Breastfeeding confidently in public
By Melanie Hearse |

In the early days of learning to breastfeed in public, I had one or two memorable moments involving flying breast pads, milk spots on my top and showing considerably more than I meant to while fiddling around to get a muslin cover over the two of us.

Tips for making it work

I’ve always been pretty private about my body and wasn’t filled with joy at the thought of strangers getting a glimpse of my “ladies”, but both my boys were fully breastfed and big feeders. I found expressing beyond dull, so I had to get a handle on it. Here are some tips on breastfeeding without the blushes:

Practice makes perfect

I found that once I had the hang of breastfeeding at home, being able to do it with style out and about became more common.

Find what works for you

I had intended to use a wrap, but found I had so much trouble with it I was actually being less discreet than when I didn’t use one. I tried practicing with one at home to see if I could get the hang of it, but in the end it was more trouble than it was worth. Instead, I learned to wear a roomy top and attach my son under my t-shirt. The point is that what works for some won’t work for others, so if it doesn’t pan out as you planned, be flexible and try other methods.

Be true to your feelings

While I absolutely believe women have the right to feed where and when (and how) they want to, and have no problem with people feeding next to or in front of me, I think it’s important to acknowledge that some of us feel less comfortable with showing skin than others. If you are most comfortable retiring to your car, for example, then so do. Or if you want to stay in the café, the park or the party you are at, don’t feel bad about turning around to face your back to the masses or finding a quieter spot to sit and feed if it makes you more comfortable.

Dress smart

Give thought to what you are wearing and choose a top that can be easily unbuttoned and avoids exposing more than you would like.

Sleight of hand

While it never worked for me, many of my mummy mates swore by placing a scarf, pashmina, shawl or muslin square over themselves and their bubs once they are latched on.

Restaurant reviews

Ask friends and family for their top breastfeeding-friendly cafes and restaurants, especially in the early weeks while you are getting used to it.

What do you do if someone approaches you and asks you to stop?

Being verbally abused or asked to stop is a big confidence denter, though do be aware that it’s not as common as you might think – and thanks to a few social media debates playing out on the pages of a number of the ruder eateries, they are likely to become even less frequent. Having said that, if it does happen you are best to ignore them or have a line prepared just in case. “It is against the law to refuse me service for feeding my child” is a good one for a place of business, or “I appreciate your point of view, but I am feeding my child and would like to be left alone,” is good for strangers – though I’d be inclined to ignore them if possible!

Understanding the laws can help, as can understanding that other people’s point of view is not your problem or shared by the majority. In terms of being asked to leave a café or restaurant, this is illegal under New Zealand law and you do not need to leave. Here is the down low on feeding and the law:

  • Under the Human Rights Act it is illegal for someone to stop you breastfeeding in public.
  • Public places include: The place where you work or study, public transport, parks & reserves, restaurants & shops, and Government departments.
  • If you wish to take it further you can write down the time, place and name of the person who made the comment.
  • Contact the Human Rights Commission to get more information about your rights or to make a complaint about discrimination.


Extra support

While it’s all well and good to know you are allowed to breastfeed in public, some of us will find it harder to move on from being asked to stop. If you’ve had an experience that leaves you feeling stressed, do seek emotional support through your family, your GP and/or counselling.

This article was originally written by Melanie Hearse for and adapted for Kidspot NZ.

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