Breastfeeding in Public

Yesterday, Alex, Toby and I went on a leisurely walk around the West Village. (It was such a pretty fall day!) Toby breastfed a couple times while we were out, and Alex took a few photos, which I figured I’d share.

Since Toby was born, I’ve met so many wonderful moms who are nervous about breastfeeding in public–they worry that people will give them weird looks or say something negative, or they just feel uncomfortable baring a boob.

I totally understand that, and when I was pregnant, I thought I might be shy, too. But once Toby was born, I actually found myself feeling surprisingly passionate about breastfeeding in public. After all, I figured, I’m feeding a child, and what’s more important than that?

I was also really encouraged by my friend Leigh and her blog (she writes a lot about breastfeeding). When Toby was one week old, I breastfed him in public for the first time, and I actually texted Leigh to thank her for inspiring me. She wrote back, “You fierce, fearless mama! You go right ahead.” I loved that. :)

When I was pregnant, I had also read a few stories about restaurant owners or random passersby saying negative things to nursing women now and again, so I came up with a phrase that I’d have at the ready, just in case. Want to hear it? :) I planned to say, “It’s my legal right to breastfeed my baby anywhere in public or private; if you have a problem with it, you can look away.” Haha, sounds dramatic, but I felt good knowing that I’d have a reply, if the situation ever arose! Luckily, strangers have actually been great. You know, 99% of the time, people don’t even notice that you’re breastfeeding (it’s so subtle!); and when they do realize it, people have even walked by and said, “Aw, that’s so sweet,” or “Isn’t that beautiful?” which was a nice surprise.

Overall, I’d love to encourage women to feel proud to nurse their sweet babies in public. As you can see from the photos, it’s really modest (the baby’s head covers up almost everything; and I’m also wearing a Boob nursing shirt). At this point, I’ve ended up breastfeeding Toby all over the city, and it has been a wonderful, fun, cozy, intimate, freeing experience. Now I barely think twice about it! I just bust out the boob!

Anyway, I want to give a huge thumbs up to all you mamas out there, no matter what you choose to do! If you don’t want to breastfeed in public, by all means, don’t; but if you do want to or are thinking about it, please feel encouraged to go for it. And know that I’ll be here in the blogosphere, rooting you on. xoxoxo

P.S. My motherhood mantra, and what to register for your baby.

  1. Allyson says...

    I realize I’m commenting on a very old post but I have a question about breastfeeding in public…. I haven’t found any good resources or advice for breastfeeding with really large breasts. I’m so jealous of my sister’s smaller chest because breastfeeding is a relatively easy, modest endeavor for her. For me it’s a two-hand job to position my breast and hold my daughter in position. I remember asking my sister how she dealt with the wrist pain of breastfeeding and she had no idea what I was talking about.

    • Annie says...

      How old is your baby? I don’t have especially large breasts, but I know that the first couple months my first child and I kind of sucked at breastfeeding. I was inexperienced, baby had no neck/head control, and everything felt rather awkward. Once baby was older and I had the hang of things, breastfeeding in public and in general was so much easier!

      One thing I did in the beginning was have a nursing cover that I’d use to get latched but then remove once baby was all set and happy.

      OR just decide that you don’t care if anyone sees your boobs. ??‍♀️

      Good luck! Whatever you do, you’re doing great!

    • Rachel says...

      It’s definitely harder! Looking at these photos gave me the same thought.

      How old is your baby? For me, it got a lot easier around 4–5 months. But it’s still no picnic :)

      Side-access nursing shirts have been easier for me (Latched Mama has some of varying quality) because you have more control over where the shirt covers. And I do carry a cover; sometimes I use it, sometimes not, depending on how comfortable I feel.

    • Rebekah says...

      I know exactly what you mean! For me, a game-changer was putting a stuffed animal or something similar (rolled up scarf or swaddle blanket) under my breast. It helps prop it up so that my hand doesn’t have to. Now my son brings me an toy animal when he wants “milt” haha. It started because I read if you nurse with something between you, they may become attached to that item. It didn’t work for that reason, but otherwise has been super helpful. Hope this helps you!

  2. chelsie says...

    I’m so excited about this! I have a 7 week-old babe and have been looking for some stylish nursing-wear! I love the dotted jumper and the hoodie!

  3. Frėdėrique says...

    Love this! Thanks for sharing! I have three kids and never experienced any negative reaction! Enjoy your baby!

  4. Danielle says...

    Thanks for the direction to this old post. I’m 36 weeks pregnant with my first baby and was so surprised to hear two of my friends (one is pregnant, and one had a toddler) make negative comments about breastfeeding in public. I’ve been sitting with these comments for a couple of weeks but your post and the readers comments renewed my faith. Thanks!

  5. I nursed my 3rd child until she was 3 and a half. This got her through a terrible illness when she was 2. I knew how to do it very stealthily in public. After a year we didn’t need to do it in public anymore and didn’t, except when she was upset at the Dr. office or something…I thought it was funny to shock the doctor nursing a 3 year old. But she understood that it was really good for my little one. There really is nothing better for a small child than breast milk. I tried with my first two and had to supplement with #1 and stop after a week with #2. But 3rd time is a charm and I’m so glad it finally worked out. Thanks for this post. It really blows my mind that some people are negative about such a beautiful thing. I wanted it so badly the first two times that I know it is a gift that can’t be taken for granted…liquid gold and it should be acknowledged as such.

  6. A few years ago, you wrote this on your glamour column, Smitten:

    “The other day, I was at brunch with a lovely new friend, when all of a sudden, she whipped out her breast and started feeding her baby. Her bare nipple was a mere two feet away, and suddenly I didn’t know where to look except down at my scrambled eggs. As liberated as I hope I am, I have to admit, I felt a little awkward when her breast was suddenly Right There.

    What do you think about breastfeeding in public? Is it a friendship do or don’t? What did you think of Brad Pitt’s now-famous photo of Angelina Jolie breastfeeding one of their babies? I thought it was completely lovely and endearing, but there has definitely been some controversy. “

    I have total respect to breastfeeding moms and their right to feed their children, but like you having been in that same position before, I do feel some awkwardness. Can there be a compromise somewhere? Like a scarf or blanket maybe?

  7. Anonymous says...

    where I work at there is a marine there who made a VERY GOOD POINT. Him and his girlfriend is due at the end of the month and he said it himself he said, “Its ashame that people have problems when a mother breastfeed her child in public, BUT people don’t have a problem watching porn.” He made a very good point. It shocks him. He have no problem when he sees a mother breastfeeding her child. He knows that mother is doing a good thing for her and the baby.

  8. I love breastfeeding my daughter and I want to feel free to breastfeed her anywhere without the fear of being stared at. I used to cry when I read on other women’s stories of how they are treated when they breastfeed in public. But thanks to more strong women like you voicing out and writing about breastfeeding in public, I’m more confident now to breastfeed my daughter wherever I am.

    Thanks for this post!

  9. Hi Joanna,
    I write from Brazil and breastfeeding in public here is even more rare than in USA – try to understand it, we use the tiniest bikinis in the world, but we are embarrassed of showing our boobs while feeding our babies! I have to admit that I never thought of breastfeeding in public up until two weeks ago when I was on a trip to São Paulo with my husband and my 4 months old Antonio. There I realized how stupid it would be to wait for us to arrive at the hotel every time my baby was cried from hunger. So I just fed him on the taxi, on the plane, while we were visiting my sister-in-law, all around!!! I definitely see no problem in that, it is actually and act of love that should inspire other moms!
    Loved your blog and will be following it.
    Wish you all the best,