From milk machine to style machine. Part 2: Nursing in public

By Andrea Michelle

Recently at Fox In Flats, we commenced a series on what to wear while breastfeeding your baby: From milk machine to style machine.

In Part 1, we examined Nursing Tops.

In Part 2, we’re taking a look at what you can wear over your top – not over your head – while breast-feeding your baby in public, should you choose to.

nursing in public breastfeeding cover

There’s got to be a better way…


Nursing your newborn can be wonderful, intimate, and dreamy. Or excruciating, embarrassing, and frustrating.

It all depends on who you talk to, as the experience can differ vastly from one woman to the next.

But what we all tend to have in common is that moment where we think:

WTF am I supposed to wear now???

I rounded up 21 of my buddies, who breastfed in the last few years, to reveal some of the fashion highs and lows from their own nursing experiences so we might learn from their collective wisdom.

Kinda like an online mothers’ group, but everyone in the gang is cool.


Part 2: Nursing in public.

There are a number of reasons a woman might choose to cover herself while nursing a baby in public. We’ve uncovered some great tips and innovative ideas so you can cover up in style.


Among the group of mothers I spoke to, there were vastly different reasons for wanting to cover up while breastfeeding in public.

The  3 Ds for covering up while nursing in public

1. Discretion

As Kay*, a mother of three shared:

I think breast feeding is so natural and beautiful. However in the middle of a shopping centre – I didn’t feel comfortable to just flop it out.

Jane, who has a 6 month old at home, agreed:

I’ve tried nursing without a wrap or cloth, but felt like I was receiving disapproving looks. It made me feel uncomfortable, and also, I don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable.

2. Dignity

My friend Julia was pretty open about why she used something to cover up:

…(it) came in very handy when he got to the age where he was feeding, then pulling off for a look around, leaving one monster breast and nipple squirting milk everywhere hidden nicely underneath.  Sometimes I think it is as much about your own dignity as offending others!!!

3. Distractions

And the squirting issue repeated, from my friend Margie:

I covered up, not because I was embarrassed, but because older babies get distracted easily and this helps. Otherwise, when they pull off and look around and milk squirts everywhere it CAN be embarrassing!

Need a visual?

Yet for some, the issue is more complex.

One of my buddies who struggled with breastfeeding with her first child revealed:

I was horribly shy about the whole thing, and avoided breastfeeding in public.

Yet, by the time she had her second she was much more comfortable, even breastfeeding at her wedding. For the record, her dress was stunning, and she used a gorgeous shawl lightly draped over the baby, so as not to shock Aunty Rube.

For others, it can be a cultural or political statement.

Chloe who lived in the Middle East for a while pushed the cultural envelope and claimed to do very little to cover up.

I am a ‘let it all hang out’ kind of gal (even in Dubai!!).

And Amy, my old school friend, stated:

I had no qualms about flopping the girls out anywhere at anytime. And in fact, my right to do this is protected by law.

If only there were a law against the phrase “flopping my girls out”…


Divine Discretion

If you do choose to cover up while nursing, there are a huge array of options available to help you remain stylish, while still clinging to your dignity.

And it’s worth considering alternatives outside of the standard muslin or cheesecloth wrap. These are probably the most popular items that mothers use – it certainly is amongst my mini mothers’ group – and it is easy to see why.

They are soft, lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to wash.

Also, a muslin cloth was probably recommended by their mums because it was what they used so many years ago.

But then, I’ve got it on good authority that a number of their mums drank cocktails and smoked cigarettes while pregnant, so maybe it’s time to consider some more modern options?


5 ways to cover up in style.

1. A purpose-built nursing cover

Only recently on the market, purpose-built nursing covers are super convenient. They include features like a rigid neckline so you can see your baby, special ties and buckles to attach around your neck, and they come in an array of colours and patters – some are even reversible.


According to T.J. my switched on friend who is nursing a new-born right now:

The best thing ever? The Peek & Drink nursing cover. I bought a black one and a white one and they didn’t look like you were wearing a shower curtain.

Other brands mentioned by the group included Bebe au lait, and the memorably named Hooter Hiders.

2. A long scarf

Huge animal print scarves are on trend now, with Kate Moss, Nicole Ritchie, Sienna Miller, and Ashley Olsen being spotted in the wild print. Surprisingly versatile, the print acts as a neutral so you can wear it with almost any colour but steer clear of mixing with too many contrasting prints.

3. A beautiful sarong

One of my friends, Becca, simply used a sarong to compliment her lovely bohemian style.

4. A pashmina or cashmere shawl

Elegant and timeless, it’s a wardrobe essential whether nursing or not.

5. A poncho

There is something about the word Poncho that reminds me of the knitted versions I used to receive as hand-me-downs from my cousin Mandy in the 70s. Yet they have come a long way since the purple and white striped triangle I sported in 1978.

In fact, I wore one myself when nursing my second son, and loved it. They are a simple way to add interest over a basic tank, and offer discretion when breastfeeding at the same time.



What to look for when considering a nursing cover:

  • Lightweight. So the baby has some air flow, and it doesn’t take up too much room in your baby bag.
  • Natural fibres. Baby needs to breathe, so make sure the fabric can.
  • Easy to wash and dry. Be prepared to wash every day.
  • A few different style options that colour coördinate with your outfits. It is hard to know how long you will be nursing for, and you’ll go nuts if you are stuck with ‘one look.’
  • Items that you can re-use after you have finished breastfeeding. Scarves, sarongs, pashminas, ponchos and wraps are timeless.
  • Consider the Cost Per Wear. A simple calculator can be found in this article.


