Tips to Comfortably Breastfeed in Public

With so much controversy over breastfeeding in public, how can a new mom feel comfortable feeding her baby when she's not behind closed doors? What are some effective ways to deal with the criticism? And what really concerns breastfeeding moms when they encounter this situation?

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Featured Expert

Featured Segments

  • Breastfeeding Tips for the Working Mom

    Maternity leave was great, but now it’s time to return to work… with your pump. How can you make this experience run as smoothly as possible? What challenges will you face and how can you overcome them? What are your rights?

  • Overcoming Societal Booby Traps

    We want you to have a positive breastfeeding experience… without feeling “booby trapped” by the cultural, institutional and legal barriers that prevent us from making informed decisions? How can we change the overall perception of breastfeeding within our society?

Episode Transcript

The Boob Group
Tips to Comfortably Breastfeed in Public

Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.


Robin Kaplan: With so much controversy around breastfeeding in public how can a new breastfeeding mum or even an experienced breastfeeding mum feel comfortable nursing her baby in a public setting. Today we will be discussing tips to comfortably breastfeed in public. This is the Boob Group.

[Theme Song/Intro]

Robin Kaplan: Welcome to the Boob Group broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. I’m your host, Robin Kaplan. I’m also a Certified Lactation Consultant and owner of the San Diego breastfeeding center. We are thrilled to be taping our first episode for the Boob Group. We are an online support group for all things led to breastfeeding. Visit our website at for more information on how you can become part of our show. You can send us comments or suggestions to the contact link on our website or you can call the Boob Group hotline at 6198664775. Today, I’ve been joined by three fabulous breastfeeding moms here in the studio. Would you like to introduce yourself, ladies?

Erin Esteves: Sure, I’m Erin Esteves and I am in Operations for an international company. I have one son who is 5months old.

Lashaan Everett: I’m Lashaan Everett. I am a registered nurse and student nurse-midwife. I have one child Eliot and he is 17 months

Norene Ybarra: Hello, I’m Norene Ybarra. I am the mother of Rex Edward and he will be one. I teach writing at the university level.

[Featured Segment: Breastfeeding Tips for the Working Mom]

Robin Kaplan: Before we get started with today’s topic, here’s Wendy Wright talking about breastfeeding tips for the working mom.

Wendy Wright: Hi Boob Group Listeners, I’m Wendy Wright, an international board-certified lactation consultant and owner of lactation navigation. I’m here to answer some of your most common questions about turning to work as a breastfeeding mother such as, are there tricks to using my breast pump at work? There certainly are, let’s review a few: The first thing I would like to recommend is to set up a pumping routine and try to stick to it as closely as possible. By a pumping routine I mean the times of day when you will typically pump while at work, for example, 10am, noon and 3pm, evenly spread throughout the day will allow you to produce as much milk as possible. By sticking as closely as possible to these times each day, you body will adjust and will learn to provide milk for the pump at those times. A little flexibility is ok, 30 minutes either side but, to get most milk each day try to stick as closely as possible to your pumping schedule.

I would also like to recommend that you practice pumping while on maternity leave. Learn what setting works best for you, learn how long it takes you to set up and take down and even learn the times of day which are most productive for your body. This way you will have no surprises when you return to work.I would also like to recommend that you relax as much as possible while pumping. Your body will have an easier time letting down and relaxation will also help you save up your strength for the rest of the day making milk and then providing it for your infant at home.

I would like to also recommend that everyone purchase a hands-free bra. These are available at many retail centers and they simply allow you to hold the pumping flanges to your breast without the use of your hands. Then you will have your hands available to drink coffee, a nice relaxing glass of herbal tea, having a healthy snack, and also progress the compression compressing breast while pumping can increase the amount of expressed milk that we get from each pumping session. Remember to pump for approximately 15 minutes every 3 hours and to maximize your pump settings by going as high as possible in the suction mode without pain will help you to get the most from each pumping session. Thanks for listening today and please visit for great information about my business, lactation navigation. Be sure to listen to the boob group for fantastic conversation for breastfeeding and breastfeeding support.


