions.

The First Few Outings: Plan ahead, coordinate with feedings, and start small.

In my kids’ earliest days, I felt like I had to plan even the smallest outings at least several hours ahead of time.  First, I had to find the five minutes to actually think of what I was going to do!  Then, think of what I’d need to have with me, how long I’d be out of the house, etc.  The key, for me, was to have everything I needed all ready (packed in a diaper bag, carseats set out, etc.).  Then, I’d feed both babies and everything would be ready to go.  I’d all but bolt out of the house the moment they were fed and burped!  No wasted time.

If you haven’t already, start with just going for a walk (hooray for summer!). You don’t need to take much with you, but well in advance, get your carseats and/or stroller at the ready, maybe hats or receiving blankets for shade, maybe a few burp cloths (if your kids are as spitty as mine were!). The next time your kids are ready to eat, feed them both, and out you go!  The littlest ones will likely fall asleep the moment the stroller starts moving (you’ll miss this when it’s gone!).

This same strategy works for bottlefeeding, and for outings more ambitious than a walk around the neighborhood.  But if you’re nervous, start small and just get out there!  The worst that will happen is your babies will cry, and you’ll turn around, head for home, and be fine.

Branching Out: pick nursing/feeding-friendly spots

Ready for more? Think of a place that will have somewhere conducive to sitting and nursing in public.  Many baby stores have lounges for moms, and hey, didn’t you need something there anyways? Malls are also a great destination: indoors, smooth surfaces for the stroller… and department stores can have nice big dressing rooms.  Nordstrom’s is practically famous amongst new moms for their fabulous bathrooms.  One new one near me not only has chandeliers and couches, but (I kid you not) private nursing rooms with a door that locks from the inside, a recliner, and a changing table.  Even the food court can be an option.  If you have a nice park near you that’s a good walking destination, seek out the benches in the shade.  You probably want to avoid handicap stalls in bathrooms, for both the germ and demoralization factors.  Find someplace that will be comfortable and friendly, and go there.  I’ve even found a blog that lists good nursing rooms!  You can click on tags that list by state, store, etc.

Many of us have also nursed in the back of our cars in parking lots. Many cars have the tinted rear windows, which helps a little, and maybe you park a little farther away from everyone else, but it’s totally do-able.

Better than anything else: go to a friend’s house, especially one who also has babies.  Bring your nursing pillow, set yourself up in your friend’s guest room if you need more privacy.  Join your local MOT club and connect with other moms of new twins, and get together at each other’s places.

Specific strategies: Have the right tools

Yeah, they say it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools, but sometimes you need the right ones for the job. First and foremost, you need a couple of great nursing bras.  The HDYDI moms recommend those made by Bravado and Medela.  Pricey?  Perhaps.  But you’ll wear them every single day as long as your nursing, so it’s worth the investment.  A crappy bra that you always have to fuss with will only frustrate you.  More important than the brand, however, is the fit.  Find a maternity store or lactation consultant and GET MEASURED.  This is true for all bras, but nursing bras in particular.  If you guess and don’t have the right size, even the fanciest bra won’t be comfortable.

For the sake of modesty, there are plenty of good accessories. I, for one, was more self-conscious about my squishy, stretchmarked belly than I was about the boob factor.  Nursing tanks are great for this, as you can wear them under another shirt, and they keep the belly covered while your providing access to the boob.  Another great “hack” from Emomily is to use the Bella Bands that they make for pregnant moms, and use them to cover and hold in the postpartum belly.  Nursing covers (aka “hooter hiders”) are also a great tool, instead of trying to keep a receiving blanket on baby’s head.

If you have a favorite nursing pillow that you just can’t live without, whether it’s the EZ 2 Nurse one for the tandem folks, or the My Brest Friend for one-at-a-time, bring it with you.  Don’t be shy about having what you’ll need to be successful.  The My Brest Friend totally fits in the basket of the Double Snap N Go.  The EZ 2 Nurse, maybe not (damn, that thing is huge!), but if you’re going somewhere that you’d be comfortable tandem nursing, bring it along!

Even the tandem-nursers in the group generally fed one baby at a time when in public.  Much easier to get situated and maintain a little privacy that way.  And speaking of privacy, many states have laws that specifically protect the right to breastfeed in public.  You do have that right, and I know a few “lactivists” who defend that right by happily tandem-nursing in public with nary a nursing cover in sight. I absolutely defend a woman’s right to nurse her child in public, but I will also say that a little consideration for those around you is never a bad thing.  You should not have to hide when you nurse, but I don’t think you have to shove your boob in your fellow diners’ faces, either.  In all things, moderation.

And, sometimes, you just bring bottles of expressed breastmilk or formula.  If you’re not comfortable nursing in public, that’s really OK.  You bring a bottle or two, you get home and pump if you need to… it’s all good.  As with anything, coordinating outings and feedings is all about practice.  There will be times when it goes well, and there will be times that you all crash and burn.  Keep on trying, and it will become second nature.

