Practical advice for new parents

Breastfeeding in Public

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You've done your research and made your decision. You want to breastfeed your baby but you can't build up the courage to nurse outside your home. So what's the problem? Why does it feel so inappropriate to nurse your baby in public? You were always told to be modest, and breastfeeding makes you feel as if you are exposing yourself to the world. Although it feels as if everyone is staring at you, chances are nobody notices or cares. Once you know the tips and tricks, you'll happily nurse anywhere and everywhere without feeling exposed or forgoing modesty.

Breastfeeding a child is natural but doesn't necessarily come naturally. You can't expect to feel comfortable nursing in public until you've gained experience and confidence. As with anything, practice makes perfect. You have to remember that breastfeeding is new for you and your baby. Some babies are quick learners, and some need a little more training. Typically, you'll find the best place to practice is in the comfort of your own home. You need to learn your child's hunger cues, favorite positions, and comfort levels. Your baby also needs to become comfortable with you and his or her environment. After a couple of weeks, you'll probably be ready to venture out.

The fact is not all women feel comfortable nursing in public, but that does not mean you should become a recluse. At first, it is entirely normal to feel nervous in public. If you are not ready to breastfeed in public, many malls and stores have created nursing lounges for your comfort. These areas are usually dimly lit rooms with comfortable chairs, sofas, tables, and diaper changing stations. Many mothers and babies prefer these quiet rooms to the bright lights and noise found in busy public areas. Some people may argue that you are still isolating yourself by using a nursing lounge. It's always okay to make breastfeeding a comfortable and enjoyable experience for you and your child. After all, you like a relaxing lunch. Why wouldn't your child?

When you are nursing you want the experience to be discreet and effortless and fortunately, breastfeeding has become so common numerous products have been designed to help you feel comfortable nursing without being embarrassed. As with anything, if you don't have the proper equipment nothing will go smoothly. There are nursing bras, covers, blankets, bibs, slings, and pillow supports to help make nursing your baby easy. There is also specially designed clothing which allows for flexibility and easy access. Again, it's important to practice with these products before going out into public. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out how a nursing bra works while your baby lets out a hunger cry in the middle of a restaurant.

Just remember you are not the first mother to feel awkward nursing in public. There are numerous resources to help you overcome your angst. La Leche League is an internationally recognized breastfeeding support group that can provide helpful insight. Your obstetrician and pediatrician can direct you to local support groups, and many retailers specialize in nursing products. Additionally, other moms are always a terrific resource. Sometimes encouragement from others is all you need to gain confidence.

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