Robin Kaplan: Today in the boob group we are discussing tips to comfortably breastfeed in public. I am constantly amazed by the amount of controversy around the subject. Just a few months ago, in November 2011, target employees asked Michelle Hickman to move into the dressing room while she breastfed her hungry infant under a blanket as well as she was threatened that she might receive a ticket for indecent exposure. And then on the flip side, in March 2012 we have lovely Beyonce being praised for breastfeeding her new baby in a restaurant in New York City. So ladies, what message are we sending breastfeeding mothers about nursing in public?

Erin Esteves: I know that some people were raised around breastfeeding moms and so the taboo around it is fairly new. It’s something kind of familiar, something you saw mothers do, so it was familiar. When it becomes an issue, personally I get uncomfortable with the perversion of the association that this is a sexual thing and then therefore criminalized. I don’t know how to respond without calling you a pervert, [Laughs]about your uncomfortable with me feeding my baby in public. I am somebody who actually makes people feel as comfortable as possible, I always cover myself unless I’m in somebody's home or my home where I’m comfortable with you or I know you are comfortable with it. And I smile at you like, ok “hi am feeding my baby”, because I know people are uncomfortable with it, but I do believe that they is a very clear distinction between, I’m feeding my baby and this is the purpose for nip slip!

Norene Ybarra: I know for myself personally I wasn’t raised in a culture where breastfeeding was the norm. Um, if it was, it was always done behind doors. For me, modesty always reigns supreme. And I was taught very specifically on how a lady conducts herself in public, everything from the manner of dress, to how you take a seat, all of those things. So not to be prudish, I personally think women have absolutely every right to breastfeed in public and they should do so, with all of the amount of comfort that they deserve, absolutely. Do I personally feel comfortable breastfeeding in public? “No way, no I don’t”. I feel like it’s far too intimate. In the same way that I don’t make out with my husband in the park or I don’t wear a miniskirt that just hides my crotch, [Laughs] I don’t breastfeed in public! I think skirts need to be a little bit longer. Do you want to wear a skirt that’s a little bandage? Go for it, I don’t.

Lashaan Everett: I feel that I am a pretty confident person. When I first started breastfeeding my son and having to do it in public was so intimidating, but after I got over that initial little hump, I mean I obviously don’t even think about it now. But I just feel that I don’t need to apologize for something that is so natural and I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed for feeding my son.

Erin Esteves: I absolutely 100% agree with you and because of that and because I know I should not be ashamed and I need to instill the normalcy of breastfeeding in my nieces and in my peers’ children’s, I force myself to breastfeed in front of my nieces and I pretend to be comfortable [laughs] and even dresses with them.“I can see you screaming over there niece, who shall not be named”, because this is awkward for you because you are not used to it, but this is normal, and I’m convincing her as much as myself. It’s a constant battle. Right now, I’ve moved to breastfeeding in the car, that’s a move towards public breastfeeding for me.

Lashaan Everett: I like how you brought that up, how to make it that it is what is normal. Like I have read other articles about a breastfeeding mom who is visiting her relatives in Denmark, and how there it is very normal and natural and people do breastfeed their children longer than we often do in the United States and how she just said because it was the norm she was able to get over this kind of hump, this fear that she had nursed in public in the United States because there everyone is doing it and so I thought I would really shed light. For at least me, the importance of sharing this information whether it’s just with family members in the home which is still huge or you are nursing in public and making eye contact with the person who walks by you, like yeah, “I’m nursing my baby and that’s cool”, it’s fine.


Robin Kaplan: Do you guys remember how old your babies were and the first time you nursed them public and how it went?

Lashaan Everett: I want to say that Eliot was probably about a week and I remember sitting at home in front of the mirror with the cover, with him trying to lift up the shirt and undo the nursing bra and keep him covered, don’t flash any nipple and it was just I probably looked very ridiculous. I remember the first time that I had to do it, I was so nervous and you know I was tense and I felt that he probably picked up on that and he got to the point that he was screaming and I was sweating and it was just after that happened I figured I needed to just relax and not worry about what anyone thinks, I’m not going to be able to actually feed him.

