What qualities make a good breastfeeding chair?

In the UK, mothers do not have a clear legal right to breastfeed in public. It’s not an unheard of act, but it’s not universally protected either.

The right will likely be recognized this year, but it was within this oppressive environment that Nicola Hart, a student at De Montfort University, designed a breastfeeding chair for a design exhibition.

Image of an artist's rendering of two nursing chairs in a commercial establishment.

Its core features:

  1. Deep, padded side panels or “wings” that hide the occupant when viewed from side angles.
  2. High back for neck and spine support and ergonomic posture.
  3. Low armrests.
  4. Wide seat.
  5. Standalone foot rest to create a “flat lap.”
  6. Small built-in side surface for a cup or plate.

Photo of the student inventor sitting in her nursing chair.

It’s just a prototype, but it could one day be sold to public establishments. Read the news release or BBC report.

It reminds me of the study tables at my old school library, paneled to shield you from your neighbors. I suppose your friends might need to sit across from you to have a conversation.

While I wonder how many establishments would want to dedicate floor space to nursing chairs, I bet they would attract dedicated clientèle.

This invention made me wonder… what makes the perfect breastfeeding chair?

My wife says… “Arm wrests at the proper height for your breasts (the same reason moms use nursing pillows when sitting on a bed or sofa). Also, a foot rest for short people so that your knees are raised to create a flat surface.”

Googling for breastfeeding chairs I readily found only one retail product, the Monarch Nursery Chair. It features a tall back and a low seat (instead of a foot rest) to level the lap.

Other conventional ideas are glider chairs or traditional rocking chairs. My wife says a reclining chair would be nice so that when your baby falls asleep, you can sleep too.

She much prefers nursing while lying in bed to avoid hoisting the baby the entire time.

As for a dad’s perspective, I use any old chair that allows me to cross one leg and place my son’s head at my knee. One hand is holding a bottle (of expressed milk) while my other hand is free.

So… What do you think of the student’s chair, and what functional arrangement do you, or did you, use at home?


23 Responses to “What qualities make a good breastfeeding chair?”

  1. Sheryl from Natural Parenting says:

    I learned how difficult it was on my back, neck and shoulders to sit while breastfeeding even if I used a boppy. As my daughter got older, I also learned the lesson to lie down. I will probably only nurse while babywearing or lying down with baby #2 to save my back. :)

    July 8th, 2008 at 5:09 am

  2. lindsey says:

    I don’t know if any features in a chair could make it comfortable if it was inherently wrong to do in public.

    Thank god for the U.S., eh? We only get nasty looks and curious onlookers.

    When will breast feeding become the natural thing that it once was?

    July 8th, 2008 at 5:46 am

  3. Carole says:

    It’s not a bad idea – more in the having a comfortable place to nurse in public way than trying to hide that your nursing way. Quite honestly most people when nursing in public are so subtle about it, you don’t need a chair like that to hide what you’re doing. But from a design point the arm rests don’t look functional enough – they should be wider.

    July 8th, 2008 at 8:35 am

  4. Katie says:

    The best chairs I have found are those big comfy rest chairs. They have them in the mother’s rooms at all of our church buildings, and they are great.

    Other than that I think a chair that “hides” you is not that great of an idea. It just brings more attention to the fact that you are breastfeeding, and lends credence to the idea that it needs to be hidden.

    July 8th, 2008 at 8:49 am

  5. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Me? When I was breastfeeding in public, I WANTED to be hidden. In fact, this was the number one thing keeping me from doing it very often. I could rarely find a place where I felt modest enough.

    My sister used to breast-feed in dressing rooms.

    Sure, some people are “Loud” and “Out there” and able to not care what people see. but not everyone is like that. So don’t force everyone to fit your ideas of “breastfeeding should be okay in public” Maybe they would rather be more sheltered than that.

    It doesn’t bother me to see other women breastfeeding in public. However, I still have no desire to do it myself.

    July 8th, 2008 at 8:53 am

  6. Nancy says:

    But breastfeeding should be ok in public, if you want to do it. You have every right to hide while feeding your baby, just like I have every right to do it wherever I please. I was never “Loud” or “Out there” when feeding my babies. The only comments I ever got were good ones. Most people didn’t even notice what I was doing. I never got a nasty look, ever.

