What to Wear When you Nurse in Public
To breastfeed, you don’t really need any special equipment, nature has provided everything for you. However, there are some conveniences that can make nursing quite a bit easier. This is especially true when it comes to nursing in public. Mothers should feel as comfortable as possible when breastfeeding outside the home and fumbling around your ordinary non-nursing clothes isn’t exactly fun.
Please read my article on breastfeeding and “modesty” before continuing. I believe women should be free to nurse in public without worry about how much breast they are showing because we are feeding our babies, not doing anything inappropriate or lewd. Our right to nurse in public, uncovered, is a protected human right and there is nothing wrong with it. I do feel it is important that the mother feel comfortable and we all have a different sense of modesty when it comes to our own bodies. Please do whatever makes you feel comfortable, but just know, if you have a nipslip or someone sees your breast, it’s OK. You are just feeding your baby and that is your right, and your baby’s!
The important basics of nursing clothing are:
- A proper fitting nursing bra. I prefer clips, but they come in a variation of clips, snaps, buttons, hooks etc. There are also nursing bras that allow you just to pull one cup aside.
- Shirts with some stretch that you can either lift up easily or pull down easily to expose your breast. Often your maternity shirts are great for this as long as they continue to fit.
- A nursing tank
- A bellyband or circular stretchy fabric that goes around your waist.
I did not include nursing covers because I don’t think they are necessary and can often inhibit good breastfeeding practice. But if you wish to use one, of course you should–it’s all about what makes you comfortable. If you are considering a cover, I’d recommend checking out my section on nursing and babywearing. It’s a great way to be discreet and enjoy freedom of movement.
I would experiment at home with various combinations of the above articles of clothing to find a combination that works best for you. It should be very easy to just take your baby and put them to the breast when they are ready to eat with a minimal amount of fiddling with your clothes. Practicing at home will also give you some muscle memory that will greatly help your confidence when you are breastfeeding at the park or mall.
Some women prefer to go bra-less. This is totally fine. My only caution would be during the time before your milk supply is well established and you are prone to leakage, or if you are out with baby and have reason to believe you might leak (if you are going to be in a room full of crying babies, for example). Going bra-less gives you the added advantage of easy access for the baby, without having to clip or unclip the nursing bra.
Nursing braless with a pull-down shirt
Some mothers feel very exposed when they have a pull down top for nursing. Be aware that your entire breast will be showing (except where the baby’s head is, of course) and as baby latches on, the actual entire breast will show. There is nothing wrong with this. I just don’t want it to take anyone by surprise after they have bought 100$ worth of pull-down nursing tops.
When you use a pull-up nursing top, you can use the shirt to cover whatever portion of your breast you desire. Often when you nurse this way, it is very “modest” and all people can see is the back of your baby’s head and a small portion of your aureola or breast. it is especially effective when you couple it with a nursing tank underneath or a belly band. As you know, I’m not very concerned about “modesty” when it comes to breastfeeding in public, but I’m not very keen to show off my postpartum belly to anyone. Given the choice, I’d rather use a pull-down nursing top and have my breast fully exposed than have anyone see my gloriously flabby belly.
Tips for Babywearing and Nursing in Public
No matter what carrier you are using, what you should wear is the same. I’ve found the best type of shirt is one which you can pull down. Trying to pull up a shirt under a carrier is not an easy task, pulling one down is much easier. That way your stomach is also covered. Many Mamas recommend a nursing tank for babywearing and nursing in public, rather than a pull-down shirt and nursing bra combo. Make sure you try it out at home first, find what’s most comfortable for you and your baby.