Norene Ybarra: You know in the very beginning it’s such a blur. I don’t remember the first time I nursed in public but I’m somebody who’s very confident and it’s so important to me for something to be convenient and so sometimes with certain things I don’t have time to be nervous and worrying about what’s going to happen, you know. Sometimes I have other family members that are like, “oh be careful”, but it’s not for me it’s for the other people who are uncomfortable, you know. I’m kind of conscious of it, but for the most part you get your routine on how you position, you know what clothes to wear, what shirts to wear, a quick flick here and it’s on, so that those things don’t happen where like, they knowit’s not going to worry, they’re not going to worry or now he just kicks and screams and grabs and you going to see it, But I’m going to go ahead and say you have seen it before, except this time there is milk squirting out. So it was really important that so much was going on as a new mom, I did my best not to worry about this because I was going to do this hundreds of time. If I could be calm about this, because a lot of time that’s your best defense with the baby in public. Like, if you throw boob everything is going to be fine, because sometimes what is worse than a boob in public is the screaming child and I know I can fix that.

Robin Kaplan: I remember the first time I breastfed my son in public, he was 6 weeks old and we had had challenges up until right before then. I wasn’t really confident yet because I was still getting on groove and figured out the dance and everything and we were on our way up to my sisters-in-la wedding up North and we stopped in LA and my son woke up and he was ready to feed and it was end of August and it was 95degress in the car and I was like, “alright, while I guess, here we go”, and so we went into this restaurant and I remember, I wasn’t so much nervous about flashing the breast.I was more nervous I didn’t want anyone seeing my backfat hanging out, so I had my husband standing behind me with this like huge huge receiving blanket and was like “just cover the back fat”I don’t want anybody seeing that (laughs), and he said, “what about the front?”, and the baby ‘s head is bigger than my boob, its fine (laughs) my everything is fine and I remember just lifting up my shirt you know my son was underneath of this very light receiving blanket, I remember lifting up my shirt and I was like,for up untilnow and for this past 6 weeks I had really been helping him to latch on and stufflike that and because I was making sure the blanket wasn’t falling off the next thing I knew he latched on all by himself and I was like,“oh my gosh”, and I waslike we have arrived (laughs) and ever since then I was totally not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be but I actually needed my 6 weeks old son to show me that we knew what we were doing because clearly I was not confident enough yet but that was 6 ½ years ago and it still really stick in my mind. It’s really a defining moment in my parenting skills and also just what my kids were capable of doing.

Erin Esteves: It was last month [laughs]and my niece who is expecting, it was her baby shower and she is a young single mom and everybody was in her room getting ready and I thought, “ok Erin, this is it”, and not only am I trying to instill this idea to my niece but also there are her friends around that are very much the opposite culture. They are the formula culture! And so I said ok, there it goes and I was surprised at how many questions I was getting from the girls, so it turned out to be a really good experience but I was really shy, I was just faking it [laughs]. One day you all will and you arrive, and it will be awesome. Am not shy on a lot of other things.


Robin Kaplan: Where do you find it the most comfortable nursing in public? Erin, you just said when your nieces home was actually very comfortable place for you to actually practice this, where else do you guys find umm, it was kind of an easy way to start easing into this transition of the nursing public where are your favorite places now?

Norene Ybarra: I am somebody who a is a minimalist, and I just don’t like stuff and I like it to do things that are just quick and dirty so if am out and about I will voluntarily go into the dressing room just because I don’t have to worry about the cover, I don’t have to worry about fixing my dress, I have a mirror to know that everything is put together. I have a bench, you know what I mean, and you are essentially in a room of women. So I will go and tell the attendant I’m going to breastfeed and I will go there and drop everything, sit down and you can relax, you can change the diaper if need be that kind of thing, it’s nice, you know,in the sense that it’s just like you have your own room. It’s private and clean and also I have the luxury of having tinted windows on my back seat and sometimes if I didn’t want to carry the diaper bag and the car cover blah blah blah I would just run into the car and breastfeed in the car. And I know some people who only breastfeed in the car because that what’s they are comfortable with and if you just find one place that you know you are comfortable with, by all means do it. Eventually, if you want to breastfeed elsewhere, great but those are the places because I can do it really quick and I not worry about the cover and the boob, the kid kicking, grabbing or screaming.