    As for the chair, I like the high armrests and footrest, but the chair itself doesn’t look to comfortable. Hard to say from a prototype picture though. And I don’t think the wings are necessary, but again that’s my no-need-to-hide thinking.

    At home I nursed on the couch most of the time, with a pillow under my bent leg to help keep the baby’s head propped. In public I’d cross my leg, with the ankle over the thigh, to prop him up. In the nursery we had a rocking chair but it had hard wood arms, so I would cover them with a blanket for a little cushion.

    July 8th, 2008 at 10:13 am

  7. Amy says:

    I myself would like to sit in a “breastfeeding” chair, just making me stick out more. And it is important that the chair be moveable, not like the seat of a booth that can’t be adjusted for size of baby, height, etc. I myself swear by the Boppy and a nursing stool – it keeps the baby at just the right height, and he doesn’t roll off when I fall asleep!

    July 8th, 2008 at 1:10 pm

  8. Amy says:

    Sorry, I meant I would NOT like to sit in a “breastfeeding” chair!

    July 8th, 2008 at 1:10 pm

  9. Darby says:

    That chair does not look too comfortable for nursing, but it’s hard to tell without sitting in it. I nurse my 4 month old and I have NO qualms about breastfeeding in public. But I will say that most chairs in public places are not at all comfortable to nurse your baby in, because they are hard and either have no armrests or have hard, skinny armrests that hurt my arms/elbows and potentially baby’s head. I usually look for a couch or soft armchair. So the student’s chair must be more comfortable than most public chairs.

    The best nursing-friendly public place I have ever been in is Babies R Us, where they have a full-on changing and sitting room for moms and babies, with a nice plush couch for nursing. It is quiet and very comfortable in there. No dirty looks or curious onlookers in there.

    July 8th, 2008 at 1:37 pm

  10. Sherri E. says:

    I’m not sure what being “loud” or “out there” has to do with a willingness to feed my babies whenever and wherever they were hungry. I’m one of the most highly introverted people I know, but I don’t have a problem at all with nursing in public. Most people are oblivious, and, like some other commenters, the only comments I have ever gotten have been positive.

    I know lots of women need encouragement, though, so whenever I see a woman nursing in public I do my best to make eye contact and smile, at the very least.

    All that being said, I wouldn’t necessarily want to sit in a designated breastfeeding chair. Nursing should be so normal that it doesn’t draw a second glance, like someone reading a book or eating a hamburger.

    My favorite chair for breastfeeding is a big, cushy recliner for exactly the reason mentioned above– I can go to sleep when the baby does. And I’m a big fan of lying down to nurse, too– to the point where I gave up getting up in the night to nurse when our oldest was three months old, and just started co-sleeping instead. :)

    July 8th, 2008 at 2:36 pm

  11. Sandy Williams says:

    The chair is a nice idea but I think it’s unnecessary. I agree that a special breastfeeding chair might just draw attention to the fact that you are breastfeeding. I’d be afraid of creepy weirdos watching me in that thing.

    I breastfed in public many times and I doubt anyone noticed or cared. I always used a Boppy and something to prop my feet up with. But for being discrete, I just used a blanket to cover up and it worked fine.

    July 8th, 2008 at 2:47 pm

  12. Sandy says:

    That chair doesn’t look comfortable to me at all! Not to mention that it would scream, “Look at me, I’m feeding my kid!”

    I was only able to nurse in public a couple of times before we started tandem nursing. Once they got used to eating together, one on each side, it became logistically impossible to nurse discreetly, and I really didn’t feel like pulling my whole shirt up in public. I just timed my shopping trips or brought bottles of expressed milk if I was going to be out longer. Of course, going out with infant twins is an adventure in itself!

    My favorite place for nursing my twins was my lazyboy recliner. The arms were nice and wide and cushy (I actually dropped one in the night in the glider in their room-she fell right off the side!). With the footrest up, I could just put my knees up to the right height & angle to prop up both babies. And it was so comfortable I could doze or watch tv or whatever. I always recommend the big plush recliner to new twin moms.

