Breastfeeding in Public while Traveling
I exclusively breastfed Petra for five months before we went to the Dominican Republic, so I was pretty comfortable feeding her in public. I am not super modest, but I’m also not used to showing the world my breast either.
It takes a little practice to be able to discreetly lift up your shirt and not show off too much boob. Public transportation or any situation when you are forced to sit in close quarters with strangers can be especially tricky. But after two airplane flights, numerous rest stops, and too many malls and parks to count in the USA, I was feeling pretty good about my discreet breastfeeding in public abilities.
I only started to get a little nervous when I thought about nursing in public abroad. I presumed that breastfeeding was common enough in the Dominican Republic, but it seemed like many moms and babies stayed inside a lot. Traveling means that it is more likely that you will have to breastfeed in public, since you don’t have your normal routines, a home, and you want to be out more exploring the country. Babies can also want to breastfeed more when traveling. I made sure that I gave Petra plenty of opportunities to nurse since we were coming from the cold north, into the hot and sunny south. She also nursed a lot for comfort while getting used to new surroundings or when we were on public transportation.
More than this though, I thought that my whitey white breast had the potential for attracting more attention than a local one. I went to the local Borders in Maine and read the Lonely Planet Dominican Republic guidebook section about traveling with children. It said that breastfeeding in public was not too common and, if necessary, should be done beneath a shawl or blanket. But Petra didn’t like the blanket being put over her head while feeding and always pulled them off when I tried to use it. I briefly considered buying the special breastfeeding shirts but after seeing the price tags I just couldn’t do it.
We were staying in the beach town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic, so I started off breastfeeding on the beach. I figured that there were many perkier, more attractive breasts being shown off on this beach without a baby attached to them, so mine probably wouldn’t attract the attention they once did. When the first time came to feed Petra I looked for a shady spot to sit and found one right next to another breastfeeding mother!
I was right about not attracting too much attention.
It didn’t take me long to start feeling totally comfortable breastfeeding in public while traveling. Contrary to the guidebook advice, I found mothers breastfeeding their babies everywhere I have traveled with my daughter: on the bus, on the sidewalk, while they worked. No one gave them a second glance. Men and women would continue conversations with me as if nothing was going on while feeding, and they didn’t even seem embarrassed, as they so often do in the USA. I asked a Dominican mom if people ever objected to breasteeding in public there and she looked at me strangely like she didn’t understand the question.
Once we traveled to Central America, it was even more common to see mothers breastfeeding in public. Many mothers did nothing to try to cover up or hide their breast from the rest of the world, but just sat on the street doing the most normal thing in the world, feeding their baby.
So when wondering about whether it is alright to breastfeed in public in a foreign country, just look around at what the other mothers are doing: chances are they are feeding their babies without a thought to the contrary.