Erin Esteves: You know other than my neighborhood because I definitely feel comfortable breastfeeding there, because I leave in a really gay friendly, open, accepting neighborhood and you know, I have gotten thumbs up from people walking down the street breastfeeding my baby. But yes, definitely the dressing room is great just because you can do the diapers and sit there and just kind of like, chill.

Lashaan Everett: I think it’s the privacy.

Norene Ybarra: You have that private moment without having the toilet next to you. No one wants to breastfeed in the bathroom, it’s disgusting.

Robin Kaplan: One of the places when I was learning to become comfortable breastfeeding in public it was actually going to breastfeeding support group because some are public and some are private. You know everyone there is breastfeeding and so if you flash someone, they’re not going to look at you in a weird way but at the same times it helps you get off the comfort zone of your home or your car. Norene, I like how you said just that if the car is someplace you’re comfortable just go with it, that just great you have to find where your comfort zone is and however you are able to feed your baby in a comfortable place and that what you should stick with it and then use it as your launching point if you would like to but it’s really all about finding a place where you are going to be the most comfortable and then feeding your baby.

Norene Ybarra: I have a funny story about the boob group that Robin runs. I took my breastfeeding class with her prior to birthing Rex and the funny thing is I told her I was coming and I came and I was the first one there [laughs] and I did;t understand how it worked. It’s basically a group of women and you know, the amount of information you learn from which product, where, how to do it, how to latch, exactly how does it look,with positioning and all that fun stuff in addition to breastfeeding in public. I sat there coz like she said it’s the transition from your home to public. That might be the first place I breastfed in public as we asked questions, I was sitting there waiting and like I don’t know why, though they must be ready to go [laughs] and so am sitting there and I had my baby and was he probably 5 weeks old and in my head I was like saying,“I should have been here sooner, I should have been here sooner”,[laughs]which is irrelevant but that what’s goes through your head and then I was like I guess I just do it and it was the meanest thing because I’m sitting on the floor with my baby and I didn’t have to use the cover and I was just so “ Oh, you just have to do it like in a room full of women” and everybody is in just as uncomfortable and everybody is trying to make this dance work and trying to get a rhythm and they needed this thing to be able to do and I would imagine for me it was a good transition to being in publicand not to worry about the cover but also for women like ok, this is your group for example. Erin you weren’t raised around women where they just took it out and did it and didn’t have covers and had to put it on. So, that was really exciting to know like that there isn’t a time, Robin is not going to tell me when to go and when to feed that kind of thing it’s up to that dance you’re doing.


Erin Esteves: Ifelt like going to the boob group was very empowering to be around women that we are doing the same thing and it was normal. There wasn’t any reason to be ashamed or shy.

Lashaan Everett: It is also a great place if a nursing cover enables you to breastfeed in public it’s a great place to try it out because you meet a bunch of women who can actually show you how it worked for them and all that good stuff too.

Robin Kaplan: We’re talking about tips to comfortably breastfeed in public as well as ways of dealing with possible criticism. Ladies what tips do you have for moms who are nervous about breastfeeding in public and did you practice beforehand or used a cover. So, what worked for you guys?

Lashaan Everett: I attempted to use a cover and I gave up on that very quickly. You know trying to especially when Eliot got older he would kick, scream, punch and cry he hit me hard. I would sweat and he would be sweating and I figured it looked a lot more ridiculous with the cover on with these limbs flying out everywhere and me discreetly nursing him underneath my shirt.

Norene Ybarra: Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t practice prior so when you get comfortable without the cover great, and when you get comfortable with the cover it involves sweating and everything and I do it because for other people’s discomfort and it’s the least I can do. If you make it part of your routine,then you get used to it. But I’m at the point where it is nerve-racking. When he moves his head and I’m so close to the edge of the table because, it’s usually at a restaurant, I’m usually at a table soits getting scary coz if the cover wasn’t there he wouldn’t have to battle it away. I don’t think I would ever be comfortable without the cover, but I would really like and appreciate, uh, when I go to somebody home and they say, you don’t have to wear that and it’s really nice and they even say, if you want and they’re not saying have to go to another room if you want to breastfeed you can go in there. And usually, I’m fine because I would rather be amongst everybody else and so, I put on the cover and sometimes he falls asleep under it, so it is nice. If they are tired and need they own space, they can get it down there.

