As a new mum, the thought of breastfeeding in public may make you feel nervous. You might be worried about other people's reactions, how and where you'll be able to do it, you may even be wondering if you're legally allowed to breastfeed in public. Don't worry, we're here to help and hopefully put your mind at rest.
Yes, the law protects breastfeeding mums. You are legally allowed to breastfeed your baby in public. That might be a café, shop, library or on public transport (basically any business that provides a service to the public). The Equality Act states that it is sex discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably if she is breastfeeding.
Fortunately, the majority of people don't mind a woman breastfeeding her child, or simply don't notice. If you feel self-conscious, try to remind yourself that you are doing the best and most natural thing for your baby. The more it's done, the more normal it will become.
If you are asked to leave somewhere because you are breastfeeding, you are absolutely within your rights to challenge that request. If it becomes uncomfortable, and you don't want to stick around, contact the Government Equalities Office. A solicitor will advise you if a claim can be brought forward for discrimination.
While you are legally allowed to breastfeed anywhere, it might be a good idea to start off with some breastfeeding-friendly places in your local area. That way you don't need to worry about being challenged in any way. Some may even have mother and baby rooms where you can be left to feed and change your baby in peace. Ask your breastfeeding friends, midwife or health visitor for tips on good places to go. And look out for Breastfeeding Friendly or Breastfeeding Welcome stickers in the window.
Over time, the more confident you feel about breastfeeding while out and about, the easier it will become. You'll get to the point where it becomes second nature to breastfeed your baby wherever you happen to be.
You don't need to spend lots of money on nursing clothes. Some mums use a large muslin, or scarf to cover themselves while breastfeeding. Some find it's better to wear two stretchy tops – one to cover the tummy, and the other to cover their breasts. Others prefer wearing loose tops that can be lifted up. There is no right or wrong type of clothing, it's personal choice and what feels more comfortable to you.
Rest assured, the majority of people don't bat an eyelid, or even notice if a mum is breastfeeding her child.
In a Start4Life survey, 72% of people said they supported women breastfeeding in public. You may even find people making lovely, positive comments – so please don't let the small minority of people put you off.