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7 thoughts on “Ask the Moms, part 18 – Nursing in Public”

  1. With 4 1/2 month old girls, I am still a newbie in many things twin. But BFing in public is something I think I qualify as an expert in! Near and dear to my heart, literally.

    My inspiration, second to necessity, is a twin mom I met at my local club’s new moms social. She was a former Peace Corp. volunteer just back living in West Africa with her huge six month old twins. We were sitting and chatting on the couch when she swept her boy and girl up and fed them. It was so discreet, I barely knew what she was doing. There they sat, in a sort of parallel hold, no pillow, no exposed mommy skin, happily feeding away. I didn’t think I could ever pull off that kind of move, and had carefully prepared bottles of expressed milk.

    Since then I’ve been a lot bolder, and tried all sorts variations. I’ve done bottles and pumping in the car. I’ve fed each baby one at a time in front of friends. But mostly I feed tandem in the car.

    Every week, M-Th, I feed my babies at lunch, taking a break from work. It’s actually nice. My mom brings the twins to my office and we go to a secluded shady spot in the parking lot. I break out the EZ-2-Nurse pillow and set myself up in the front seat. After a leisurely feeding, we play and chat. It’s a great part of my day.

    On weekend field trips I have sometimes been caught without my pillow. For well equipped cars like my beloved Prius, I feed in the tandem football hold, one baby on the center console and one on the door armrest and me supporting both. In other cars I have tried a modified cross-cradle, sitting a baby on each leg and my arms around them. It isn’t discreet, but I was pretty proud to have pulled it off with happily satisfied babies. That other twin mom would have been proud.

  2. Great tips! I don’t yet have kids, but I enjoy reading your site. I don’t know a single person in my group of friends that has successfully bf, and that makes me realize exactly how hard it can be. It’s good to know that there are tips that will help the process.

    :) Becky

  3. Ah, breastfeeding in public. Makes me glad that our breastfeeding days are done. However, I have to say, you loose your modesty quickly faced with a screaming, hysterical baby! My favorite—waiting at the gate at the airport, on an airplane (do you know how close you are to the person next to you!!??? I hadn’t realized it, until I tried to feed Danny), Starbucks (always friendly), BJ’s parking lot, and at numerous friends’ houses. I always ignored friends’ and family’s discomfort—-I figured it was their issue and they could advert their eyes if they felt uncomfortable. Or leave the room, as several people commonly did. I did only BF one at a time in public. And as an aside to Becky, who commented on successful breastfeeding—I think it is both easier and harder than I expected. The first few weeks were terribly hard as I got used to my body not being just mine–still—but once we got the hang of it, it was really easy. Of course, if you have latch issues that is a whole other story.

  4. Great suggestions! I used many of them. For me it was so hard to leave those first 3 months, because my babes were not effective nursers so I had to nurse and pump and bottle feed every 3 hours. I couldn’t nurse in public because of the need to do the latter 2, so I would plan my day around a 1 hour break for a walk outside.

    In terms of gear, I loved my Bravado bras in the beginning, but now I adore my Elle McPherson nursing bra. It is insanely costly but I just wear the same one every day and it is way more supportive for me than the Bravado (and the medela didn’t come in my size). I also really liked for their nursing tops, or would wear a regular camisole under clothes. I had the same issue about showing my belly.

    Eventually I would nurse anywhere in public, but it took time to get comfortable with nursing. Handicap dressing rooms in stores worked well at first, but eventually I was fine with benches, at the dinner table in restaurants, etc. I can be quite discrete and once on a plane I’m pretty sure the man next to me had no idea.

    Thanks again for putting great tips out there.

  5. Thanks for mentioning our product in your blog post! This article is an excellent resource for moms looking to get out of the house with very young children.

    A little trivia about Bebe au Lait: The Hooter Hider was invented by the wife of a professional soccer player. She wanted to be able to breastfeed her daughter without having to miss any of the game, and of course, without exposing herself to the crowd! We are so pleased that our products have given so many moms new freedom.

  6. Thanks for this post!
    Quick question to tandem feeding moms – if you single feed in public, how did you handle the screaming, hungry child? Mine are on the same schedule, so they get hungry at the same time!

    Quick Suggestion to Bebe au Lait – make a hooter hider for tandem feeding twins. I received one of your regular sized ones for a shower gift and I LOVE it for feeding one baby, but it’s not big enough around for tandem feeding. You should make one with extra material around and then tandem feeding in public would be easier. THANKS!

  7. My Medela Pump-in-Style has a car adaptor, and I would pump while my husband drove, then hand the bottles back to my girls. Very smart, those Medela people!

    I was also a huge fan of Motherwear’s empire opening nursing tops. I found that opening to be extremely discreet. The only time I ever got a knowing look while nursing in one (granted, one baby at a time, in public) was when I walked past a Motherhood Maternity store at the mall.

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