If you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, then chances are good you’ve wondered about whipping out your breasts in public. It can be a daunting thought, especially for a first-time mum! The thing is, babies, especially newborns aren’t keen on a schedule. They’re hungry when they’re hungry and your tiny tyrant will expect to be fed immediately, if not sooner.
To help you feel more comfortable about boobing out in the big wide world, we are sharing everything you need to know, from the legal side of things to our top tips for making it work.
Am I even allowed to breastfeed in public?
First things first, let’s get this one out of the way. Breastfeeding in public is absolutely allowed and breastfeeding mums are protected by Australian law. A mum’s right to breastfeed her child is protected by law both federally and in every State and Territory. It is illegal to treat a woman less favourably than another person in education, employment or access to buildings or services because she is breastfeeding.
What does this actually mean? Well for starters, you cannot be asked to leave a café or shop because you’re breastfeeding. Employers cannot refuse to employ you because you’re breastfeeding, and a woman cannot be expelled or ‘let go’ from employment or an educational institution based on the fact that she is breastfeeding. That’s a really long way of saying that you can and should feel comfortable to feed wherever and whenever you want and know that that is your right.
But what if someone says something to me?
There are always horror stories that do the rounds about women being accosted by angry mobs demanding they ‘cover up’ and not feed their child in public. While this does happen, it’s a lot less common than what is sometimes portrayed in the media. If someone was to approach you while feeding you can confidently tell them that you are legally allowed to feed your child whenever and wherever you want. If you’re inside a space like a café, shop or library, you can approach management and ask them to speak with the troublemaker as all establishments should be aware of the Federal Sex Discrimination Act that prohibits this kind of behaviour. Being approached in public can be a very upsetting experience so if it does happen to you, do not hesitate to seek support from family, friends or the legislative bodies in your state if the approach is aggressive or discriminatory.
For what it is worth, I can personally attest to the fact that I have never had anyone approach me while breastfeeding and I fed three children across a span of almost ten years. And I can confidently state that if anyone had, they’d have been given quite the mouthful. Just remember, the law is 100% on your side in this instance.
Do I need to use a cover?
If a cover helps you feel comfortable then absolutely go for it, but you do not need to be ‘covered’ while breastfeeding. Many mums will find it more difficult to breastfeed with a cover, especially when their baby gets older, starts ‘gym-nurstics’ and spends more time kicking the cover than anything else!
You may be a little surprised by all of the unexpected places you'll publically breastfeed in. But when baby wants to eat, they gotta eat!
Ways to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public
While flashing a bit of boob is sometimes inevitable, there’s plenty of ways to feed without showing excess skin. In the beginning when you’re first learning it can be helpful to purchase enough nursing bra’s and/or singlets so that you’ve got easy access to your breasts. Many mums find the ‘one up, one down’ method works well; this means wearing a singlet underneath your t-shirt/shirt so that it can stay in place and keep your tummy covered while you lift your shirt and just pop out your breast. The extra fabric usually means that minimal skin is exposed but bub has plenty of space to latch on. Button up shirts are also a fantastic option for easy breast access without the need to take off your entire top!
What about leaking?
Nothing says ‘breastfeeding’ quite like looking down and realising that one side of your shirt is soaked through. Your breastmilk supply, especially in the early days, can be very unpredictable and breast pads are a must. These will help save your shirts and ensure no milky leakage before, during or after a feed. The Haakaa Ladybug Silicone Milk Collector is also a great option for preventing leaks while also catching all those drops of liquid gold that would otherwise go to waste inside a breast pad. The Ladbybug can be discretely popped inside your bra where it will sit, undetected until you’re ready to feed.