Breastfeeding your child in public, or even just in front of visitors at home, can feel really daunting, particularly in those early days after having a baby.
Worries or concerns about breastfeeding out and about can hinge on what other people might think, and whether you are showing too much flesh. But, remember, the only thing that matters is that you are meeting the needs of your baby. Your baby has a right to eat as and when they want, and the wonderful thing about breastfeeding is that you can do it anywhere, anytime without much preparation!
This free online guide has been designed to provide you with everything you need to know about breastfeeding in public, including tips to feed with confidence and knowing your rights.
Breastfeeding in public FAQs
It can be useful to ask yourself what may be giving you any concerns and think about what can help to resolve them. Breastfeeding Counsellor Millie Copeman answers your FAQs.
Where am I allowed to breastfeed my baby?
Anywhere. You are legally protected in any public place to breastfeed your child (including toddlers, pre-school and school aged children) in the UK. It would be unlawful if you were discriminated against for breastfeeding and you are protected by The Equality Act 2010 (1).
The only time that it may be lawful to prevent women breastfeeding is if there is a risk of safety such as proximity to dangerous chemicals or harmful levels of radiation (3).
I have been discriminated against in a public place for breastfeeding my child. What can I do?
You may contact the Government Equalities Office to challenge the incident (1).
Do I have to wear a cover up or go to a private area to breastfeed?
No. It is a personal choice and you should think about your own comfort levels. It is perfectly acceptable to breastfeed your baby, even if your breast/ chest is exposed in a public place. It is also absolutely fine if you feel more comfortable going to a separate area or using a cover-up designed to limit exposure. Parents may also enjoy breastfeeding their child in a sling or baby carrier (2, 4, & 5).
What clothes should I wear when feeding in public?
Parents can wear clothes designed for nursing which can help to limit exposure if this is important to them. Some parents are conscious of other areas of their body and may adopt a ‘two top-top up, top down’ technique to reduce exposure. Or they might wear clothing such as a v-neck where it can be pulled to the side. Button-down clothing can also be helpful.
Some parents may choose to tuck a muslin in their bra-strap and use that as a make-shift cover, particularly whilst trying to attach baby to the breast. However, many parents find that once they have nursed their child in public a few times, any anxiety about exposure can quickly disappear. Not only this, but extra layers of clothing can make it more difficult to achieve a good latch and babies may protest (2, 4 & 5).
What to wear when breastfeeding in public
- Start with buttoned tops and dresses. It’s easy to quickly unbutton with one hand and hold your baby with the other. Try this at home a few times first before going out if you’re a bit nervous about feeding in public still.
- When you feel like you’ve got a hold on buttons, move to wrap/tie up dresses and tops. They’re a little bit harder than buttons, but once you get used to it it’s easy.
- Once you feel confident feeding in public wearing buttons and tie up attire, move to one layer on top ie a tshirt. Use the OUOD (One up one down) method (tshirt up, bra cup down).
- You have a dress that has no obvious access? Wear cycling shorts or leggings underneath! Use the OUOD method, this way your knickers will not be on display.
- If and when you are ready to return to any exercise, instead of purchasing a nursing sports bra, use the sideways method with a sports bra you already own.
- Wear clothes that make YOU feel good. You are a mum, but you are still YOU.
Breastfeeding in public for the first time
“I remember just looking up at my partner in panic because we were out… in public… and I can’t just let him wait until we get home?! So, we found a quiet corner with a picnic bench and we began to get comfortable.
I wore a dress that I couldn’t just pull down at the breast so I had to take my arm out of my sleeve, exposing part of my upper body. I felt so on edge and I was convinced everyone was looking at me and judging me. No one actually cared or even noticed, of course.
It was only once we had established our latch and we were in the moment that I realised; this really isn’t so bad!
Something just clicked in me where I realised I have this duty of care for my precious baby that I had lovingly made for 38 weeks and 6 days. I was going to give my all to my baby, regardless of what it meant people thought of me.”
You can read about Alicia’s experience here.
“I felt so on edge and I was convinced everyone was looking at me and judging me.”Alicia Sagar
Why taking pictures of mothers breastfeeding in public is illegal
- In 2022 taking photos of breastfeeding mothers in public without their consent was made a crime in England and Wales.
- The Justice Secretary said the move would stop women being “pestered, whether it’s for self-gratification or for harassment purposes”.
- The law forms part of the the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Want to learn more? You can read more about this here.
10 tips for breastfeeding in public with confidence
- “Act confident, even if you don’t feel it. You’ve nothing to be afraid of, you’re just feeding your baby.” Georgina Birley
- “Look for the Breastfeeding Welcome Here sign in the early days. That’s what I did because I was initially very hesitant about feeding in public. Knowing that a venue actively encouraged breastfeeding made me feel more confident.” Rachael Kelly
- “Find your tribe to feed with. It helps with confidence if in the early days you can feed with other mums.” Natalie Martindale
- “Focus on your baby rather than the people around you. The baby will feel your calmness and relax as well.” Nadia Koch
- “Once you get the first time down you are fine. With the right clothing, it can look like you’re just cuddling your wee one.” Becka G.
