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Mother with her baby and girlfriend in coffee shop.

A guide to comfortable breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding is legal in public spaces across the whole of the UK. However, many mums still struggle to breastfeed comfortably outside the home.

Breastfeeding in public does not necessarily mean the act of feeding your child in public spaces, or in a larger group of people. It also applies to more secluded settings, such as in the home in front of friends or relatives - even if it's just one person. Some mums prefer to breastfeed privately at first. But as your confidence grows, breastfeeding can feel comfortable and natural in any setting.

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Is breastfeeding allowed in public?

The Equality Act 2010 protects your right to breastfeed anywhere - from restaurants to shops and even on public transport. This means it is legal for breastfeeding mothers to nurse their babies in public. Breastfeeding is a natural part of motherhood. Anyone singling you out for it is committing a sex discrimination crime.

According to a Start4Life poll, 72% of people support public breastfeeding. However, 60% of mums still feel the need to conceal it, while 34% feel uncomfortable or self-conscious while doing so.

To understand why some women might avoid breastfeeding in public, researchers analysed data collected over a four year period1.

The study revealed several reasons:

  • A general lack of societal support.

  • Not everyone has equal access to breastfeeding help - depending on their background.

  • Many people lack awareness and understanding about breastfeeding.

  • Some mums felt self-conscious about their breasts being seen in a sexual way.

  • Facing negative comments or disapproval from those around you.

All of the above made some mums feel judged and anxious - enough to avoid breastfeeding in public.

Do you have to cover up while breastfeeding in public?

The law protects your right to breastfeed in public without being asked to cover up. You may want to use a cover for personal privacy, but it's entirely your choice whether you use one. Breastfeeding clothes are all about what feels best for you. Some mums wear the following for comfort and convenience:

  • Loose-fitting tops that can be easily lifted.

  • Two stretchy tops for full tummy coverage - allows you to lift the top layer and keep the bottom layer in place.

  • A soft, non-wired bra that can be smoothly lifted and lowered.

  • A scarf or muslin cloth to place over your chest.

  • Certain baby slings provide discreet coverage, making breastfeeding easy without feeling exposed.

  • Poncho or specific breast feeding cover offering a cover whilst still being able to see the top of baby's head and latch.

"I discovered the poncho for coverage with my second child, and it has made it so much easier to feed in public. I no longer have to worry about what I’m wearing because I can put the poncho on and pull up my shirt. Having the poncho with me helps me to feel that I can feed him at any time. It is very discrete and I am covered and comfortable. It's lightweight too - so not too hot for the baby." - Lexi Burtman, pelvic floor physical therapist and mum of two.

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Some tips for breastfeeding in public

It's completely understandable to feel a bit nervous about breastfeeding in public. But remember that what you're doing is perfectly natural. It's your right to feed your child wherever and however you want.

Avoid using public toilets

Don't hide yourself inside the toilets to breastfeed. While toilets might seem like a private space, they can have more germs than other areas.

Bring a friend

If you'd like some company while breastfeeding in public, consider bringing a supportive friend, loved one or family member along - maybe someone with an older child, who's familiar with welcoming places. You could also ask any breastfeeding friends for recommendations.

Attend drop-in sessions

Breastfeeding drop-in sessions, cafés, and centres offer a welcoming space to connect with other parents, share experiences, and build friendships.

Chat with your midwife, health visitor or doctor to explore nearby options. You can also ring the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 or use their online services to find a breastfeeding drop-in centre near you.

Additionally, contact your local council on GOV.UK for more information on local breastfeeding support.

What if I was discriminated against breastfeeding in public?

There is no excuse for making mums feel uncomfortable when breastfeeding a child of any age in public. You have the right to feed them wherever you feel comfortable. Don't let someone else's reaction hold you back, as this reaction is more likely about them - not you.

Empower yourself - and others - to stand up against negative comments, pressure to cover up or leave the premises while breastfeeding. If someone asks you to do any of these things - or if you are refused service while breastfeeding - you can make a complaint.

You can do this by email, letter or through social media.

Maternity Action provides a letter model as a guide to help you document the incident.

Becca Reed, licensed perinatal mental health and trauma therapist says: "Handling negative comments or stares while breastfeeding in public can be challenging. But remember that you are doing what's best for your child. It's not always easy, but try to stay calm and confident.

"Focus on your child and take deep breaths to centre yourself. It's helpful to have a go-to phrase like, "I'm just feeding my baby" or "It's a natural part of motherhood". This can help you respond calmly to any negative comments that might come your way. It's also okay if you don't feel comfortable saying anything. You don't have to justify caring for your baby."

As mums confidently breastfeed in public - breaking down the stigma and normalising this natural act - education and acceptance about breastfeeding will naturally increase. Feed your little one with confidence - whether you're at home, on the go, or in a public place.

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Further reading

1. Grant et al: Views and experience of breastfeeding in public: A qualitative systematic review

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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