Recently there seems to have been a rise in the number of stories shared through social media about mothers who are told they should cover up or leave a public location because of breastfeeding. Hopefully this increase is more a factor of mothers speaking up and calling out those who try to shame them for breastfeeding than an increase in actual incidents. The unfortunate side of the publicity around these stories is they make many new parents worried that if they breastfeed in a public location someone will say something negative to them. Many breastfeeding parents aren’t willing to take that risk so they choose to breastfeed in washrooms, drape a blanket over baby, use bottles when out with baby or stay home.
Most parents who breastfeed in public places will never have anyone say anything negative to them. You are more likely to get smiles or no reaction at all. It can help your confidence to plan out what you might say if someone questions your right to breastfeed in a particular place or suggests you could cover up. If you are prepared, you probably won’t need to use your planned statement.
One mother who was breastfeeding her newborn in the grocery store was approached by an older woman who said to her, "There are nice cover-up things that you can buy to put over yourself and your baby if you have to feed her at the store. I think they carry them at XXX store around the corner.” The new mum smiled and said, “Yes, cover-ups do exist and some mothers might want to use them but there is no reason why I should have to put a blanket over my baby’s head to feed her. She wouldn’t like it and she has the right to be fed wherever we are.” The other woman just said “Oh!” and walked off.
If you have had an experience with someone questioning your right to breastfeed in a public place, we would like to hear how you handled it. Did you feel comfortable speaking up for yourself and your baby? What did you say?
The Alberta Breastfeeding Committee has produced a sheet of business-sized cards that can be printed off to carry with you when you are out and about. The cards say "My child has the right to breastfeed here" and explain your rights as a breastfeeding parent. Carrying the cards in your diaper bag saves you from having to plan to say anything. You can just hand over a card. There is also a card for breastfeeding supporters to carry to share with those they see breastfeeding in public that says, "Thank you for breastfeeding". You can find the free card templates on the ABC website resource page.
Getting comfortable breastfeeding away from your home base can take some time. Many mothers have had their first “public” breastfeeding experience at a La Leche League meeting. Knowing that you are in the company of others who are breastfeeding can help you relax as you get baby latched on. For those who are pregnant, seeing breastfeeding babies of all sizes can help you visualize yourself breastfeeding your own baby. You can find a local La Leche League Group by checking the LLLC website.