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Breastfeeding in Public

by Woo Lai Chang
(Article from "Keeping Abreast", Apr-Jun 1998 Issue)

Breastfeeding in public?  Just the thought of it makes some women blush and some men squirm uncomfortably.  I even know a friend who was pressurized by her mother-in-law not to breastfeed her newborn because “it wouldn’t look nice in public”.
 
In the February issue of Today’s Parents (a local parenting magazine), some readers seemed to equate breastfeeding in public with breast exposure, with comments like:
 
“What the woman chooses to do in public is her decision and responsibility.  If she has no
 qualms about exposing herself to breastfeed her baby…”
 
“… what will we be teaching our children if they chance upon a woman with her breasts
 exposed?”
 
In over two years of looking, I have only observed one other woman breastfeed in public, and I did not realize what she was doing until I had sat down directly opposite her for some minutes. Her baby was cuddled very close to her and not a millimetre of her flesh showed.  I knew she was breastfeeding only because of her baby’s position and the way her T-shirt was bunched up just above the baby’s face.  It was a beautiful sight, the baby  drifting off to sleep snug in its mother’s bosom.  There was nothing in the least  “exposing” or “not nice”.
 
I myself have breastfed in public on numerous occasions, and nobody has ever seemed to notice. It is probably the greatest convenience of breastfeeding, being able to feed your baby anytime, anywhere without worrying about bringing enough milk and warming bottles.  If you ever take an overseas trip with baby, you will realize just what this convenience means.
 
I understand how daunting the idea can be to most Asian women, especially those who come from families like mine which consider mini-skirts and bare-backs indecent.  It took me three months to summon up enough courage to do it the first time.  Other women who have done it agree that the first time is the hardest.  Once the initial mental block is surmounted, it gets easier each time as practice makes perfect, and as the mother gains confidence that she is not exposing any part of herself.
 
Yes, it is possible to breastfeed discretely in public.  Mothers who have done it have these
tips to share:
 

  • Wear nursing bras.

  • And wear those which can be done and undone easily with one hand, as you need to hold
    your baby at the same time.
     
  • Wear the right clothes.

  • Nursing dresses or separates are a must.  However, it is not easy to find nice nursing
    dresses in local stores, so most women here prefer to wear a loose-fitting top like an
    oversized T-shirt over a skirt or pants.  You can just pull up the shirt and latch your baby
    on in one quick motion, then let it drop over the baby’s face.  The edge of the shirt will
    drape around the baby’s contour to cover any part of you not covered by the baby.  If you
    want, practise in front of a mirror at home until you are convinced that nothing shows.
     
  • Feed your baby before he screams.

  • Try to anticipate your baby’s hunger cues so that you have ample time to find a
    comfortable seat and latch him on before he starts screaming to be fed.  A screaming baby
    is guaranteed to draw the attention you don’t want.

     

  • Relax.

  • People tend to take more notice of anyone who appears nervous and uncomfortable.  For
    the first few times, it may be a good idea to find a quiet corner where hardly anyone
    passes, to help build up your confidence.
     
     
    For those who prefer or need a private space to breastfeed, there are fitting rooms or mother-baby rooms in some shopping centres.  At places like the zoo or bird park, there are the theatrettes which are darkened during show times, though it takes some planning to be at the right place at the right time.  If you plan ahead of every outing, you can usually find somewhere semi-private to breastfeed, but eventually, you will find that it is so much more convenient to just feed your baby wherever you happen to be.  Give it a try; you may be surprised by how little anyone else notices.


    NURSING ROOMS IN SINGAPORE

    You may at some time or other wish to use a Nursing Room while on an outing with baby.  This may be necessary because of modesty, especially in the early days when you have not practiced nursing in public much, or when baby is older and easily distracted.
     
    Where then are the places with such facilities?  Here, I have done up a list for your reference.  And with the help of mothers on the Asia Parents List*, there is also an informal rating of these nursing rooms plus comments, if any.
     
     
    Ratings:
    (*) poor  (**) satisfactory["can do,lah!"]
    (***) very good  (****) excellent (Should plan your outing around this place)
     
     
    Place
    entsCoComments
    Ratings
    Seiyu Children Dept 
    (Bugis Junction) 
     
    “Large, roomy”, “has 2 rooms, so don’t have to worry about taking too long” 
     
    **** 
     
    Takashimaya 3rd Storey 
     
    “has comfortable seats, altho’ too crowded during weekends”. 
     
    ****
    Mothercare (Marina) 
    Mothercare (Centrepoint) 
     
    “Marina Square’s room is better than the rest which give only single rooms;  the bench they provide for nursing is not 
    wide enough, though.” 
     
    **
    Isetan (Shaw House) “clean & comfy” 
     
    ***
    Robinson’s Children’s Dept 
     
    “REALLY crammed!  can only have one person in there at any one time!” 
     
    *
    Raffles City Level 3 “Nice & Clean, has separate rooms for breastfeeding”. ****
    John Little’s Children Dept “too small” 
     
    *
     
    Others (not rated simply because we haven’t visited them personally!):
     Scotts Shopping Centre, Level 2, G.L.O. Baby Mart at IMM, Level 2,Tang's Dept store
    (Electronics Dept), Daimaru (Liang Court), KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital,
    & Singapore General Hospital.
     
    * The Asia Parents’ List is an Internet Email Support/Discussion Group [see <http://members.tripod.com/~parentslist>]
     

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