How to confidently breastfeed a baby in public.

How to confidently breastfeed a baby in public.

Human beings love food! Human beings spend hours planning which restaurant to eat in on special occasions! We have entire industries built around food and consuming it in different settings. I take even the ambience of a restaurant into consideration while choosing where to eat. Do we call eating in a restaurant- “eating in public?” Breastfeeding is exactly the same! The baby is only eating its food! (The word breastfeeding has feed in it!)

Then why is it so hard for women to breastfeed in public?

A research paper that was published in the popular newspaper “The Hindu” suggested - Only 6% Indian mothers are comfortable breastfeeding in public. Up to 47% mothers reported uncomfortable stares as the reason and up to 90% admitted to feeding babies in washrooms and cars to avoid stares.

Shocking isn't it? Read on to know what you can do about it.

Here are some eye opening facts on breastfeeding in India:

  1. Breastfeeding Initiation:

    • According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2019-20, 78.9% of infants in India are breastfed within the first hour of birth.
  2. Exclusive Breastfeeding:

    • NFHS 2019-20 data reveals that only 55.6% of infants under six months in India are exclusively breastfed. This falls short of the global target of 70% set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  3. Duration of Breastfeeding:

    • The same NFHS survey indicates that 48.9% of children aged 6-23 months are breastfed in India. The recommended duration for breastfeeding by WHO is up to two years or beyond.
  4. Early Initiation and Prevalence by Region:

    • There are significant regional disparities in early initiation of breastfeeding. States like Meghalaya and Tripura have high rates of early initiation (over 80%), while states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have lower rates (around 65%).
  5. Factors Affecting Exclusive Breastfeeding:

    • The NFHS data suggests that factors such as maternal education, socioeconomic status, and urban/rural residence influence exclusive breastfeeding rates. Mothers with higher education and better living conditions tend to practice exclusive breastfeeding more frequently.
  6. Awareness of Breastfeeding Laws:

    • A study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care in 2019 found that only 38% of mothers were aware of laws that support breastfeeding in public spaces in India.
  7. Workplace Support:

    • A survey conducted by Medela India in 2018 reported that 56% of working mothers in India face challenges in expressing breast milk at their workplace. Lack of proper facilities and awareness were some of the key reasons.
  8. Barriers to Breastfeeding:

    • A study published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics in 2020 highlighted several barriers to breastfeeding in India, including cultural beliefs, lack of support, marketing of formula milk, and lack of knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding.
  9. Breastfeeding Practices and Malnutrition:

    • Malnutrition remains a concern in India. According to UNICEF, inadequate breastfeeding practices contribute to malnutrition, with 38% of children under five years of age being stunted.
  10. Breastfeeding Promotion Efforts:

    • The Indian government has launched various initiatives to promote breastfeeding, such as the "National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding" and "Ananya," a mobile application providing information to pregnant and lactating mothers.

Why are moms so uncomfortable breastfeeding in public?

There are numerous reasons for this in the Indian context.

1. Cultural Norms and Taboos:

India has a diverse cultural landscape, and in some cultures, breastfeeding might be considered a private and intimate act that is not meant to be displayed in public. Certain taboos and beliefs around exposing the breast or breastfeeding in public spaces can contribute to discomfort.

2. Lack of Education and Awareness:

  • Despite efforts to promote breastfeeding education, there might still be a lack of awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of nursing in public. Some mothers might not be fully informed about their legal rights to breastfeed in public spaces.

3. Fear of Judgment and Stigmatization:

  • The fear of being judged or criticized by others can be a significant deterrent for breastfeeding mothers. Negative comments, stares, or even cultural misconceptions about breastfeeding in public might lead mothers to feel uncomfortable.

4. Limited Supportive Infrastructure:

  • The availability of comfortable and hygienic spaces for breastfeeding in public is limited in many parts of India. The lack of dedicated nursing rooms or spaces where mothers can breastfeed discreetly can contribute to discomfort.

5. Workplace Challenges:

  • Many working mothers in India face challenges in balancing breastfeeding with their work responsibilities. The lack of proper facilities for expressing milk at workplaces can make mothers uncomfortable and hinder their ability to continue breastfeeding.

6. Social Expectations:

  • There might be societal expectations about how a mother should behave in public, which can put additional pressure on breastfeeding mothers to conform to certain norms. This pressure can lead to discomfort and anxiety about nursing in public.

7. Privacy Concerns:

  • Some mothers might feel uncomfortable due to concerns about privacy and modesty. The perception that breastfeeding should be a private act might lead mothers to avoid nursing in public to maintain their own sense of privacy.

8. Peer Influence:

  • The experiences and opinions of friends, family members, and peers can greatly influence a mother's feelings about breastfeeding in public. Negative stories or comments from others might discourage mothers from nursing outside their homes.

9. Personal Insecurities:

  • Some mothers might have personal insecurities about their bodies or feel self-conscious about breastfeeding in front of others. These feelings can contribute to discomfort and a reluctance to breastfeed in public.

A research paper published in the International breastfeeding journal in 2019 suggested that, “Controversy remains as to whether breastfeeding should occur in public at all. Even where breastfeeding in public is seen as a woman’s choice, there are social rules that govern how it should be undertaken to make it an ‘appropriate’ activity. As a result, women need to take responsibility for others feelings, minimise the discomfort of others and ‘keep themselves safe’ if and when they breastfeed in public spaces.”

When such thoughts are published in International journals we can understand the low breastfeeding rates across the globe.

Did you know? 
According to Academy of Breastfeeding medicine (ABM) breastfeeding babies beyond 2 years is called extended breastfeeding and it has been linked to boosted brain development in baby and reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart attack in mother! Here is our Honeycomb nursing cover to breastfeed confidently! Our community of Zactive moms swear by these!

