Nursing in public at the pool or beach can provide unexpected challenges for breastfeeding mothers. Even for mothers who are quite used to and comfortable with nursing in public, it can be an unusual experience. Here are some tips for integrating breastfeeding into your summer fun. (Before you head for the water, check out Summer Breastfeeding)
Privacy and Modesty
Anyone who has read my writing before knows that I believe that women have an unqualified right to nurse their babies anywhere they happen to be. That of course, includes the pool or beach. But nursing mothers may be surprised to feel an unaccustomed sense of modesty when nursing in a bathing suit. There's something that's hard to explain that is just different about moving aside a bathing suit when you feel already partly naked! And bathing suits do not provide the same sort of coverage once the baby is latched as other types of clothing that may settle back over much or all of the breast.
Using a towel as a cover up is a great, easy solution for women who are uncomfortable in this situation. Even babies or toddlers that would never tolerate a traditional nursing cover or blanket, love to cuddle up with mommy under an oversized towel wrapped around her back and shoulders and cocooned all around them both. So bringing a huge, oversized beach towel is a great tool for nursing in a suit.
Right to Nurse in Public
Be sure to know the rights afforded by your state when nursing in public, even if this has never been an issue for you before. Many women who have nursed extensively in public are hassled at pools and beaches for the first time. There may be several reasons for this. Some may not appreciated being reminded of breasts' true purpose in a highly sexualized bathing suit environment. Pool attendants may not understand that breastfeeding does not constitute public nudity, which is something they are expected to control. Other mothers have been told that "food is not allowed on the pool deck" which is of course, a ridiculous notion.
It's worth noting that many people seem to be troubled by women nursing in the pool (creeped out, I think by the largely illogical notion that they will get your breastmilk *on* them). While this may be a legal right, mothers should consider if they want to be hassled or if it is just easier to take a quick break outside the water.
An oversized beach/pool towel can provide a great refuge for breastfeeding mothers and babies:
Stay sun safe with a quality non-toxic sunscreen for yourself and your nursling (see my article on safe sunscreen in related links below for more info, but here's my favorite):