Skip to main content

Table 2 Themes capturing what women did when faced with having to breastfeed in front of someone they are uncomfortable with

From: Helpful and challenging aspects of breastfeeding in public for women living in Australia, Ireland and Sweden: a cross-sectional study

Theme & DefinitionSupporting quotes from women
Made the effort to be discreet
Used an array of devices to cover the breast and minimise exposure such as a muslin wrap, shawls, feeding apron or particular clothing
Used a muslin cloth to cover up [Aus]
Just try and be as discreet and covered up as possible [Aus]
I put a muslin cloth over me to hide anything that might become visible when my baby stopped [Irish]
Tried to be discreet, i.e. used a scarf or jacket to cover baby’s head. Asked if it they minded if I breastfed my baby [Irish]
Tried to not show my nipple by turning away or cower myself with clothes until the baby was latched on and started suckling. Then adjust my clothes so as little as possible of my nipple was showing [Swe]
Tried to hurry up my baby to latch on quickly because I did want to show my nipple. Then I covered up both of us immediately [Swe]
Moved to a private location
Physically moved to private location such as another room, a car or a public toilet/bathroom
Went to another room or the car [Aus]
Breastfed in car instead of public. Moved to somewhere more private [Aus]
I would have left the room if possible to breastfeed or went to a toilet or the car [Irish]
Leave the room [Irish]
Moved to another room if we were in other’s home. Tried to find a private place if we were outdoors [Swe]
Placed myself and baby further away from people staring [Swe]
Turned away
Turned or positioned body to not be facing the other person particularly during vulnerable period of exposure when attaching and detaching baby
I usually just turn away from the person while I get the baby attached and then turn back [Aus]
I would either turn so my side/back was facing them [Aus]
I tried to sit sideways so that if my baby unlatched I could cover myself quickly [Irish]
I would turn my back until baby latched on then made sure my breast was fully covered [Irish]
Never been so uncomfortable that I did not breastfed, but turned away so my back was towards the uncomfortable people [Swe]
Turned away to be more in privacy, at least when he latched on [Swe]
Just got on with breastfeeding
Baby was the focus and their needs were paramount no matter and took no notice of others
Concentrated on my baby [Aus]
I just looked at my beautiful baby and reminded myself it was all about him, not the other person [Aus]
I fed anyway. Baby’s needs take priority [Irish]
I would think of my baby’s need to feed and stop other thoughts and get on with it [Irish]
Kept focusing on my child, told myself that it is us (baby and me) who counts, others can go away. Felt defiant, protecting my baby, and also safe in my relation to my child. Told myself that if I stand up for myself and my baby, in the long run my baby will stand up for herself (building up her self-confidence) [Swe]
Tried to get over that bad feeling and breastfeed anyway, my baby’s needs comes first. But I also worked out strategies and readymade answers to be able to defend us [Swe]
Never felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of other people
Did not experience a situation where they felt uncomfortable
Have never felt that uncomfortable [Aus]
I have never felt so uncomfortable that it has been a problem [Aus]
I have never felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of anyone [Irish]
Never occurred - no reason to be uncomfortable [Irish]
I am not uncomfortable in front of anyone, when my baby needs I am breastfeeding [Swe]
Never felt uncomfortable, carried on, prioritized the need of my child first, realized that I am breaking norms [Swe]
Not my problem
Some also felt defiance in the stance they took and either asked the other person to leave, or if they were uncomfortable suggested they can decide to leave
I just feed. Always. It was not my child’s problem or mine if anyone else was uncomfortable [Aus]
It’s my child’s right to feed when they want to. It’s natural. If other people feel uncomfortable, that’s not my problem [Aus]
Got on with it telling myself that their discomfort is theirs...not mine to take on [Irish]
I breastfed. My baby, my rules. If someone has a problem, then that’s their issue. Not my concern [Irish]
Tried to think that breastfeeding is super natural and if the person has problems with me breastfeeding then that’s their problem and I must do the best for my child [Swe]
I feel confident breastfeeding, something quite natural, whenever my baby needs it. If anyone else has a problem with breastfeeding it is their problem and nothing that I will have an impact on me [Swe]
Flagged their intention to breastfeed
Some women either apologised, asked if they minded or warned others of their intention to breastfeed
I warned them I was going to breastfeed and then proceeded to do so [Aus]
Warned them I was going to breastfeed now. If they felt uncomfortable they could come back when I was done [Aus]
I just said, “hope you don’t mind, I’ve to feed baby” [Irish]
Said what I was about to do and smiled [Irish]
Asked and convinced myself that the person was okay with me breastfeeding [Swe]
I asked about permission to breastfed my baby in front of them [Swe]
Tried to avoid the situation
Used strategies to avoid being put in a situation by monitoring the timing of feeds or delaying a feed until they were in a comfortable environment
Try to console baby without feeding until I was not around a person who made me uncomfortable [Aus]
Tried to delay the feed and wait until was somewhere I felt comfortable [Aus]
Held off for as long as possible, i.e. distracted/ dummy, if had then fed very discreetly with use of blanket [Irish]
I delayed feeding due to comfort level [Irish]
Tried to delay the feeding to later, if possible [Swe]
Distracted my baby to delay the feeding [Swe]
Expressed breastmilk or infant formula as backup
Had a bottle of expressed breast milk or infant formula as a backup should a situation arise where they were uncomfortable to feed
I would pump so I could use bottles in such situations [Aus]
I always had bottles of formula with me in case these moments came [Aus]
Sometimes brought a bottle of expressed milk [Irish]
If I knew situation would arise that a feed was due when in company I had a bottle with me [Irish]
In certain situations I chose the bottle instead of breastfeeding – it was mostly for practical reasons due to that I wanted nice clothes (up dressed) [Swe]
Expressed milk in advance and gave it from a bottle in such special situations [Swe]
Had someone supportive with them
Women tried to have someone with them who was supportive and comfortable to advocate for their need to breastfeed
I’d do it if I had to, I’d likely get my husband or a female friend to sit between us [Aus]
I have been lucky that when people, usually strangers, have an issue that I have been with others that support my feeding and make me comfortable [Aus]
Ideally have my partner for moral support and to deal in case anything was said, nothing ever was but I sometimes got hurtful looks [Irish]
It really helped to be with supportive people [Irish]
I was hiding behind my partner [Swe]
My partner supported me and told them that our baby needs breastfeeding [Swe]