Erin Esteves: For me since I really only breastfeed in the car, my philosophy is if someone looks in and sees this little something they were not expecting, that is what you get into looking in someone’s car [laughs].You know because it kind of like my room, my private space and that’s where I feel comfortable.

Robin Kaplan: Have you guys had any luck nursing in a sling or a baby carrier?

Lashaan Everett: Yes, it’s really easy in a sling. All moms should have a sling(laughs), even when as old as your son is at 17 months. It was a lot easier in the beginning. We used a few different carriers for him now, the ErgoI found was a little bit more difficult to breastfeed just because you have to adjust the straps and everything but, when they’re young and it has to be in a sling it’s just so easy and you can doit very it discreetly. I just felt the sling for me was easier than a soft structured carrier like an Ergo.

Norene Ybarra: I remember once walking the dog to the dog park and the baby needed to eat and I looked at the tutorials on how to do it and breastfeed while doing it and I even did the whole layering with the camisole, breastfeeding bra and the shirt and, ah, it just didn’t work for me. Like she said it’s cumbersome to do it in Ergo but I am not saying it can’t be done, because it’s a little sweating and cursing [laughs].


Robin Kaplan: Erin have you tried it at all?

Erin Esteves: I have not tried it, no.

Lashaan Everett: I know that my sister-in-law for example she has so many wraps, carriers and slings and everything and I remember walking around the San Diego zoo with her when actually my niece was a couple of months old and she very discreetly nursed her in that Moby wrap for how many ever hours we were there. I think her baby was going through a great period or something and it was really comfortable because as soon as she was done, the baby would pull off and go to sleep and she never really had to do much to make herself comfortable in that way. And then, her older daughter was able to be attended to as well, so I thought it was just a really cool way to breastfeed your baby and attend to your new baby’s need as well as deal with an older child who needs you as well.

Robin Kaplan: Do you guys have any breastfeeding in public horror moments?

All: (Laughs) No

Robin Kaplan: That’s good. Have you dealt with any criticism when you are breastfeeding in public?

Norene Ybarra: Nobody said anything,the only uncomfortable thing that has happened it’s not I am uncomfortable, but they realize what you are doing they feel like they just peeped into some X-rated film or something. They keep on they are embarrassed that they got caught. It’s funny if for some reason they are its still lingering, I like wink [laughs] but most time it’s like, “Oh that is what she is doing”, but nothing, no criticism.

Erin Esteves: My niece is, they were very awkward, I could see them jittering and so completely uncomfortable, so I made a point of bringing it up and, saying I know you are uncomfortable and the reason you’re uncomfortable because it’s new. That’s all. I’m a little uncomfortable too but we have to get used to this because this is how things are done.

Robin Kaplan: How did they respond to that?

Erin Esteves: The youngest one who turned 12, ah, she started asking more questions, it was a good experience.

Robin Kaplan: It opened up the conversation about it. Very nice. Do you guys have any quick little things that you’ve thought about or someone ever said anything to you like, something in your back pocket like, has someone ever made a comment to me about breastfeeding in public, this is what I would say.

Norene Ybarra: May be, you should skip a meal in public.

Erin Esteves: First of all I know that California state law protects me for feeding my child wherever I want, whenever I want without a cover. So firstly there is that and also I would tell someone if someone said why don’t you go to a bathroom, I’d say,“when was the last time you ate in a bathroom and would you want to?” So like I said I haven’t had anyone, which is great. I don’t want to have to do my speech.

Norene Ybarra: I think I would just tell them to F off.

Lashaan Everett: I remember, one of my friends had told me it wasn’t necessary a comment about breastfeeding in public but, it was something that I thought would be very easily usedif a criticism was done as well that she said, just look this woman in the eye, “thank you so much for being so concerned about me and my baby. We are doing just great though. Thank you. “ So it was very passive-aggressive, She said that the woman just turned around and walked away. And again, that wasn’t necessarily about nursing in public. But, just a great way to deal with criticism. Some are gracious, some are back-handed so, because they are the one with the issues.