Here's how you can be zactive in breastfeeding in public!

We spoke to mothers in the Zactive mom community this month on their breastfeeding experiences. Here is a list of practical things you can do which will boost your confidence about breastfeeding your baby in public!

1. Nursing Covers: Use nursing covers to provide extra privacy while breastfeeding. These accessories allow you to nurse discreetly while still being able to see your baby.  If you are expecting, if you are searching for the best nursing cover for feeding in airplanes- your search ends here!

2. Clothing Choice: Wear breastfeeding friendly clothing like buttoned shirts and nursing tops. These make it easier to access your breast for nursing without fully exposing yourself. 98% moms we spoke to reported feeling very confident about breastfeeding in public by wearing the appropriate clothing!

3. Nursing Bras: Invest in nursing bras and tank tops that offer easy access for breastfeeding. They provide support and make breastfeeding more convenient when you're out and about.

4. Practice at Home: This is actually an advice many zactive moms have shared with us! And to think about it, it makes so much sense! Practice breastfeeding in front of a mirror or with a friend at home. This can help you find comfortable and discreet positions that work for you and your baby.

5. Find Comfortable Seating: Look for comfortable seating options when you're out. Many malls, shopping centers, and public spaces have designated areas for nursing mothers. Back rest is very important to breastfeed comfortably!

6. Plan Feeding Times: Plan your outings around your baby's feeding times. This way, you can nurse your baby before you leave or find a quiet place to nurse when your baby gets hungry. If you are going to be travelling, nursing the baby in airplanes or trains is a foolproof way of calming them down!

PS: Also breastfeeding while taking off and landing in an airplane eases earache that can happen due to pressure difference in the flight!

7. Use a Baby Carrier or Wrap:  You can discreetly nurse your baby while they're in the carrier. Team this with a nursing cover and feeding top and you are ready to go!

8. Choose Quiet Corners:

  • Seek out quiet corners or less crowded areas to breastfeed. This can help you feel more relaxed and comfortable. Many mothers report that baby doesn't feed well in public as they get distracted with noises and people. This tip works best if your baby also faces the same!

9. Involve a Companion: If you're feeling nervous, bring along a supportive friend or family member who can provide encouragement and help create a comfortable environment for nursing. The best companion you can have is your spouse!

10. Educate Others:  If someone questions or challenges you, you can politely educate them about the importance of breastfeeding and your legal rights. India has no legal statute dealing with breastfeeding in public.

11. Join Support Groups: Join  local or online breastfeeding support groups. Connecting with other breastfeeding moms can provide valuable advice, tips, and emotional support. 

12. Stay Confident:  Remind yourself that you're providing the best nourishment for your baby and that breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful act.

What does the law say about breastfeeding in public in India?

Part III of the Indian Constitution provided us with certain fundamental rights one of the rights guaranteed is “the right to life and personal liberty” to every person. Over the years, through judicial interpretation, the meaning of ‘life and personal liberty has expanded to include Right to Dignity, Right to Livelihood, Right to Enjoy Pollution-Free Air and Water, Right to Education, Right to privacy, etc. In 2018 the Madras High court asked the Central Government why not make breastfeeding a fundamental right protected under article 21 of the Constitution! So India is moving in the right direction!

In India, there is no statute which deals with breastfeeding as a result the prevalence and social acceptance of breastfeeding vary from region to region

India's Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, entitles breastfeeding mothers to crèche facilities at many workplaces, and there are laws in some Indian states that require employers to provide time and facilities for breastfeeding.

Remember, every mother's comfort level is unique. The key is to find what works best for you and your baby. With time and practice, breastfeeding in public can become a natural and confident experience.

Follow House of Zelena on Youtube for more videos on pregnancy, birthing and motherhood! Here is a video of Zactive moms  talking about breastfeeding after coming home from work!

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  • Manaswitha

    I always wanted to exclusively feed my baby as much as possible.but as a new mom I was so skeptical about feeding the baby in public.for the first 10 days after delivery we had multiple hospital visits,since I was not confident about feeding in public we had to give her pumped milk for a while.but later I have found nursing covers from HOZ which are super stylish and comfortable.I have bought 4 of them and they are my best buy trust me. With the help of nursing covers I am much comfortable with feeding my baby anywhere
    .I have fed my baby in airport, malls.temples, restaurants at all other public places.we had to perform a Puja when my baby was around 4 months .using the nursing covers I was able to confidently feed my baby with around 50 members attendence.I suggest every new mom to buy these covers and have a great bonding time with your baby .


    I have undergone C-section. I have recently purchased, post partum leggings, they are super comfortable and easy to wear, the material is breathable even in this heat. It compresses the tummy in right places. It is worth the money and must buy.

  • Ankita Prakash Srivastava

    As a mother, breastfeeding in public was initially daunting, but it quickly became second nature. I found clothing with discreet nursing access helpful for ease and comfort. Carrying a lightweight nursing cover ( I purchased from house of zelena ) gave me added confidence if I wanted extra privacy. Finding a comfortable spot was key—whether it was a quiet corner in a cafe or a designated feeding room in malls. Over time, I realized most people are supportive, and any negativity can be brushed off. Remember, feeding my baby was my priority, and it’s a natural part of life.
    So ladies go for it with full confidence.

  • Devika

    Nice article so informative!! I’m a new mom and I feel stressed breastfeeding in public at times. The nursing covers from House of zelena are a life saver!

  • mitali

    nice. gives confidence to breastfeed my baby. Im pregnant in 21 weeks now!

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