First Encounter With Nursing In Public

Last night I had my first “real” encounter with nursing in public. Yes, I’ve seen women nurse in public before, like someone across the room at a restaurant, but never someone I was actually interacting with.

Much as I hate to admit it, I was uncomfortable.

Here’s the situation. My husband and I brought Levi to our regular ECFE class (Early Childhood Family Education). At class, we all sit in a big circle. During class, it’s expected that parents might feed their kids, get up and rock them, have to leave to change a diaper, etc… It’s an infant class, after all.

Two different women wound up nursing during class last night. They pulled out their nursing covers, tucked their baby underneath, and continued participating in the discussion.

Here are my thoughts on this:

1) BRAVO!! I think it’s cool that they’re comfortable nursing in public.
2) How the heck do they do that? Levi & I didn’t really get the hang of nursing at home before I switched to exclusively pumping*, so I can’t even imagine all the coordination it takes to nurse in public, under a cover, where it’s harder to see what’s going on.
3) Thank you for using a cover. Yes, I know you CAN nurse in public without one, but I believe in modesty and I appreciate women who use them.
4) How am I supposed to act?

#4 is where the uncomfortable part came in. I’m not aware of any social etiquette as far as interacting with a mom who is nursing in public. Am I supposed to acknowledge that she’s feeding her child and give her privacy? Should I continue the conversation? Do I ask her what her preference is?

What made it even more awkward was that Jason was with me, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be guiding him on this, too. Because if I don’t know how to act, I’m sure he doesn’t, either. Since I’m not nursing, I felt like I was left out somehow of an “in” group that not only gets to nurse their babies, but also knows the social etiquette that goes along with it.

I want to be better prepared next time – what do you recommend in situations like this?

*If you’re new to my blog, it’s probably helpful for you to know that I’m an exclusive pumping mom. About 2 weeks after Levi was born, I developed a breast absecess that required two different surgeries. Needless to say, that interrupted our breastfeeding relationship a bit. Even though I bottle-feed my son breastmilk, I still consider myself a breastfeeding mama.


  1. With the boys I never ever nursed in public. It was too much of a hassel at home, there was no way I could even try in public without major issues. This time around I was blessed with a good latcher, so things are different. Nursing is a huge part of my day and although I like to nurse at home rather than out and about, I have successfully nursed in public probably more often than I successfully nursed the twins at home.I use a cover. It's enough that Judah pulls at it the entire time making a little peep show possible, but I would never have a let-down without one. I have no problems having conversations with people while I'm nursing- unless I'm having issues keepin ghim on, then all of my attentiion is on the baby, propping him up, keeping him latched etc.My Dad's fiancee's son once made a plate of nachos and lay down on the other side of a sectional couch I was nursing on. totally pissed me off- for one, I'd never met the guy and two- um, hello!I think if women are uncomfortable they will probably nurse somewhere more private- if they are going to sit in the group they are probably very comfortable in the situation. Carry on as usual, just try not and acknowledge any slips of the cover 🙂

  2. aerobebe1421 says:

    I NIP for the first time over this past weekend. We didn't have power, and spent the day out. I had no choice really, except to feed him in the car (which I will admit, I have done many times!). We snuck away to a quiet spot in Macy's and I used a cover. I'd say a good two dozen people walked by, but no one said anything. I had a lady smile at me though. I actually think wearing a cover makes it seem even more obvious that you are nursing. They make some good nursing tanks that you can wear under a shirt, and then when you NIP, most people don't even know you are doing it. 🙂 I'm going to pick up a few, but don't know that I'll actually NIP without a cover. Not so much that I care if I make others uncomfortable (sorry!), but rather that, like you, I believe in modesty. I don't want any creepy people seeing a 'slip'. As for how to act, just carry on like it's not that big of a deal. Because really…it isn't that big of a deal. A baby's got to eat, right? 🙂 I've been uncomfortable talking to a nursing mom before and it was recently at Carter's playdate. The mom pulled her breast over the top of the shirt, completely exposing everything, and then nursed away. This made me uncomfortable, mainly because I had just met her 20 mins. prior and I felt like I was impeding on such an intimate moment. Had she just lifted her shirt up instead, I wouldn't have been uncomfortable at all. I think a lot of it is because I don't know too many people that have breastfed, and the few that I do know, stopped by 2 mos. I get a lot of the, "You're still breastfeeding?" and "How long do you plan on doing that for?" with looks of shock…so maybe it's my own insecurities. I wish I could just NIP with no issues. I'll stop rambling now. 🙂 One important note though, regardless of HOW Levi gets Mommy's Milk, he is a breastfed baby! In a lot of ways, I think exclusively pumping is even harder! So, go mama! 🙂

  3. I'm one of those 'whip it out and get the job done' mamas. While I don't intend to expose myself to anyone, if I inadvertently do so while in the process…well…it is what it is.It took me years to get here and I still have days that I cringe and feel uncomfortable. I know that sometimes people don't approve. I've gotten the comments. I've gotten the looks. But you know what? I have to feed my baby and our great state of Minnesota completely supports my right to do so. My 'if you don't like it then don't look' attitude is very hard won. Now that I've explained my thoughts on my own NIP, I will say this about how to react to me if you see me doing it: 1) Ignore it if you want. Won't hurt my feelings any. I prefer that over the 'I can't believe she's doing that in PUBLIC' looks, comments or attitude any day of the week.2) Ask questions if you want. Again, I'd rather just be right up front with what I'm doing and why. I'm happy to discuss. Seriously.3) Give me a thumbs up. That has happened to me before and you know what? MADE MY DAY.Went to a mom's group awhile back. A mama quietly went to the corner and started nursing her child. We were in a situation where 'mingling' was going on. Everyone ignored her. Not me though. I just kept thinking to myself, "FOR PETE'S SAKE, IT'S A MOM'S GROUP AND SHE'S FEELING LIKE SHE NEEDS TO BE HIDING AWAY???"After a few minutes of seeing her alone with her baby, I made a BEELINE right for her. I gave her an inquisitive sort of 'Is it ok if I'm bugging you' sort of look. She absolutely BEAMED at me and we chatted for a good fifteen minutes while she nursed her baby. As soon as she saw I was not uncomfortable (as was evidenced by a comment/hint that I made about how my son would never tolerate a blanket on his head while nursing) she whipped off the blanket she'd been using to cover up and kept on chatting away. I'm so glad I did what I did…and I think she was too. It is so important to support fellow nursing mamas, you know?I wish it was considered 'normal' to breastfeed our babies where ever and whenever we need to so that we didn't have to ask these questions, but I'm glad you did so that I can say what I think about it! 🙂

  4. P.S. I completely support any mama feeding her baby any way that works for them. Am I pro-breastfeeding? You betcha. Do I judge? Not if I can help it and I certainly do my best not to. Last I checked, no one made a rule that breastfeeding has to be defined by whether your child and your breast are actually being connected in the process. *wink*

  5. You ARE a breastfeeding mama! Even if your baby is only getting an ounce or expressed breastmilk, you are still a breastfeed mama. I takes so much dedication, perseverance and strength to pump exclusively- more power to you. As passionate as I am about breastfeeding, if I had to exclusively pump I probably wouldn’t!

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