    July 8th, 2008 at 3:57 pm

  13. Kathleen says:

    Not too sure about this chair but I suppose it does look way better than having to sit in a changing room or on the bench by the pharmacy to nurse.

    We were going to buy a glider when we were pregnant with our first son but decided to invest the money in a Lazyboy recliner so we would have something that would fit in with the rest of our regular furniture when the baby stage passed. We had them put the glider mechanism on it instead of a rocker and voila…a great feeding / sleeping chair.
    Now that our second son has arrived and is breastfeeding exclusively, I am soooo happy we have this chair. It is the BEST and most comfortable for tending to his needs :)

    July 8th, 2008 at 7:04 pm

  14. Lindsey says:

    My Boaz’s Ruth -

    I’m not sure if your comment about “forcing people to fit into my ideas of breastfeeding” was directed at me…but if it was…lemme ‘splain.

    When I breastfed in public, I always made sure to cover myself with a drape cloth if I wasn’t able to get to a private place. Nothing was ever exposed, as I was very cautious about letting anything “slip out”. I never used a boppy or anything cumbersome while out in public.

    I got dirty looks and rude comments from many, many people…mostly old women…but I had one middle aged woman who told me “it was wrong to do in front of other children”…as if they could see or even cared about what I was doing. I was on the inside corner of a booth, and my husband was blocking me on the outside.

    Making sure my son was eating and had enough food was more important to me than playing into people’s fears. Breastfeeding is a natural thing, I don’t flaunt my boobs and pull them out in public for all to see…but I don’t forgo feeding my children because I don’t have a private area. To me, that is more important.

    July 8th, 2008 at 7:44 pm

  15. gertie says:

    I always felt a little exposed while breastfeeding in public. Not because I was ashamed or embarrassed about what I was doing, but because I am just klutzy. I could never manage that maneuver where the woman gets herself disengaged from her bra and attaches the baby without anybody noticing. And re-engaging the bra was even worse. This didn’t stop me, but I always assumed people around me were thinking “Wow, that woman sure is spending a lot of time arranging her boobs.”

    For that reason, my favorite place to publicly breastfeed was in the old egg chair (click on my name for a sample picture) at my local sci fi book store. The sides are enclosed, the interior is cushy, and the overall look is damned stylish. I would love to see a cluster of egg chairs in my local mall. They wouldn’t have to be designated “nursing chairs” because they are enclosed enough to offer women privacy, but cool enough that anybody would use them. Make it so!

    July 8th, 2008 at 10:29 pm

  16. Lisa says:

    I have to agree about most people not even noticing nursing moms in public. You’d be surprised how much people are NOT focused on you when they are casually walking by. Generally I would know of all the discreet places to nurse (in my car, Nordstroms nursing room, Baby Gap, BRU) but if my baby needed to nurse then and there, I’d plop myself (in a quieter area, NEVER the bathroom stall, EW!) somewhere and I always made sure i wore a jacket. It helped to cover the sides of my uplifted shirt and honestly I never had one person make a comment. They were never the wiser, they just saw a baby who looked as though he was sleeping in my arms.

    At home, I always used a Brest friend nursing pillow that strapped around the waste and had back support. You can use this standing up or sitting down and in my case, in front of the computer or in my reclining glider. I felt the reclining feature was a huge plus for the exact reason suggested above. I napped in it while nursing an extremely annoyed baby at three in the morning, in the living room, far away from Daddy. When the baby was calmer, i’d nurse while lying down…….

    Lindsey, I so wish i had been there with you when those ladies made the nursing comments!

    The chair: doesn’t look very comfortable or very natural. I wouldn’t sit in it. I agree the armrests need to be wider also.

    July 9th, 2008 at 12:38 am

  17. Lindsey says:

    Lisa -

    DH is very protective of me and my right to feed our baby in public – that being said, when women just plop their boobs out, it makes him uncomfortable so he always made sure that everything was tucked in just so, so everything was discreet.

    When people made comments and he was there – he always took care of it.

    I had my standard response of “would you prefer I let him starve?”….they never once answered.

