For many new moms, nursing out in the world comes with a bit of anxiety. At home you can sit topless in the perfect chair with your nursing pillow and no cover and your burp cloth at the ready. Out in public … not so much. We aren’t generally used to the possibility of strangers seeing our breasts, so it’s normal to feel nervous about how to undress without attracting prying eyes and then manage to get baby latched. Plus, if breastfeeding has been difficult, or baby needs a nipple shield, the sheer logistics of it all can feel overwhelming.
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But, being house bound with a newborn isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. And the sooner you’re able to get this part down, the sooner you’ll feel you have the freedom to go out and about and not be tied down by baby’s schedule. With that said, here are our must-haves to make nursing anywhere — a park, a restaurant, a plane — as easy and comfortable as possible.
Invest in a good nursing cover
“Good” here is going to be subjective, but if you find a cover you like and baby is cool with, you’re golden. Our recommendation is to look for something lightweight — this will ensure it’s breathable for baby and not too hot for you. (There’s nothing worse than feeling hot and sweaty with a baby on top of you.) Also decide what you need it for: is it just for nursing or do you want something that can do double duty as a car seat cover, too?
Not everyone’s a fan of the apron-like nursing covers, but if the style doesn’t bother you, this cover by San Francisco Baby checks all the boxes. It’s made of muslin, like a swaddle blanket, so it’s very breathable, and it can be tied around your back for 360 privacy, while still being able to check on baby from the top.
If you’re looking for a cover that can do double duty, this cover has you, um, covered. Wear it like a poncho to nurse, use it to cover the car seat while baby is napping and then wear it as an infinity scarf. As baby grows, it can also serve as a shopping or high chair cover. The fabric is going to be a bit heavier than a muslin, so it may not be great for nursing in the summer, but it’s functionality makes it ideal for travel.
If you’d prefer to make use of something you already have (or register for one fewer thing), consider using a swaddle blanket as your nursing cover go-to. You can either drape it around you or tie the ends on a diagonal and hang around your neck. It will provide a bit less coverage and might not be the best for a squirmy baby, but if these things don’t bother you, it can be a great, and inexpensive choice.
Buy extra burp cloths
Even if your baby doesn’t usually spit up after nursing, it’s helpful to stash a bunch of burp cloths in your bag just in case. They can wipe up any drips, be used to clean baby’s face and of course be useful if baby does spit up. They can also double as wipes in a pinch or you can put a couple down to serve as a changing mat or clean play space.
We’re fans of these for travel because they’re lightweight and easily stashable. We wouldn’t recommend these for heavy spitters, as the fabric is thin and doesn’t absorb much.
If your baby regularly spits up, these are the burp cloths you need. Technically, they’re intended as cloth diaper inserts, so you know they can stand up to pretty much anything, including protecting your shirt from being covered in spit up at inopportune times.
Make sure to pack a wet/dry bag
No one tells you before you have a baby just how much laundry a new baby can accumulate. It’s good practice to carry a wet/dry bag with you in case of blowouts, but it’s also pretty common for spit up or breastmilk to end up on shirts and onesies. A good rule of thumb: carry at least two outfit changes for baby and one for you.
This simple bag folds up into nothing, or can be attached with the sturdy strap to a stroller or diaper bag. It’s got plenty of space for wet/dirty clothes and the outer mesh pocket is perfect to hold an outfit change. The bag can handle everything from wet swimsuits to dirty diapers and it’s machine washable so there’s no messy clean up involved.
If you don’t need a bag that can hold things that are dripping wet, this bag is a good, inexpensive option. It has two pockets so you can keep the wet and dry stuff separate, a useful strap and it’s easily cleanable.
Keep a stash of disposable nursing pads handy
Disposable pads may not be the most eco-friendly option, but we’re fans of convenience when on the go. We recommend reusable nursing pads for home, but they don’t always make sense when out. Disposable pads have an adhesive on the back that allows them to stick to your bra or nursing tank, which means they won’t fall out when you unhook to nurse.
These pads come individually wrapped, which makes it easy to throw a bunch in your diaper bag or suitcase and not worry about keeping them clean. Plus, they have a waterproof back to prevent leaks.
If you don’t love the idea of something so pad-like hanging out in your bra all day, you might prefer BundleBliss pads. They’re super thin (claim to be the thinnest breast pads on the market) but can still absorb plenty of breastmilk without leakage.
Carry a manual breast pump just in case
Sometimes just when you’re ready to breastfeed in public, baby isn’t hungry and your breasts feel uncomfortably full or baby doesn’t fully empty one side. It’s no fun to be out when this happens and not easily able to hand express to get relief. That’s where stashing a manual pump in your bag comes in handy. They’re small, lightweight and while they don’t have the suction power of a battery-operated pump, they’re still very effective.
The Haakaa can be used while nursing or separately. The Haakaa attaches via suction to the breast and works to catch letdown or as a simple way to store milk after hand expressing. It comes in two sizes and has a leak-proof lid so you can easily stash it in your bag. Because there’s only the one piece, it’s super easy to clean and can be sterilized quickly by placing in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
If you need something portable but that’s more of a traditional pump, the Medela Harmony is a good option. It has two expression phases to mimic the way baby feeds and it’s compatible with all Medela flanges and bottles, which is handy if you have another Medela pump at home. It also gives you the option to easily pump and then bottle feed if needed.
Editorial Director of MamasUncut. Currently back on the East Coast. Most days spent chasing after two young kids and our very patient rescue mutt. Learning that parenting never really gets easier it just gets … different. Love running and water views. Also all the coffee.