Overcoming the Challenges of Breastfeeding In Front of Other People

mom breastfeeding in slingIt's kind of bizarre how we can go to the beach in a bathing suit and think nothing of being basically naked in front of friends, family, and strangers. Yet when women breastfeed their babies, where there is often barely any skin showing, it's sometimes met with gasps and people think it's obscene. Some expect that woman to cover up or take it to a room where no one can see. Oh we live in a strange, strange world.

I breastfed my kids in front of friends and family, and in public. I did sometimes use a cover, but as my kids got older, that became more difficult because they loved to twist it around their little fingers and pull it off.

Still it can be really challenging to breastfeed in front of other people, even with a cover, and sometimes it's even harder to do in front of family.


Of course if your mom breastfed you or you have other family members who breastfed their own kids whenever they were hungry, it probably wasn't a big deal in your family. But for many, it is.

My whole thing with breastfeeding wasn't necessarily who was around me, it was what spot can I nurse my kids where it is most comfortable. But when my father-in-law came to visit us from out of state, I did find it hard to nurse my kids in front of him. I was breastfeeding twins so when I was at home, I nursed them at the same time. It was easier to just take my top off and it was also more comfortable for me to go into the nursery, out of his sight. My step-mother-in-law did come in the room with me though, helping me get both babies to breast and we even chatted while I was nursing.

I've even been to a friend's home and nursed my babies while other kids were around. My friend and her sister both breastfed their kids so it was treated as natural and normal. Just like it should be. Think about it -- it's just a breast, not shown in a sexual manner, instead it's just feeding a baby. For me, there were three things I did to overcome any challenges I may have felt while nursing in front of others:

  1. I didn't make a big deal about it. If I was in mid-conversation with a friend and it was time to feed my kids, I just fed them, while still talking.
  2. I used a cover (kid willing) in certain situations. You can also nurse your baby while she is in a sling.
  3. I felt that if I did breastfeed in front of someone who didn't know how to feel about it, doing so may make them realize it's no big deal, and voila! creating more acceptance.

What does worry me most is how sometimes it's the people closest to you who can't express what is really on their mind -- that you nursing in front of them makes them uncomfortable. Just like how when Facebook deletes a breastfeeding photo, that photo had to have been reported by a friend if settings are private. So that person really has a problem with it and yet couldn't talk to the breastfeeding mom directly about it. That or some of us need to reevaluate our friend list (in person and online).

It's hard to succeed at breastfeeding without support. And being able to nurse in front of others is a part of it. We shouldn't be made to feel ashamed when our kids need to eat. We should get acceptance from those closest to us. Perhaps we should all just prance around in bathing suits to prove a point that it isn't a big deal.

Have you had to overcome the challenge of breastfeeding in front of others? Has your family and friends accepted you nursing your baby in front of them if necessary?


Image via Martin Burns/Flickr

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