Of course, there are ways to be discreet when nursing without anything covering your top.

Liza, a no-fuss mum of 3 claims:

You can be pretty discreet even in a regular t-shirt. Just pull it up, keep one breast covered by the T, and use the bunched fabric above the nursing boob to shield it a bit. The body of the baby will hide your squishy tummy.

For more ideas on tops you can wear while nursing, read Part 1 of the Fox In Flats series on breastfeeding: From milk machine to style machine.


Finally, some other helpful ideas that might make you feel more at ease:

Physically separate yourself from others

I’d sit in areas where it was more quiet, and position the buggy in front.

Enjoy nature

I loved to visit a park at feedtime, sit on the grass away from others. It felt so visceral to breastfeed amongst nature.

And the final word goes to Liza:

Go ahead, get out and nurse in public! You’ll be more likely to drop nursing sooner if you feel confined to your home.



Check out the rest of our series on breastfeeding: From Milk Machine to Style Machine

In Part 1, we found 6 stylish Nursing Tops perfect for breastfeeding.

In Part 3, we shared ideas on what is super-comfortable – and stylish – to wear at night.

In Part 4, we found 6 different types of dresses you can wear while breastfeeding, and shared some styling tips.

In Part 5, we shared a few funny yet cautionary tales – things not to do while nursing your baby.

In Part 6, we found fabulous – yet baby friendly – accessories you can wear while nursing.



How do you feel about breastfeeding in public? Did you? Do you? Will you? Any tips for other mums to make the experience more comfortable?

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*Thanks to my gorgeous friends for helping with this series.

I’ve changed names to protect your squirting nipples…

You all rule. xxx

  • Detachable Princess

    Well, as I write this I have a baby attached to my left breast, so….

    Muslin wraps have always been easiest for me. I can use them as a cover for feeding, or over the pram for naptime, or to mop up milky spews, or if I forget a bib at lunchtime. They are so light, and roll up to almost nothing. It’s so easy to chuck one over the top of the stroller before we go out, and that way I know I’ve always got one handy.

    I don’t always use a cover when I’m out though. If I’m feeding in a parents room then there’s usually about 3 mums sitting on the couches feeding, and we all have a chat. It’s quite nice, actually. And I find that I’m always wearing t-shirts with a singlet underneath, so really all I need to do, like your friend, is make sure the shirt covers the majority of my boob and I’m all good.

    Still reading? Wow, thank you! 😀

    • Awesome tips there DP, thankyou ,. x

  • I feed in public. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but hubby said he was comfortable with it and when I had a hungry, screaming baby I decided I was comfortable with it too. I usually put a muslin wrap over bub, or if I am wearing a loose t-shirt just pull that down so that it covers the top of my boob.

    I was feeding at the shopping centre one day and a sleazy old man was starting at my boob, so after that I made sure to cover myself properly.

    • oh dear… that reminds me of when I was feeding my firstborn at 8 weeks old in the dining room of an empty country pub. I was doing the T-shirt thing too, yet the publican – an older lady – came right up, and peered right up close to the babys face as he fed. I was in shock! And more than a little embarrassed… From then on I used a cover up, more as a way to ensure that couldn’t happen again.

      • Carmel Harris

        I hated that when strangers would come and stroke my sons head while he fed. send shudders down my spine

  • JR

    Thanks for the visual… hilarious and helpful.

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  • And if you want to PUMP in style, check out PumpEase! 🙂

  • Kimba

    I preferred tops I could pull down rather than pull up. Would rather reveal bosom than tummy! I bought ruched tops, v necks, faux wrap style etc. Cardigans were good for cover.

    Sadly I lost my milk at 6 months due to medical reasons, and felt far more judged and uncomfortable bottlefeeding in public than I ever did breastfeeding.

    • Kimba, Great tips – thanks for sharing. 
      Sorry to hear you felt more judged for bottlefeeding – who is anyone to judge?! x

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  • Cherie Gates

    Great tips! I just ordered the Staple cardigan. Im in love with the web site it has been like a breath of fresh air….only the fashion kind 🙂 

    • Hey thanks Cherie! So aweseome to get feedback like that. 
      And lucky you for ordering that cardigan – Love, love, love it! x

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  • CarmelHarris

    I breast fed my son until he was 9 1/2 months. I found it akward feeding him in public and still remaining covered as he was a footbal feeder (uner the arm). This meant alot of the feeding tops and covers were usless. My most used item was my Intimo long wrap I could use the dangly fabric in the front to cover over my breast while the rest covered my tummy. Summer time was a whole nother issue though!

    • I just want to know who invented the term ‘football feeder’? Ha ha ha! Thanks for sharing your story Carmel x

  • Gab

    Ahhhh. I can’t believe this is an issue. My eldest turns 18 tomorrow( another ahhh) and I fed him and my subsequent children in public without an issue. If you just lift you top carefully and pop the baby on, it really isn’t obvious. I thought having covers over the baby was old fashioned. Feeding in public doesn’t mean ‘popping them out’ Just be desecrate but in the end if people react , we all need to remember THATS WHAT THEY ARE FOR!!!!!
    When will women learn to support each other rather than undermine and critise?

    • Hi Gab,
      I’m sure you were not referring to the article here about women not supporting one another, as clearly that’s not how we roll 😉
      But the article does highlight that how people feel about breastfeeding in public can differ dramatically from person to person, and there are different reasons for this. 

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  • AM

    I like Lisa wore a T-shirt but underneath camouflaged with a singlet

  • Mandy Horning

    I love the “visual”! Made me laugh out loud!

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