Nursing in Public (NIP) – for some breastfeeding moms this comes easily, for others this idea makes some extremely nervous. Usually, but not always, it’s the first-time mama or first-time breastfeeding mama who is worried about breastfeeding her babe outside of the home. What it boils down to are two things. One, lack of practice of nursing in public. And two, lack of confidence.
I’ve been there. I’ve been that mom who would run to the car to breastfeed my son, or strategically plan my day around when I thought he was going to eat, so I would be home when he was hungry – this way I wouldn’t have to worry about nursing in public. When I would NIP, I would search for the most secluded spot– if my husband was with me, I would have him be my bodyguard and block me. Then, I would whip out my cover. Meanwhile, I would make sure no one was looking and would then try to latch my son on as quickly as possible before someone could catch a glimpse of my breast. Finally, I’d hold the cover on. If anyone came near us or if baby started to wiggle, I would break out in a sweat. When he wanted to switch breasts, this process would begin all over again. Completely not stressful at all…
Then, I found a friend who breastfed. And, she did it without a cover. AND, she did it anywhere and everywhere, without breaking a sweat. That’s all it took. If Anna was breastfeeding her little guy and wasn’t stressing, why couldn’t I? She even chased after our kids who ran off, continuing to nurse babe – and no one batted an eye. And, so my NIP really began. We would meet up at local parks, play spaces, gymnastic classes, bowling alleys. Our older kids would play and our babies would nurse. I practiced breastfeeding covered and not covered. I gained confidence. Eventually, I could nurse in public on my own and not stress out if I had forgotten my cover. It felt great. And, my baby was happy and fed.
So, how does this help you? How can you feel comfortable nursing in public? Well, grab your baby and try these 5 steps.
- Practice. Breastfeed in front of a mirror at home and see exactly what is and what isn’t showing. Have baby latch and re-latch so you can get him on and off the breast quickly (for many, this is the most stressful part because they don’t want to expose a nipple). Practice nursing in a carrier – this is a great way for moms of more than one to NIP. Baby is content and mom can still keep tabs, play with, or chase after older siblings. Don’t have a carrier? Check out Babywearing International (http://babywearinginternational.org/; the Chicago area even has their own chapter: http://bwichicagoland.wordpress.com/).
- Find a friend who breastfeeds in public. Watch what she does. Do it with her. Nothing like strength in numbers to boost that confidence.
- Remember it’s okay to cover if you want. It’s better than not breastfeeding at all. NIP is not all or nothing. You do it how you feel comfortable and what works for your child.
- Purchase or make some nursing friendly clothes. We have a great blog piece on making your own: http://breastfeedchicago.org/2012/01/09/diy-nursing-fashions/.
- Finally, and most importantly, remind yourself that breastfeeding is normal!!! Let me say that again. Breastfeeding is NORMAL. No one should make you feel ashamed of what you are doing, ask you to go somewhere else (especially a bathroom), or talk down to you. NO ONE should ask you to use a cover. And, you DO NOT need to ask if it’s okay to breastfeed your baby. Would you ask if it was okay to bottlefeed? Don’t let them have that power. You are nourishing your child. You are comforting your child. You are being a mom. Every time you nurse in public, you are normalizing breastfeeding. And, for that YOU ROCK! So, NIP ladies, NIP.
For those mamas who want to give NIP a shot, we’ve compiled a list of some cozy places to nurse around the Chicagoland area. Print it out, keep it handy. Who knows, you might see a fellow BFChicago member nursing in that same spot and make a new mommy friend.
Art Institute – Family Room, extra good if you have older kids with you because they can play while you nurse (and it’s usually pretty quiet)
Field Museum – there are benches everywhere, but on the top floor by the DNA exhibit there’s a bench by the movie that plays continuously – a nice private area to nurse; nursing room downstairs (it’s small, but quiet)
Kohl’s Children’s Museum – lots of different nursing areas
Children’s DuPage Museum in Naperville
Oak Lawn Children’s Museum – it’s small enough to not lose your toddler and there are plenty of benches to sit on and nurse
Aquariums and Zoos:
Shedd Aquarium – benches in front of the Belugas on the bottom floor (everyone is watching the whales and babies like the movement of the water, plus it’s dark – perfect combo to peacefully nurse) and a private nursing room, if needed.
