Taking your baby out to a restaurant is like carrying a ticking time bomb, unless you have the kind of baby whose nursing schedule is so regular you can time it to the minute (in which case, I recommend keeping that fact to yourself). Your food could have just arrived on the table and Boom! -- the wailing, crying and screaming begins. So what’s a mama to do when she wants to nurse her baby and eat a panini too?
Here are some helpful tips for nursing a baby in a restaurant without losing your cool.
Always carry a swaddle blanket in your diaper bag.
I never liked to feel too encumbered by “stuff” when we were out and about, so instead of bringing a nursing cover, I carried a multipurpose swaddle blanket. Swaddle blankets are so much more than a swaddling tool; they can act as a stroller sun shield, clean up a milky mess, and act as a burp cloth (among many other things). But my favorite way to use a swaddle blanket was to drape it across my chest so that it kind of looked like a toga, and nurse my baby underneath. An extra long swaddle blanket can pretty much stay in place with the weight of the fabric hanging down your back alone, but to be safe, tuck one of the corners into your bra strap or secure it under the back of your shirt. Sometimes I even tied it around my neck like a really big mama bib. If you go for one of the more high-end swaddle blankets by aden + anais, the pretty prints and luxurious texture of the fabric make nursing feel almost fancy.
Dress for undress.
If you’re nursing, it is not a great idea to go out to eat wearing a short dress with no buttons or zipper (I learned that the hard way). Because, what happens when baby gets hungry and you can’t access the milk bar without having to lift your dress up and exposing your underthings? You are much better off wearing anything -- ANYTHING -- with buttons: a button-down shirt dress with a skinny belt and a pair of flats, for example, or a chambray button-down over pants, with riding boots (and bright red lipstick). Another option? Oversize cardigans that you can cover your baby with like a mama bird with her wing.
Pick your table wisely.
Are you timid about whipping out the girls in public? Then maybe al fresco dining isn’t for you right now. Personally, after having a baby, I didn’t really care that much who saw any part of me, but when I was out with my more discreet nursing friends, eating outside was just way more awkward. If possible, choose a table inside, in a corner or against a wall. When you need to nurse, you can turn towards the wall, and use your back as cover. Your waiter might get a peep when refilling your iced tea, but consider that part of his tip.
Wear a pretty nursing bra.
If you are going out in public, and you know that your underthings will be on display, consider investing in a “going out” nursing bra -- one that hides milk stains more or less (the darker the better) and is pretty without drawing attention to itself (i.e. no leopard print). Don’t go overboard (nursing bras are expensive!) but invest in one bra that makes you feel good, so if it gets exposed, you can feel more confident.
Try not to overthink it.
You might think that when you are nursing publicly, there are neon arrow signs pointing to you, alerting everyone around you that you are currently sitting partially naked at a restaurant. But think about it: hundreds of nursing women have been eating meals out of the house for generations. Can you remember seeing these nursing mothers when you were catching up with girlfriends over frittatas and mimosas? Probably not. But they were there. People tend to be too caught up in their own thing to notice much else. And if people give you the stink eye for nursing, I recommend looking them straight in the eye and asking them if they’re thirsty.