Of course, my official position is: breastfeed whenever baby needs it, WHEREVER baby needs it. It’s amazing that our bodies get to provide all of the nourishment that our bundle of joy needs and it’s something that should be done with pride and without reservations.
But if you’re a foreigner living in Japan, you might have already noticed by now that breastfeeding in public is not something that is done by the locals very often. In fact, in the three years that I’ve lived in Japan, I have not once seen a breastfeeding mom out in public. And believe me, I’ve been very observant especially since I, myself, started breastfeeding.
It’s definitely no one’s business when and where you want to breastfeed your little one but if you want to, as they say, do as the Romans do – here are my tips for you.
I think the biggest reason why mothers don’t breastfeed when they’re out and about in public is because, honestly, they don’t need to. Most malls, event spaces and even the bigger stations have nursing spaces. These rooms range from simpler ones only equipped with chairs and hot water dispensers (for those who bottle-feed) to fancier ones (like at Ito Yokado Omori – pictured below) that even have weighing scales, toddler toilets, diaper disposal machines and others. These nursing spaces are usually indicated with the icon of a baby bottle.
Even inside the nursing rooms, privacy is still a big consideration. The chairs where moms sit are usually enclosed in stalls with doors. This also means that dads (men) are allowed inside the nursing rooms – except for the specific spot where moms breastfeed.
Finding Nursing Rooms
Now, you might be thinking … “that’s good and all… but who has time to look for these nursing rooms with a baby who’s already wailing with hunger?!”
Well, let me introduce to you – Mamamap!
This is an app where you can see all the nursing spaces available in a certain area. You can key-in a specific place on the search bar or it can automatically detect your current location. The map shows the location of diaper changing stations (blue pins) as well as nursing rooms where you can also change your baby’s diaper (green pins).
This app is great because you can use it not only to know the location but also the condition of the nursing spaces. Users can rate the place, leave their feedback or comments and even share pictures of the actual facility. There are also ‘badges’ that indicate what specific amenities are present.
One item that I’ve found very useful when baby really needed a feeding and I don’t have time to make it to the nursing room is this nursing cover. Nursing covers come in many shapes and the most common ones look something like aprons but when searching for covers in Amazon, this is the one that I chose – and I’m glad I did. It’s basically just a large piece of stretchable cloth with 2 holes. You wear it, sticking your head out through one hole. I’ve used it while having a meal in a restaurant, inside the airplane, in the car while traveling with relatives and in many other situations. I like that though it’s big, even the bottom opening is not too loose so it hugs my body closely and nicely covers baby inside. It really is very convenient – it is also lightweight and takes up very little space so it’s not a hassle to carry around. What’s more, because it’s very stretchable, you can use it in may other ways – like as a cover for your stroller or an additional covering while baby is in the carrier during the colder months. For only 1,799 yen in Amazon, this purchase was definitely worth it.
Walking Around With A Baby Carrier
Maybe it really was hard to see or maybe it’s just that Japanese people don’t like to stare at others, or maybe even, after all this fuss, Japanese people did see me breastfeeding in public and they didn’t actually care – but I’ve pretty much just walked around in crowded streets and shotengais with my baby very much awake and drinking milk from my breast. In fact, I love doing this because it always ends up with my little one sound asleep inside the carrier.
If you plan on doing this, wear a top that has a low neckline. Just wear the carrier as you normally would, use the head cover, take your breast out through the neckhole and guide baby to it. In this video of me walking along a busy street with stores, I am actually breastfeeding.
So, these are my tips for a breastfeeding mom in Japan. Before this article ends, I just want to cheer you on and congratulate you for doing an amazing job in taking care of your little miracle. Great job, momma!