Brookfield Zoo – Hamill Family Zoo (if you tell them you need to breastfeed your baby and aren’t a member, you get free admission to the area). There are lots of chairs throughout plus a quiet private nursing room with a comfy couch; nursing by the Snow Leopards, Giraffes, and the bench in front of the Rhinos; underwater dolphin view; any of the cafeterias or picnic areas
Lincoln Park Zoo – splash pad area in Children’s Zoo, let your older child splash about while you breastfeed baby; also nice benches outside of the bird building
Malls and Retail Stores:
IKEA Schaumburg – anywhere but the room in the bathroom!! The 3rd floor family room with rocking chairs, seating and toys for siblings. Can even turn off the overhead lights and turn on a lamp; or, any of the displays with comfy couches or chairs; they even offer complimentary diapers!! The Poang chairs are great for laidback breastfeeding (Bolingbrook store also has family rooms)
Target stores – in the café
Hawthorne Mall- family area, it’s tucked away, but it’s awesome! Nursing stations for mom, tvs, and toys to keep older kids entertained. Lower level by JC Penney
Buy Buy Baby – they have a changing station, too
Anthropologie – fitting rooms are great, their couches are huge and comfy and their sales girls are super nice. Can hang with friends while they try on their clothes!
Macy’s on State Street – very friendly
Babies R Us – the gliders are nice to nurse in
Chicago Ridge Mall – has a couple of nursing rooms with chairs and curtains for privacy
Any restaurant or mall – the comfy chairs at the mall are the best!
Fashion Outlet Mall – nice chairs and couches outside the 2nd level restroom, they have a private nursing room, too
Nordstrom’s – fitting rooms, women’s lounge (not the bathroom), cafe
Any of the Westfield Malls and Bolingbrook Promenade
Van Mawr – 2nd floor sitting room next to bathrooms
Water Tower – mother’s room in the 4th floor bathroom that locks if you need to pump
Eataly Chicago – 43 East Ohio Street Chicago 60611
Cracker Barrel restaurants – the rockers on the front porch
First Slice Pie Café – 4401 N Ravenswood Ave, Chicago 60640 http://firstslice.org/first-slice-ravenswood/ can also go to the back to the art studio and nurse on the couch
Palmer House Hotel – mezzanine level (there is dim lighting and couches, no one bothers you at all)
Navy Pier –Crystal Gardens, tons of benches to choose from and it’s so serene watching the water jump…unless you have a super easily distracted baby; Children’s Museum on the 2nd floor there is a nursing room with toys to keep your other kids busy while you breastfeed
Millennium Park – all over!
Botanic Gardens – anywhere, but they also have a private first aid room if you need to pump
NIP articles and helpful resources:
Breastfeeding State Laws: http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx
Huffington Post article Why I am glad Someone Told Me to Stop Breastfeeding in Public http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amber-hinds/breastfeeding-in-public_b_3095644.html
Kellymom article on NIP: http://kellymom.com/bf/normal/bfip/
LLL link on breastfeeding in public: http://www.llli.org/nb/nbpublic.html
Free e-course by The Badass Breastfeeder about empowering yourself to nurse in public: http://gentleparentinfo.com/BadassPublicBreastfeeder.html
A special thanks to my friend, Anna Mohallim for being that mom who inspired me to NIP. And, a HUGE shoutout to all of the members of Breastfeed Chicago who submitted their favorite place to nurse in and around Chicago. Thanks for normalizing breastfeeding in Chicago!!
Jennifer Adams is a mom of 3 who pumped for her first and breastfed her second and third. She is a CAPPA Certified Postpartum Doula, Certified Lactation Specialist, and serves on the Board of Breastfeed, Chicago! Jennifer wants to normalize breastfeeding in Chicago and beyond.