- “I found the big muslins to be very good at the start when I was more self-conscious about feeding in public. I preferred to use muslins as they were nice and light so didn’t overheat baby but still covered me well.” Robyn Usher
- “Get a cover if it makes you feel better. I didn’t have any issues breastfeeding in public but preferred to have the privacy of a cover.” Kallie Branciforte
- “I’m very large chested so found it difficult at the start to latch baby discreetly. Someone told me to roll up a muslin and put it under the breast to help position baby which really helped.” Lydia M
- “The Can I Breastfeed In It? group is a godsend. Thanks to the group I discovered the discreet one top over and one top under method and have been using it since.” Musha Enkhbayar
- “I found if people looked, I would just smile back, showing that I am comfortable, therefore there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.” Eve Brannon
The thing that helped me gain confidence when breastfeeding in public was “starting small”. My first couple of feeds outside the house were at a baby & toddlers group or baby class. Because everyone there was a parent/guardian and it was a “safe space” so to speak. So it felt natural to feed there. Once I’d done that a couple of times I was ready for the proper public! Now 2.5 years and another baby later I’ve fed anywhere you could possibly think of (many multiple times in our Catholic Church too!)Elle Phelan, mama of two
Watch now: An interview with The Badass Breastfeeder
Listen to our special World Breastfeeding Week livestream event with Abby Theuring from The Badass Breastfeeder. She shares her top tips for breastfeeding in public with confidence.
Pumping milk in public
As a breastfeeding person, there are times when you may be away from your little one but still need to express milk for them and for your own comfort. With the recent advancement of breast pumps leading to wearable/hands-free devices, pumping in public is now becoming more commonplace.
Wearable pumps like the Wren breast pump can be worn inside your bra, allowing you to express milk on the go, anytime anywhere. It is discreet and and much less noisy that more traditional electric pumps – meaning wearers can feel comfortable pumping in the presence of others. No longer do you need to be chained to a power point to pump milk – you can express on public transport, at the gym, or even at a festival! It means more flexibility and freedom.
Using a wearable breast pump can be a game-changer
As pumping in public gets easier and more straight-forward when using a wearable pump, it empowers breastfeeding parents to continue on their breastfeeding / pumping journey for longer.
Expressing milk at work or whilst out on a social occasion is no longer a big inconvenience or logistical nightmare. You don’t have to think about all the parts you need to bring with you or where you’ll have to go to sit and pump. You simply pack your hands-free pump into your bag and off you go. Now, you can pump on your own terms and in a way that fits in with your lifestyle.
Meet Anna: “From cafes to festivals, I’ve breastfed all over!”
“For me, the most exciting part of the journey so far has been breastfeeding in public and supporting other women in their journeys. As someone who is usually pretty shy, breastfeeding in public seemed very scary at first. When my son was only a few weeks old, I was still uncomfortable with the idea of just whipping a boob out to feed him outside my own home. I didn’t want to go out and be forced into a situation where I had to feed him anywhere else so I stayed home a lot.
My first feed was actually in the baby changing / disabled toilet where I was trying to hurry him along (like you can hurry a feeding newborn!) After that, I vowed to not do that again. I wanted my next public feed to be somewhere I could sit down, have a drink and relax.
Now, I just sit down and feed him regardless of where we are be it a nice teashop, a busy roadside at the bus stop, a park roundabout, a castle or climbing Snowdon!
This summer we took our son to Download Festival for the first time! Unsurprisingly, considering the heatwave and the fact we were around large crowds of strangers, my son spent plenty of time attached to my boobs both for hydration and comfort. It was a fun experience though. I was able to prove that breastfeeding mothers don’t have to miss out on doing the things we enjoy.”
You can read more about Anna’s breastfeeding story here.
I was able to prove that breastfeeding mothers don’t have to miss out on doing the things we enjoy.Anna Arkle-Allchurch
World Breastfeeding in Public Day
World Breastfeeding In Public Day was first established in 2022. It’s celebrated annually on 22nd February, with events and meet-ups happening around the world.
The aim of the day, which was setup by Destiny Smith, is to recognize the importance of breastfeeding and to give people the confidence to breastfeed their children in public places.
Danielle Facey from The Breastfeeding Mentor setup the flagship event in the UK. She says: “The whole point of this day is to normalise breastfeeding so that mums feels empowered to nurse anywhere, for as long as they and their child choose.”
You can find out more about World Breastfeeding in Public Day here.
Shop breastfeeding essentials
Check out our curated list of breastfeeding must-haves
- LLLGB (2016) Breastfeeding in public spaces. [Online] Available from: https://www.laleche.org.uk/breastfeeding-public-spaces/ [Accessed 17 June 2021]
- LLGB (2015) I’m shy about breastfeeding in public. [Online] Available from: https://www.laleche.org.uk/shy-about-bf-in-public/ [Accessed 17 June 2021]
- Maternity Action (2021) Breastfeeding while out and about. [Online] Available from: https://maternityaction.org.uk/advice/breastfeeding-in-public-places/ [Accessed 17 June 2021]
- NHS (2020) Breastfeeding in public. [Online] Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/breastfeeding-and-bottle-feeding/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-in-public/ [Accessed 17 June 2021]
- BFN (2014) Breastfeeding in public. [Online] Available from: https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/breastfeeding-help/out-about/ [Accessed 17 June 2021]
Disclosure: This breastfeeding guide has been produced as a friendly and helpful guide to breastfeeding. It should in no way be used as a medical reference guide. The real-life stories featured in this guide are personal accounts of breastfeeding and should be treated as such. Please seek the help of a medical professional should you need it whilst breastfeeding. The information and references within this guide were accurate at the time of writing and the author is not responsible for any inaccuracies post-publishing.
Special thanks: Thank you to the boobingit mamas and our contributors who kindly shared their photos, stories and insights with us.