Do's and Don'ts When Breastfeeding in Public

Nursing on the go? Try these tips to make breastfeeding your baby in public comfortable for everyone.

When Freda Rosenfeld thinks back to the days when she was nursing, one very distinct memory plays in her head again and again. She had taken her son, age 3, and her daughter, who was just a few months old, to the New York Aquarium. They were watching an aquatic show when her daughter began to cry in hunger.

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Rosenfeld draped a receiving blanket over her tiny daughter and began nursing her; the baby quieted immediately. A few rows down, another baby started crying. Rosenfeld watched as the woman stretched her legs out, clasped a bottle between them, poured a packet of powder into the bottle, poured water into it, and began shaking it. With the baby still crying, the process seemed to be happening in slow motion.

That's when Rosenfeld's son turned to the woman and said, "Just nurse the kid, already!"

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Alexandra Grablewski

Rosenfeld, who is a lactation consultant based in Brooklyn, shares that story with women all the time, as a way of illustrating just how convenient nursing in public can be. She works with each of her clients to help her make the most out of nursing her child, whether it's in public or behind closed doors. "People should always feel good about nursing their baby," she says.

She shared the following do's and don'ts about nursing in public.


1. Do know your rights. Women have a right to breastfeed outside of their homes. Further, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide reasonable time for breaks for nursing mothers. If a woman is told otherwise, she should explain that in feeding her baby, she's acting within her rights.

2. Do what's comfortable for you. If you're comfortable nursing in public, go for it. If you're uncomfortable, but still willing to give it a try, find ways that will make you more at ease. There are a number of blankets, front carriers, and other accessories available to shield you. Find what works best for you and stick with it.

3. Do plan ahead. Pack your diaper bag with anything you might need for nursing -- burp cloths, blankets, and more. Pack plenty of wet wipes: You'll be out in public and will want to make sure that both you and your baby are clean.

4. Do take care of yourself. It's easy to get carried away in focusing on what your baby needs. Moms must always remember to take care of their own needs, too. Pack a water bottle or another beverage so you stay hydrated. Order a meal or snack to give you energy. By taking better care of yourself, you're taking better care of your baby.

5. Do have confidence and enjoy yourself. Nursing your baby is one of the best things you can do. Be proud of what you're doing and enjoy the nursing experience. You'll be on to the next phase before you know it.


1. Don't bring unnecessary accessories and accoutrements. The beauty of nursing is that it's portable and convenient. If you've been relying on a nursing pillow or other forms of support at home, practice nursing without them so that you can more easily nurse when you're in public.

2. Don't sit in a place where the baby will be distracted. The whole point of nursing in public is, of course, feeding your baby. Find a spot where you know your child will be likely to focus on the task at hand. If your baby is easily distracted, block the activity around you with a blanket. Do your best to help your child enjoy a meal in peace.

3. Don't nurse in a bathroom. "Would you eat in a bathroom?" Rosenfeld asks. "Why should a baby?" Look for any other option, whether it's a lounge near a bathroom, a quiet corridor, or a bench outside. There's always a better option than sitting on a toilet.

4. Don't be rude. Many nursing moms know firsthand how vocal passersby can be when they see a nursing mom in public. Do your best to remain composed and polite. Explain, as nicely as possible, that you're feeding your baby, and then simply turn away. Avoid escalating the situation and try to focus on yourself and your baby.

5. Don't take up too much space. It's easy to flow, seamlessly, into the space of the next table or to fill an aisle. Moms have a lot of stuff to tote around, and it has a way of spreading out when you're focusing on nursing. Be mindful of others and try to keep your items orderly and as close to you as you can.

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