Breastfeeding your child in public can feel incredibly daunting, particularly in the early weeks. After having a baby, it is easy to focus on your post-baby body and we have all seen some of the news headlines where parents have been the victim of unwelcome comments.
Thankfully, those instances are not common and after feeding in public a few times, it should feel easier. It can be useful to ask yourself what may be giving you any concerns and think about what can help to resolve them.
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).
The only time that it may be lawful to prevent women breastfeeding is if there is a risk of safety
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?
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).
Key points to remember:
- Babies have small stomachs and breastmilk is easily digested. In order to establish milk production and maintain a good milk supply, the breasts need to be stimulated frequently (1). Embracing breastfeeding out and about can be more convenient than having to bring the right amount of milk for your baby and finding somewhere to express your breastmilk.
- The more we see others breastfeed, the more normal breastfeeding in public will become (1 & 5).
- A toilet cubicle is a not an appropriate place to feed your baby (4).
Embracing breastfeeding out and about can be more convenient than having to bring the right amount of milk for your baby and finding somewhere to express your breastmilk.
- 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]