As soon as I entered the room, I scanned for other moms. Was I the only one who brought a baby to this military event? Oh good, no, there were a few moms with babies across the room. I made some new friends and someone complimented me on my dress, which had an unusually high neckline and tied at the nape of the neck. “Thanks,” I said with a smile, starting to feel comfortable. “I just picked it up last week. I’m going to have to nurse the baby in an hour, and this was the only dress I could find with. . . easy access!”
There was silence for a moment. Then one of the women quietly asked, “Is your baby still nursing? Where do you plan to do that here?” I looked around me at the mixed company all dressed in semi-formal attire. Was I the only one who would need to worry about milk in the middle of this party?
What to wear to a formal event when you are nursing
If you’re a mom with a nursing baby, you know what it’s like to have to plan your wardrobe around your baby’s eating schedule. This is especially challenging at formal or semi-formal events, like a professional holiday party. Even if you can get a babysitter, a nursing mom can’t spend more than a few hours away from baby. Because. . . those boobs aren’t going to take the night off. You either have to nurse the baby or find somewhere to pump.
Going to a military ball? You’ll want a dress you can unhook with one hand. Office Christmas party? Don’t wear a turtleneck! Go for a snazzy, button-down blouse and a skirt. Bring a cover-up or a blazer if you are a new mom. In the first few months, milk letdown and surprise leakage can be an embarrassing situation.
Even after you have chosen the perfect nursing-friendly outfit and packed your breastpump in a discreet, semi-professional bag, the challenge is only halfway over. Once you arrive at the event, you may find yourself surveying the situation and wondering, “Okay, where am I going to do this?” It is unlikely that anyone has considered a designated nursing area for the evening.
Don’t worry, Mama. Take a deep breath. I will walk you through your options.
Before the event
Consider whether or not to bring the baby. Yes, I have seen a few babies at military balls. And they may be allowed at an office gathering, depending where you work. If you aren’t sure, ask. If they say no, you can plan for childcare. It also gives you a chance to pump and freeze bottles of milk for the baby ahead of time. If they say yes, then politely ask if there will be a private area where you can nurse that isn’t a bathroom.
If you’ll need to pump, pack up your entire kit. Make sure the batteries are charged and that you have the small cooler bag if you plan to save any milk.
At the event
Decide approximately when you will need to feed the baby or pump. Halfway through the party? Close to the end? At an event like a military ball, there is a lengthy ceremony you should try not to miss. At other events, you don’t want to miss dinner. Or there may be prizes given away near the end. Do you want the childcare folks to bring the baby to you or will you stop by at a designated time? Talk to your spouse and let them know your plan.
“At formal events with a baby, make a plan with your spouse so you don’t miss the important parts!” ~The Seasoned Spouse
If you want to nurse in public, you can. It is absolutely your decision how and where to feed your child. However, at a formal event, especially one with a large number of men, you may not be comfortable nursing without some cover. If you just want to throw a cloth or blanket over your shoulder, that works fine. If you would be more comfortable in a private space, then be sure to ask for one.
Locate a good nursing location. At a hotel, this may be a hotel room (if you reserved one) or a meeting room that won’t be used. You could also nurse in the childcare area, if there is one on site. At other locations, ask for a private office or an employee lounge area. Any room with a key is ideal, so you can ensure no one will walk in on you. A bathroom is not ideal because there is nowhere sanitary to lay out the supplies or to put down the baby for a moment.
Give yourself a virtual high-five! You just fed a baby at a professional event! Not every woman has faced this scenario, but almost everyone can understand the struggle. You are now part of a very elite group of mamas.
The Breastfeeding Shop provides name-brand, high-quality breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies. Catering to the military community, the Breastfeeding Shop’s quick and easy service ensures that TRICARE beneficiaries can receive breast pumps and supplies at no-cost to them.