    July 9th, 2008 at 9:21 am

  18. Candace (Mama Luxe) says:

    At first I liked to go to dressing rooms…but after a while, I just fed her when and where she was hungry. I used a sling when she was younger but when she got older, she preferred (ie would only nurse with) no sling, no blanket.

    It is fine to have special, designated places or chairs for those moms who are more shy, as long as the message is: feed here OR ANYWHERE you are comfortable.

    I don’t think a mom should have to leave her table or her shopping just to feed her child–especially a newborn who may need to nurse every 1.5-2 hrs for 30 minutes at a time.

    From a design perspective, I agree with the comments about the arms being too far out to really provide support and also the privacy wings not really doing much. And some sort of swivel support would have been nice, as well.

    I also found the bit about the pink color to be amusing…I don’t find it cheery, myself, but hey…to each her own.

    But I think that the point of this chair is more about drawing attention to the issue using design, which I fully support!

    Blogged and linked up at MOMformation.com as well.

    July 9th, 2008 at 10:22 am

  19. Jen M says:

    I don’t know about a chair. Those of us with short torsos and wriggly babies may prefer something armless. The arms on our glider only give my daughter something to kick off now but props were more useful early on.

    For the record, nursing mothers have no guaranteed right to breast feed in the United States. Some individual states protect the right to breastfeed in public but many are silent on the subject (or simply exempt breastfeeding mothers from indecency laws). http://www.llli.org/Law/LawBills.html

    July 11th, 2008 at 5:37 am

  20. Michele says:

    I want to give a 2nd or 5th shout-out to the Lazy Boy recliner. And to the Boppy. This set up was so comfortable. I highly recomend making yourself as comfortable as possible when nursing. And for me the Lazy Boy was a great investment!

    As far as nursing out in public goes… if I was out and needed to nurse my son – I would nurse him in the back seat of the car as I could prop my arm up on his carseat.

    July 13th, 2008 at 12:18 am

  21. Beach Bum says:

    I agree that that chair is weird looking. The recliner or the egg sound more comfy/functional. I breast-fed in public all over the place, but it is hard to get covered up and simultaneously latch the baby on (before they are old enough to do it themselves). And I was not only conscious of hiding my nipples, but also trying to hide my post-baby flabby stomach when I pulled my shirt up! No one else is taking off their clothes in public, and brand-new moms are not in the prime shape of their lives! It is hard, but the baby comes first. After a couple of weeks I stopped thinking of my breasts as my own – they became mostly functional. My husband called them “the canteens.”

    July 17th, 2008 at 9:04 pm

  22. Lyndsey says:

    Im having my 4th child soon and I would buy this chair in a minute. It has exactly what I need for nursing. Bottle feeding and nursing is not the same. A mothers posture must stay upright in the lower lumbar yet be able to rest her elbows on something to support the baby’s head. Get it on the market!

    July 27th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

  23. Melissa says:

    I have two boys, my youngest is still nursing but only nurses twice a day (morning and after nap). I’ve nursed in malls, grocery stores (that was awkward), libraries, you name it. I probably wouldn’t use a chair like this because it doesn’t look very comfy.

    At home I nurse in a glider (2nd choice) with a footstool that also glides – very comfy. Or in bed (1st choice) because I can lay down and relax, and my older son sometimes snuggles with us under the covers.

    Out and about, I often would stop at Starbucks for a baby & me latte – I would get a steamed milk or herbal tea (I don’t drink caffeine) and sit in one of their comfy chairs to nurse. I also loved Borders’ chairs, and would do the same with their cafe. Advantage of Borders – the chairs are scattered all over the stores, so I often would pick one in an out-of-the-way section, like philosophy or history so we could have a little quiet time and DS could focus.

    As for people who stare – I just ask politely, May I help you? I’ve only had one person confront me, to which I replied that I prefer that my children not eat in the bathroom, thank you. The more we shrink & hide, the more we invite comments. When you act as tho it is perfectly natural (which it is) then it ceases to become an issue. For those who still have a problem with it, just remember, Jesus was surely breastfed in public too :-)

    September 13th, 2008 at 4:58 pm