Breastfeeding in public: Do I or Don’t I?

This is one topic that gives first-time breastfeeding mothers much angst. Should I practice breastfeeding in public or shouldn’t I? What if someone says something? What are my rights? How do I do it without exposing my nipples to the world?

If you have any of these questions (and more, we’re sure!), here’s some breastfeeding tips for breastfeeding in public:

Know your rights

According to the Australian Sex Discrimination Act 1984, it is illegal to discriminate against, abuse or harass someone for breastfeeding in public. This includes directly or indirectly. Direct forms are fairly straight forward, i.e. someone tells you that you aren’t allowed to breastfeed in public or a waiter ‘overlooks’ serving you because you are feeding. Indirect forms are a little hazier. They occur when a situation is designed to purposefully disadvantage a breastfeeding mother. For example, your boss doesn’t allow you any breaks so you can’t express milk.

Practice first

Do you know what you look like when you breastfeed? You probably have a skewed view and think your whole boob is on display. To get the facts, feed in front of a mirror. This way you will see exactly what can and can’t be seen. Most likely, you’ll find the most visible time is when baby is latching on. We’ve got a hot tip for this scenario a little further down.

While you’re looking in the mirror, practice unclipping and clipping your nursing bra one-handed. It sounds simple but it does take some getting used to.

Dress the part

Think about your outfit. While that gorgeous clingy, strappy dress might be the latest fad it’s probably not the best option for breastfeeding. Consider two piece outfits with shirts that have buttons or zips. If you need to lift your shirt, you can wear a nifty pregnancy tummy band underneath to limit the amount of skin you show. Another great breastfeeding cover is an all-in-one camisole with straps that unlatch from the top but still keep you covered below. There is a variety of ready-made breastfeeding clothing out there but sometimes the simplest is best. A shawl, blanket or poncho can be a very handy breastfeeding cover while you feed. There are many on the market so you’ll have lots to choose from. They are relatively inexpensive too so a great excuse for a little shop!

Scope out your location

There are usually a number of different places to sit at restaurants, on public transport or even at the park. Choose a spot that offers you good back support but also helps shield you. Think a booth or against a wall in a restaurant or next to a window on transport. If you can’t find any of these, don’t stress. Pick the best place you can and get feeding. Remember it is your right to feed in public. It really shouldn’t matter where you choose to plonk yourself as long as it’s safe and comfortable for both you and baby. The more you practice breastfeeding in public, the more second-nature it becomes. 

Try the ‘turn-and-latch’ technique

If you practiced in the mirror, you’ll find the moment of latching on is when the most skin and nipple will be exposed. At this point, try the turn-and-latch approach. Simply turn your body away from onlookers. If you’re in a restaurant, face the wall or simply walk over to one, face it and latch. It sounds a little funny and may look a bit weird but if you feel more comfortable, do it. It’s worth it for both you and your baby. Remember: mothers the world over do any amount of stupid looking things to make their child happy. Pokemon GO is a great example!

Equip yourself with some witty comebacks

There will always be a nay-sayer or a disapproving look if you choose to breastfeed in public. While it’s not right, that’s just the nature of society. Make your peace with this. Try not to be hurt by curt looks or cutting remarks. If you have the confidence, you can always keep a stash of hot one-liners to fire back at the dissenters. Here’s six of our faves from the to-the-point to downright hilarious:

  1. It’s illegal to harass a mother breastfeeding in public or to ask her to cover up. If you have a problem, call the police. You can explain why you are breaking the law.
  2. How would your mother feel if she knew you were harassing a new mum feeding her baby?
  3. I’m sorry you find nourishing my child so offensive that you felt the need to be rude to a complete stranger.
  4. If you are offended by me doing this, then you are looking too closely.
  5. Thank goodness you have a neck. Use it to look away.
  6. Sure, I’ll feed my baby in the baby change rooms. But follow behind me so you can eat your lunch in the toilets too.
  7. If breastfeeding offends you, put a blanket over YOUR head.


Breastfeeding in public