Breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding makes it easy to go anywhere with your baby. You do not have to carry feeding equipment or worry about keeping bottles germ-free. Breast milk is always available at the right temperature and in the right amount for your baby.

Building your confidence

Some mothers feel self-conscious breastfeeding in public the first time, particularly when attaching their baby to their breast. This gets easier with time. Most people will not notice you are breastfeeding as it looks like you are cuddling your baby.

Going to a support group and observing other mothers breastfeeding can help with your confidence.

Find a breastfeeding support group near you

Watch a video with tips around breastfeeding with other mothers

Watch a video about getting breastfeeding support

Try putting a light scarf or muslin cloth over your shoulder to give you some privacy while feeding or attaching your baby on to feed. Some baby slings and carriers can also cover a feeding baby. A baby sun hat can work well too.

As you get more comfortable feeding your baby in public, you may not need these. Some babies do not like to be partially covered, so do what works best for you both.

Tips for breastfeeding in public

The following tips might help:

  • Bring your partner or a friend along for support until you become more confident.
  • Wear a loose top over a strappy top so that you can lift up the outer top and pull down the strappy top.
  • Wear a nursing bra so that you can quickly click it open and attach your baby.
  • Use breast pads inside your bra for leaking milk. This will provide protection.
  • Prevent leaking before or after a feed by applying gentle pressure on your nipples for a few seconds. You can do this by crossing your arms firmly across your chest.
  • Dark colour tops, patterned fabrics, layered clothing and scarves can all hide evidence of leaks.
  • Choose a quiet area if possible as babies can be easily distracted.
  • Ask if there is a private feeding area if you want more privacy - some restaurants, hotels and shopping centres have these areas available for your use.
  • Bring your water bottle as you may feel thirsty as you breastfeed.
  • Backpacks are easier than hand bags to free up your hands for your baby.

Breastfeeding in public places

You are entitled to breastfeed in public places and you do not have to ask anyone for permission. Some places may offer a private area if you would like this, but you do not have to use it.

When in public, remember:

  • you can breastfeed anywhere you and your baby want or need to
  • wear something comfortable that can be opened easily for breastfeeding
  • do not wait until your baby gets too hungry or distressed

Breastfeeding offers comfort as well as food.

Breastfeeding laws in Ireland

The Equal Status Act (2000) protects people from discrimination and harassment (including sexual harassment). It allows you to use a wide range of services including shops and restaurants.

Although breastfeeding is not directly mentioned, protection for breastfeeding in public is covered by the Act on gender grounds.

This Act helps mothers to breastfeed comfortably in public places by protecting them from being discriminated against or harassed because they are breastfeeding. Discrimination is unfair treatment. For example, asking someone to leave the premises because they are breastfeeding.

Page last reviewed: 2 May 2022
Next review due: 2 May 2025