Why Are We Afraid To Nurse In Public?

I have heard it so many times “I’ll never nurse in public” or “I can’t go out because my baby will need to nurse” and I wonder, what is it that makes us afraid to nurse in public? This past weekend, my sister-in-law came into town for a visit with her 5-week old baby girl (who is so super cute!). Every time she needed to nurse the baby, she left the room. When we were out in public, she went into a bathroom to nurse. So what I wonder is WHY?

When my son was an infant, he literally nursed every hour, so I was forced to nurse in public (either that or never leave the house) because no matter where we went, by the time we got there or while we were out, he would need to nurse. At first, I covered up using receiving blankets or whatever I had available to cover-up. Later, I invested in lots and lots of nursing clothing with easy nursing access. Eventually, I just wore nursing tops all of the time and whenever I needed to nurse – I did – in the car, at the mall, in a crowded restaurant – it didn’t matter where I was – I just nursed my baby wherever I was.

Is it fear? Are some moms afraid that someone will see them? Or are they afraid that they might get a negative comment or nasty look from someone? I really want to understand this. I wish every mom would feel comfortable enough to nurse her baby wherever she was!

For me, the nursing tops were great because they covered my belly and most of my breast while making nursing in public easy as pie!

Is it because we are new moms? When you first become a mom, we worry about what everyone else will think and then eventually we just say “forget what everyone else thinks” and we just do it? Or are there moms out there who don’t think it is appropriate to nurse their baby in public, so they excuse themselves to a dirty bathroom or secluded area instead?

If you don’t feel comfortable nursing in public, I want to hear from you. No judgments, just share your story. I want to understand what makes moms uncomfortable so that I can do something to help moms like you feel more comfortable! Please leave a comment and share your story!

16 comments to Why Are We Afraid To Nurse In Public?

  • I never thought I would be okay with feeding in public as I was worried I would be “exposing” myself because I have huge boobs (seriously even before my milk came in lol), but I remember sitting outside of a shop in a shopping mall knowing that my daughter needed feeding and as there was nobody about it would be easy to just do it there and then. So I did. The only time I have left a room was when my Uncle was stuck sitting between my sister and I at my Gran’s wake. Both of us needed to feed our little one’s but he was a bit shocked as he was boxed in by us so my sister and I went to another bit of the room around a corner!
    .-= PippaD @ A Mothers Ramblings´s last blog ..I’m a MADS Finalist! =-.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Judy Masucci, psmom. psmom said: RT @MommyNews: Why Are We Afraid To Nurse In Public? Pls come by & share your story! http://bit.ly/9b9F9H #breastfeeding #bfing […]

  • Tracy

    I am first-time Mommy. I am hesitant to nurse in public because my boobs are big and floppy and it is hard to control them and my squirmy, pop-off-the-boob-at-the-slightest-noise baby. However, I *have* nursed in public and would do it again, if necessary. I do avoid nursing in public, but not to the point of making my baby go hungry. In general, I nurse my baby (currently 51 weeks old) right before we leave the house and I try to be back within 2-3 hours. I try to anticipate her needs and work around them. I’ve done it this way her whole life. It is a source of stress for me. I wish I was brave and confident. Hopefully I will be with our next baby.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts PippaD! I appreciate the feedback! – Judy

  • Thanks for sharing your experience Tracy. I too had large breasts when my son was a baby (40G!). It can be difficult with large breasts because you need 3 hands – one for your breast and 2 for the baby! Have you tried nursing tops? They were a tremendous help for me. I was nervous about nursing in public when my son was little, but eventually got beyond being nervous – I have now nursed in public just about everywhere you can imagine. The first step to feeling more comfortable is just “doing it” – and read these tips too: http://blog.mothersboutique.com/breastfeeding-in-public/. You are doing a great job!! — Judy

  • Kimberly

    I was never afraid, per se, but I was nervous about nursing “right”. My kid and I both needed a lot of focus, and it helped to have little clothing on. So, I didn’t nurse in public too often. But then I discovered nursing camis, which helped a bit. I think women don’t nurse in public b/c they don’t want to be conspicuous. The same reason that we often take our children out at the slightest sign of fussiness….

  • Logan

    I’ve never been hesitant to nurse in public, but i understand women who are. To each her own. I just wanted to share a story about a time recently when i was at the zoo.

    I was walking by the concession stand seating area with my daughter and noticed a woman attempting to breastfeed her baby. She was having a really hard time of it. She looked like she wasn’t a practiced nurser (i found out later that her little guy was only 8 weeks old) and hadn’t really gotten in to the easy habit of it that comes with time. Plus her little guy was squirming and trying to rip off this nursing shawl that was covering him. So that poor woman is doing her best to feed her son all by herself when she’s not really sure of what she’s doing, is trying to wrangle him wiggling all over, hold her breast, and hold this shawl in place. She looked so overwhelemed.

    At that exact moment some horrible lady sat down at the table next to her and muttered (loudly enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear) “Nobody wants to see that. Why doesn’t she go to the car or the bathroom?” I think it was the last straw for the frazzled mama and tears started welling up in her eyes and she started struggling to pack up her son and get out of there without further embarrasment.

    I smiled some encouragement to her cause i have definitely been there and sat down at her table right next to her and started nursing my daughter (who wasn’t even hungry- i just wanted to show a little solidarity). The nasty lady nearly went apopleptic. She was upset by a woman covered with a shawl nursing a newborn. And here i was with the audacity to just hike up my shirt right there in front of god and everybody and nurse my toddler! I thought her head was going to explode. It was hilarious. She made this really sour face and said, “That’s disgusting.” I smiled sweetly and told her she could leave if she didn’t want to see, so she did. That new mom was so thankful and relieved. It made my whole day.

