So, you’re at home with your newborn, and you have chosen to breastfeed exclusively – congratulations! The feeding is going well at home, with nobody to please but yourselves… but there comes a time when go out you must, for your sanity, if nothing else! At this point breastfeeding in public can seem like a daunting task.
It doesn’t have to be scary. Remember that at this early stage, your baby is at their most portable, and as long as you are there, they will be happy. Breastfeeding whilst out of the home is far more convenient than having to tote bottle-feeding paraphernalia around with you. Yet it is something that many new mothers dread, and ultimately avoid. A few tips can make it bearable… even enjoyable!
Plan. Make sure your little one is fed and happy when you leave home, and try to plan your trip around the time you know they are most settled. Plan to be near “civilization” when you know they will need the next feed. A hungry, screaming baby in the middle of the supermarket is not much fun for anyone.
Prepare. Know your surroundings, and do a little asking around about the best places to stop and feed. There are many pleasant feeding rooms in Hong Kong (check out Sassy Mama’s Guide to Hong Kong’s best feeding and changing rooms here!), and you are never too far from a coffee shop, which can offer a comfy chair and a welcome break. Of course, breastfeeding is positively encouraged at Annerley and mums are always welcome to pop in for a feed! If all else fails, a clothing store changing room can offer a quiet corner for a quick pit stop.
Privacy. We all know breast is best, but in a city like Hong Kong it is inevitable that feeding in public is going to get you some looks. Everyone has heard stories of breastfeeding mums being asked to leave a café, mall or museum, but there are many women who have happily fed all over Hong Kong with no problem at all. Feeling anxious can hinder your ability to nurse, so do what you need to when it comes to feeling comfortable about feeding your baby. There are some wonderful nursing covers on the market, or a light sarong, shawl or muslin square is often enough to provide a little privacy. There are also some very clever nursing tops out there too. Be kind to yourself, and wear clothing that is easy to pull up or down without the extra stress of exposing yourself in public.
Protection. Even if you have never needed breast pads before, it is a good idea to have some handy the first few times you venture beyond your comfort zone. Delays, stress, and unfamiliar environments can sometimes lead to leakage!
Practice. Have a mock outing whilst at home. Practice feeding without your favourite pillow or cushion, sitting up on a hard-backed chair. Hong Kong’s streets being as they are, baby slings or carriers are very popular here, and it is entirely possible to feed baby within the carrier – the trick is to release the straps whilst sitting down so baby can be repositioned. Try it a few times and you’ll soon get the hang of it!
Persevere. Your first experience may not be a wonderful one, but keep going – it will get easier the more you do it. Look confident, because looking confident will make you feel it. Before you know it, you’ll be feeding standing up! You are doing the very best thing for your little one and never let anyone push you into feeding in a toilet. Be polite, considerate, respectful but firm. Feeding your baby is a human right.
Conchita Amende, Annerley Helper & Parent Academy Principal, qualified as a State Registered Nurse in England in 1982 and has continued to work and study for the past 28 years in different areas of health and education such as ante and post natal care, special care baby units, health education, and as an assessor and external verifier. She has been working in the community with families (with children under 5) for the last 9 years as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse (Health Visitor UK), and also lectures at universities. As well as her nursing qualifications, she has practiced as a registered midwife in the UK, has a post-graduate diploma in health promotion, has training certifications and is currently working towards her certification as a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Conchita has 3 grown-up children, speaks a little French and loves to have a chance to practice! She loves living in Hong Kong and having the opportunity to explore Asia and meet new people.