After giving birth to your baby, you may prefer to be close to home. Taking things easy and lots of breastfeeding will help you regain your strength and build up a good milk supply while getting to know your baby. When you feel ready to go out, a short walk or drive to your local shops or to visit a friend or relative may be enough. Remember to listen to your body and pace your activity to your energy level. Going out can prevent you from feeling isolated and give structure to your day. Breastfed babies are very portable—with your baby in a sling or carrier, you may only need a nappy or two and away you go. Babies will often sleep contentedly when carried close to their mothers, so you may even get there and back while your baby is asleep.
Mothers often worry about breastfeeding in public spaces such as shops and cafés. But the law protects you when you breastfeed in a public place and on premises. It is against the law to discriminate against a breastfeeding mother. A crying baby will guarantee an audience so watch for early feeding cues so you have time to find a suitable place. Other people probably won’t notice you’re breastfeeding if you’re relaxed and confident—especially if you continue chatting or reading the menu and avoid eye contact with passers-by. If you prefer to keep covered then lifting your top from the waist means your baby hides your tummy and you remain covered on top. A layered look can help—depending on the weather try an open blouse, shirt or cardigan over a t-shirt. A breastfeeding vest can cover your tummy. Some baby slings and carriers can also hide a feeding baby. Or dress your baby in a sun hat. If you feel self-conscious, try practising in front of your partner, a friend or a mirror.
With time, you’ll learn what you’re likely to need while out with your baby. Include nappies, baby wipes and a change of baby clothes. It’s also worth taking a favourite toy for older babies. Don’t forget a bottle of water for yourself— breastfeeding can make you thirsty. A baby sling or carrier can be easier than a pram or buggy where there are steps or uneven surfaces. It also keeps your baby close. If you have shopping to carry, a pushchair can be helpful—you can still take a sling to carry your baby if he gets restless!
Breast pads inside your bra will provide some protection from leaks if you experience them. Some breast pads even prevent leaking. Avoid plastic backed pads, which can trap wetness next to the skin and cause soreness. If you feel the tingling of your milk beginning to flow, pressing hard on your nipples for several seconds can prevent leaking. You can do this by crossing your arms tightly across your chest and pressing firmly on your nipples with the palms of your hands. Hold for a few seconds before releasing and all should be well. If it doesn’t work first time, try again for a little longer. If your breasts feel full, this is a sign to take the time to nurse your baby. Patterned fabrics, layered clothing and scarves can all hide evidence of leaks.
Where to breastfeed
If you prefer privacy, many public places have mother and baby rooms where you can sit to nurse and change your baby’s nappy. Some clothes shops will make a changing room available to a nursing mother at quiet times. Mothers breastfeed in many public places with seating areas: shopping, leisure and visitor centres, libraries, museums and more. Look out for quiet spots with fewer distractions as some babies insist on looking around instead of feeding when there’s a lot of hustle and bustle! A town garden or park may be an option when the weather is good. Or visit a café or the family room of a pub and quench your thirst at the same time. You can also breastfeed while walking with your baby in a sling.
Rather than thinking of nursing as a major event around which to structure the day, it can help to treat it as you would a coffee break—something that happens along with the other events of the day. If you nurse your baby at fixed intervals, he may need to nurse for an hour or more to take sufficient milk. It can be hard to get out and about with a baby who is feeding for long periods of time. While a baby nursing little and often is more likely to need to breastfeed while you are out, it can be easier to fit in shorter nursing sessions. Many babies become very efficient at breastfeeding by the age of three months and feeds can be accomplished very quickly.
Some babies find it difficult to cope when travelling, on holiday, visiting family etc if they have a strict routine which can’t be followed because of travel arrangements and lack of access to a separate room for sleep. When you follow your baby’s natural feeding and sleeping rhythms such problems are less likely and you may feel more relaxed about visiting relatives or taking a family holiday.
Many new mothers find it helpful to meet up with other breastfeeding mums. Local LLL groups are a good starting point—offering mother-to-mother support and the chance to socialise. You’ll also be able to see how other mothers handle breastfeeding in a public place, and gather ideas. You may well develop good friendships to support you in your new mothering role.
Public transport When hopping on and off buses and trains a carrier or sling is a real boon, with or without a pushchair. If you take a pushchair, modern train doors are usually wide enough and many buses have low floors for easy access. A backpack can be a useful handbag, leaving your hands free for your baby.
In the car Plan to stop frequently and give your baby breaks from his car seat. It can help to time long journeys for when he usually sleeps. Avoid rush hour if you can. Place your car seat where you can safely see your baby as you drive. An extra mirror can be useful if your baby travels in the back. Bear in mind that if your baby gets upset this can distract you while driving. Letting someone else drive when possible leaves you free to calm your baby. Babies are usually happier in the car if they can see mum or another adult. You could talk or sing to your baby to reassure him you are there. If your baby doesn’t like the car it may be easier to take public transport so you can hold and nurse him as you travel.
Flying A sling or soft carrier can be really convenient at the airport. It can also give you privacy as you nurse duringthe flight. It can be useful to request a bulkhead seat to give you more space. Alternatively having an aisle seat allows you to get up easily if your baby is restless without disturbing other passengers.
Take a few of your baby’s favourite toys and, if possible, familiar snacks if he has started eating solid food. Breastfeeding during take off and landing can help equalize the pressure in your baby’s ears, keeping him comfortable. However, to comply with seat belt regulations you may need to nurse in an unusual position. If seat belts make breastfeeding too awkward, offering your baby a finger or suitable toy to suck on may do the trick. When the seat belt light goes out, you can nurse him as normal.
Written by Karen Butler, Sue Upstone & mothers of La Leche League Great Britain
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Copyright LLLGB 2016