Breastfeeding in public can still be stressful for a lot of mothers. Gemma Bowker Wright lists her favourite places to breastfeed without the added judgement or worry.
It makes me mad when I hear stories of mums being told they can’t breastfeed in public places. This shouldn’t still be an issue – it’s 2020, not 1920. We have a prime minister who had a baby while being prime minister, and women have breastfed in parliament. Yet it still happens.
For example, in December last year, a mum was told to move to a nursing room on the Interislander ferry while breastfeeding her baby and supervising older children in a play area. She was travelling with a baby and older children! She should’ve been given a medal, not a telling off.
Becoming a mum is battle enough in itself. There’s getting knocked up in the first place (for many people, this takes major fertility treatment) followed by all the anxieties and discomforts of pregnancy and then birth. There are a lot of new things to deal with. A lot of dignity is lost. Then you have to fend off a lot of people who have strong opinions on how you should or shouldn’t do things.
The next part – feeding the baby – is another battlefield. Breastfeeding, if you choose to/want to/can do, is often a struggle to get started and maintain. With both my sons, I left hospital anxious about the feeding bit and how I would cope. The first time I breastfed in public, I was feeling vulnerable enough without the added stress that someone might say something to me, or ask me to go somewhere else. Luckily this has never happened to me. Instead, the places and people I’ve breastfed around have mostly been awesome and highlight the findings of a study that found the majority of New Zealanders support public breastfeeding.
On that note, here are the top 10 places I’ve breastfed over the last year, mostly in Wellington. These places weren’t only cool with me getting out my boobs out in public but were actively supportive as well.
Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli (Lyall Bay, Wellington)
This place is just down the hill from our house so we go there once a week (coffee has become very important in my life since having my second child). The staff there are like family to me. In the early days when I was pinned to the chair breastfeeding my new baby, I was brought glasses of water while my three-year-old was distracted with dogs to pat and fortune cookies to eat while I finished my coffee. Now, even though the baby is older and the whole feeding process is more “in your face”, no one’s ever batted an eyelid. It feels like I’m breastfeeding at home.
Floyd’s (Island Bay, Wellington)
A café couldn’t get more kid-friendly than this. When we were here recently, I breastfed the baby while my three-year-old spilt his fluffy over the floor and then licked the floor. The waitress brought over a new fluffy. I was happy, the baby was happy, and the three-year-old was ecstatic (and has developed a good immune system).
Pranah Café (Newtown, Wellington)
I spend a lot of time in Newtown. My three-year-old goes to childcare nearby and the baby spends a lot of time sleeping in the buggy on the journeys back and forth. Pranah café is always lovely to me whenever I stop by to meet a friend for coffee and need to breastfeed. Someone usually rushes to open/close the door for me and pass me water.
Mediterranean Food Warehouse (Newtown, Wellington)
Nice and spacious with lots of corners to breastfeed quietly (or noisily, if the baby chooses). My three-year-old can eat an entire regular-sized-person pizza which takes some time, so the baby needs to feed during our outings here. I’ve found the staff really friendly and supportive of my breastfeeding efforts.
Yummy Mummy’s Café (Woodville)
Going by the title we guessed this place would be cool with breastfeeding mums – and it sure is. I breastfeed by the windows so my three-year-old can watch the trucks go by on the main road. On our last trip, the waitress brought over a fluffy with marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles on top and then gave us a container in case the three-year-old decided to vomit up the fluffy going over Saddle Road (he did).
Pipi Café (Havelock North)
A wonderfully child-friendly place in Hawke’s Bay. I’ve breastfed both boys here at different stages. It’s very noisy and full of lights and action so it’s hard to keep them focused, therefore boobs and milk go everywhere, but no one seems bothered.
Brown Sugar Café (Otaki)
I’ve been treated really well here whenever we’ve stopped to breastfeed and get enough caffeine down us to survive the ordeal of travelling with small children.
Kilbirnie Pool (Wellington)
Well, maybe not the greatest place to breastfeed, and it probably shouldn’t really be in the top 10. But I wanted to note for the record that I’ve breastfed my baby here despite a mum being told to get out of the pool while breastfeeding here last year (which led to a temporary ban on breastfeeding in council swimming pools as it posed a “contamination risk”). I had my feet in the pool when I was feeding the baby (the ban was still in place) and no lifeguards approached me. Maybe it was my resting bitch face. Maybe the staff could smell I was up for a fight. It was my first trip to the pool with both kids, which was harder than it looked when I’d watched other people do it. Glad the ban has been reversed as I plan to breastfeed here again if I need to.
Te Papa (Wellington)
Te Papa has feeding rooms complete with microwaves to heat up bottles as well as great baby changing facilities. But no discreet feeding sessions for us though with a three-year-old leading the charge. I’ve breastfed in both cafés here and with the baby in the front pack while walking (running, given a three-year-old was leading) around the exhibitions.
Newtown Library (Wellington)
I’ve often breastfed the baby here before picking up his brother from childcare, especially in the early days. It’s where we’d get out last few moments of peace before the onslaught of preschooler energy. One day I was sitting on the couch feeding the baby and a group of school kids came in with their teacher. A girl wearing a hijab came over to us. She sat very close so our bodies were touching.
“I’m not embarrassed by this,” she said, pointing at the feeding baby.
“I’m glad,” I replied, not quite sure of the correct response.
Then, suddenly, she put her arm around me and the baby. The baby looked up, confused. Then, realising this wasn’t the usual hug-disguised-as-a-strangulation attempt of his older brother, he relaxed. I could feel his body sinking into the girl’s embrace. He smiled and kept feeding.
“I like it here,” said the girl.
I didn’t know if she meant “here” as in the library, or Newtown, or Wellington, or New Zealand. But in that moment, it felt like a great place to be.
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