Robin Kaplan: What type of advice would you share with a brand new mom who is a little bit anxious about breastfeeding in public? One little tip that you would share.

Erin Esteves: I don’t really feel like I can speak on it. Honestly because….

Robin Kaplan: Of course you can. You do, you have the car.

Erin Esteves: Other than don’t do anything that you are not comfortable with.

Robin Kaplan: Because you guys are saying, I remember it too. Sweating when you feel like you are trying something you are not ready for. So, I think that’s great advice.

Lashaan Everett: Go at your own pace, try the cover. I would feel like most first time moms probably want to try it with that first and just go from there but don’t ever be ashamed to feed your baby.

Norene Ybarra: With everything, I mean, it’s new and you’re not going to, you got to crawl before you run and be patient with yourselfbecause you are not the only one doing it for the first time, and we all know your baby can feel it, literally the sweat dripping off your blouse, you’re nervous trying to figure out how this bra works and how did that tutorial show me and just breathe in the same way that you learnt to breast feed every different environment, even the people that you’re around, if you’re not comfortable breastfeeding around certain people and go ahead and go somewhere else because you need to breathe and make it work for you. So that you can breastfeed anywhere you need to and whenever you need to and sometimes like I mentionedit, it’s more important the baby is not crying in public than your boob showing.


Robin Kaplan: Just find a place where there are other breast feedings moms. So whether it’s a particular restaurant where a lot of moms hang out and there’s probably going to be breastfeeding moms there then that might be a place where you might be more comfortable, trying a support group so that we can get a little practice before you’re out on your own, say at a restaurantjust finding ways to find that comfort spot for you.

Well, thank you ladies for offering your insight into the complex subject of breastfeeding in public. Here’s Lara Adelo talking about ways to overcome societal booby traps

[Featured Segment: Overcoming Societal Booby Traps]

Lara Adelo: Hi, Boob Group listeners, I’m Lara Adelo, a certified Lactation Educator retailarking manager for Best for Babes,and owner of Mama PearDesigns. I’m here to answer some of your most common questionsabout how you can achieve your personal breastfeeding goal without being undermined by cultural and institutional booby traps- such as, how can I plan for a breastfeeding friendly birth? While we are pregnant we do a lot of planning for our birth but how many times do we spend thinking about having a birth that sets us up well for breastfeeding.

First, Have a doula or another trained birth support person present because doulas and labor coaches are skilled at taking you through labor with as few interventions as possible. It’s these interventions that can cause breastfeeding problems such as delays in milk coming in, breast edema, sucking problems and excess weight loss in the baby.

Second, Learn non-drug, pain relief techniques for use before in addition to, or instead of medications. Be sure that you know lots of labor positions. Massage techniques, acupressure points, visualization and breathing techniques and use labor tools like, birth balls, labor pools, etc.

Third and last, learn your doctor and midwife induction, C section and epidural rates. If the rates of any of these are higher than your comfortable with, check out other options. Know these same statistics for the hospitals you plan to deliver and as well.

A special thank you to Tanya Leiberman, IBCLC,for writing the Booby Trap Series for Best for Babes. Visit for more great information about how to meet your personal breastfeeding goals and my business, for breastfeeding supportive wearables, and be sure to visit the Boob Group for fantastic conversations about breastfeeding and breastfeeding support.

Robin Kaplan: This wraps up our first episode of the Boob Group. Thank you to all of our listeners. I hope you’ll visit our website, and our Facebook page to offer your story for tips to comfortably breastfeed in public. If you have any questions about today’s show and the topics we’ve discussed, call our Boob Group Hotline at 619-866-4775 and we’ll answer your question on our upcoming episode. Coming up next week, we’ll be discussing Holistic practices that support lactation. Thanks for listening to the Boob Group, Because Mothers Know Breast.

This is been a new mommy media production, information, material contained in this episode are represented for educational purposes only and do not be considered facts. It is not intended to be praised or substitute for professional, medical and not to be used for diagnosing problem or disease in any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health about your baby please get assistance from a health care provider.

[00:34:15] End of Audio

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