  • Amnesty

    Logan, that is FANTASTIC!
    Personally, nursing in public has never bothered me, but I think that’s because I come from a big family of long term breastfeeders. When my oldest son was born, three of my aunts were nursing their babies (ages 5 months to 13 months) so there were several family gatherings where we were all sitting around with babies on boobs. One of my aunts (married into my family) was somewhat self conscious, and it was actually seeing her wrestle with her nursing cover, compared to my other two aunts who didn’t use them, that convinced me nursing covers are WAY more conspicuous than just simply and discretely lifting your shirt!
    I still nurse my youngest in public, and he’ll be 2 next month. And I’ve NEVER (over 3 kids) had a negative comment or even dirty look, directed my way. And I live in the South 😉

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story Logan and for supporting that mom! I’m sure you made her day as well! — Judy

  • Logan –

    I wanted to give you a huge round of applause!!

    I think a situation like that – without your intervention – could potentially result in a struggling new mom giving up on nursing her baby.

    Since nursing is still not seen as normal and commonplace in our society, we really need to support the new mamas!
    .-= Tiffany (As For My House)´s last blog ..The Good Lord Provides… =-.

  • Krista

    LOGAN YAY!!! You’re awesome!
    As someone who’s been described as “extreme” when it comes to nursing, and as a person who never misses an opportunity to pull out my breast in front of any family member, dad and brother and inlaws included, I really thought I was going to be a person who was a proud public nurser. The only thing that’s held me back is that I have a baby like the one described above — she CANNOT concentrate unless we’re in a dark quiet room, so if we were to nurse in public, she would certainly pull off, flip the nursing shawl to the side, and lean as far back as possible to look around. She’s done it before. If she did that, I’d be pretty exposed, and I too have pretty large breasts. If I thought she could stay latched on, I’d have no trouble because between nursing tops and her head, there would be plenty of coverage. But I’m inspired by these comments to go ahead and do it anyway. If no one has the courage to “whip it out” and freak out the detractors, we’ll be relegated to the bathroom forever. Solidarity ladies!!

  • This is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately…I actually wrote a blog post on this very topic. I just don’t understand what is so taboo about it! It’s just boobs, we really need to get over it. I’ve realized that it isn’t my problem, it’s their problem. I’m just trying to feed my baby – and I will do it unapologetically.
    .-= juliea´s last blog ..WARNING: NIPPLES AHEAD. =-.

  • Ahmie

    Logan, I could hug you for what you did for that mom. I’ve never been shy about nursing in public (expecting kid #3 any minute now, typing around contractions but have been having them several times an hour for a month now so who knows when this one will make an appearance, official EDD is Wednesday). I am physically handicapped and there is no way I could relocate when my baby is hungry, so I’ve been pretty brazen about putting my baby’s needs ahead of the whims of strangers (or older family members) around me from the start almost 6 years ago. Unfortunately, it has lead to an estrangement from my father’s side of the family, but I decided if they’re going to undermine THAT early and fundamental of a parenting choice and commitment, I don’t need them in my children’s lives and their loss because my kids are awesome 😉 My step-mother YELLED at me for nursing my TWO WEEK OLD firstborn DISCRETELY (was wearing two shirts, no flesh exposed, turned to the wall to get him latched on, etc) in their living room, and this was after I’d driven 6 hours from where we were living at the time to househunt in the area my family lives in and squeezed in some time for my dad to meet his first grandchild. He defended her and hasn’t seen that grandchild since (will be 6 years old at the end of this month). Whenever someone thinks that is harsh of me (I’ve had a very difficult relationship with my father all my life, it was just the last straw), I ask what kind of mother would I be if I put the mental comfort of adults who are able to LOOK AWAY over the need of my baby to be nourished? To those who are squeemish about it, I remind them that we live in three dimensional space and there are PLENTY of points in space that do not include me or my child to look at instead. My child, until s/he has teeth, has ONE source of nourishment. That takes precedence.

  • Thanks so much for your comment Ahmie. I’m so sorry what you have gone through with your step-mother and your father and his family are missing out on such wonderful children. It really is a shame. Good for you for sticking to your guns! –Judy

  • I was very nervous at first because we had so many difficulties. We used a nipple shield the first 5 months… try wrangling a breast, baby, and a floppy plastic piece!! UGH! By the time we finally did get rid of the shield, M was not much for nursing in public. He was highly distractable. We did nurse in lots of places (restaurants, family’s living rooms, malls, cook outs, etc), but the majority was in our car just because that was the only place I could get him to focus if we weren’t at home.

    I really hope the next one is easier and I can nurse in public more… I am much more assertive now and want to be able to help make it more common to see!
    .-= The Verve Path´s last blog ..E.T. Neosporin =-.

  • Rachel

    When I was first nursing my son I was very nervous and I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. I would say it took about 8 weeks for me to really feel I had the technique and that certainly made me feel more confident. I guess as time goes by it becomes so common place to just get your boobs out to nurse! I didn’t find I got any comments even when he was a toddler. This was in the UK. However, I have now moved to Hong Kong where they have a very different culture towards breastfeeding. I no longer nurse my 3 year old and I am expecting my 2nd child and I must admit I’ve bought some covers to make me feel more comfortable about nursing in public. There is a huge amount of bottle fed babies over here and I think I have only ever seen 3 mothers breastfeeding their babies. I will see how I go – part of me thinks I should be out and proud just to make a statement but at the same time I want an easy life when I’m with my children – I don’t want them to see me be confrontational with someone – because if someone says anything I will be unleashed!

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