Breastfeeding etiquette

Etiquette can be a slippery slope. There is no denying practicing accepted social behavior and striving to make others feel comfortable are primary foundations of etiquette.

Determining acceptable social behavior and manners are variables left up to individual choice, and they are open to endless debate. When it comes to breastfeeding, the lines of etiquette can really blur.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 45 states in America had laws that specifically allowed women to breastfeed in public locations as of May 2011.

Breastfeeding is a natural, healthy way for a mother to feed her baby. Openly breastfeeding in public can be upsetting to some, so using good judgment helps you steer clear of uncomfortable situations.

Basic etiquette

According to the Emily Post Institute, respect, consideration and honesty are the three main keys to practicing good etiquette. With regards to breastfeeding, etiquette works both ways.

Mothers can be respectful and considerate when deciding whether or not to breastfeed in a public venue. Mothers deserve the same consideration from acquaintances and strangers alike when breastfeeding.

Offending or challenging a mother in the midst of breastfeeding is a sign of poor etiquette.

Out in public

Infants can get hungry at any time, even when you are out in public. In most countries, breastfeeding is allowed no matter the location, and mothers are free to feed their infants in a flowing crowd of people if they choose.

Many large venues, such as malls and airports, provide lounges designed for breastfeeding mothers, but it’s not typically a matter of etiquette whether you use these: These are a convenience. If the need arises to breastfeed in a restaurant, sitting in the inside part of a booth is an option that could put other diners more at ease.

Business and pleasure

Social events with friends or coworkers can raise issues of breastfeeding etiquette. You should never need to hide, if your baby needs to eat and you feel comfortable breastfeeding while socializing.

Among friends and coworkers, the Emily Post Institute says it is proper etiquette to either breastfeed and even talk with a friend or co-worker at the same time.

Alternatively, if you are more comfortable breastfeeding in private, it is always acceptable to ask your hosts for a place that is more private and quiet.

Under cover

Many nursing mothers feel the best etiquette for breastfeeding requires keeping the breast somewhat removed from open view. An infant needs constant nourishment, however, so public feedings are nearly impossible to avoid.

Wearing a blanket or nursing cover is a good way to eliminate prying eyes and uncomfortable feelings.

The infant can slip under the cover and breastfeed in relative privacy.

Blankets, shawls and even slings are other popular covers for breastfeeding. There are also special shirts designed for discreet nursing.