10 Best Places to Breastfeed in Toronto
As one does, I have breastfed a baby 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, during the Santa Claus Parade, in the middle of a dinner party and during someone else’s wedding vows.
I’m not an exhibitionist; I just like to feed my son when he is hungry. Before he was born my breasts were ‘indoor use’ only. But I quickly learned that I couldn’t just sit on the sofa watching Sherlock Holmes reruns until my kid decided to wean. I mentally began to compile a list of all the places I could nurse in comfort, without having to wrangle a boob out while wedging myself and a 30-pound toddler into a ‘nursing corner.’
Christine Ingram of Canada’s Nursing in Public notes that being able to get out and “participate in life is critical to breastfeeding success” — not to mention mental health. Here are 10 great spots that go over and above Toronto Public Health’s campaign and make nursing our kids when we need to a positive experience.
Our city’s world-renowned library system is highly recommended as a spot for latching-on little ones. It’s the combination of nap-worthy furniture, the meditative book-filled environment and potential enriching activities for older kiddos tagging along. The TPL is also the hands-down winner in the ‘don’t have to shell out for a coffee’ category.
This maternity and nursing-wear boutique has two locations: one in the east end and another in the west end. They also offer more than the products they sell: EvyMama is a great place to nurse a baby. Owner Sarah LeMay-Kaplan nurtures a pro-breastfeeding attitude by offering a weather-permitting nursing garden and plenty of comfortable seating. The stores hold drop-in breastfeeding clinics, are full of nursing resources, knowledgeable staff and an endless turnover of customers who know a thing or two.
This is a stellar option for mamas who need to get out and re-connect with culture. Nursing an infant while walking with baby in a sling or carrier, a mama could tour the entire gallery in peace. If bringing along a toddler or two, the best option is the Weston Family Learning Centre. This relatively new learning environment is a great place to hang out; you can nurse your babe while older sibling focuses happily on art, crafts, building or puppetry. The Centre has wonderfully soft furnishings that scream ‘nursing session’. And if you happen to have a membership, the members’ lounge has great couches and is usually quiet after the lunchtime rush.
This bright, cosy spot on Queen St. W. comes up as a highly desired space for mamas who love to combine nursing with crafting. In addition to the accepting environment and comfy chairs, one can usually find a like-minded mama who is keen to chat about all things breastfeeding. There is also an informal moms’ group: contact the cafe for details.
One of Toronto’s gifts to nursing women is the sheer number of parks and open spaces across the city. Whether you are a mama to a singleton and just need to breathe some fresh air, or are trying to meet the needs of both an infant and an energetic preschooler, parks have a lot to offer. Benches, hills and the odd picnic table offer ideal hangouts for mamas and nurslings of any age. Parks are also a social opportunity, so if you’re looking to strike up conversation about night weaning or what kind of baby carrier to buy, your local park is great for a little nursing-in-public.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have unclipped a bra at one of the four Book City locations. I’ve spent hours nursing my son to sleep, tucked in his carrier while also exploring the well-appointed shelves of these relaxed bookstores. Ironically-mustachioed staff are pretty cool about letting you browse the books while your baby gets what they need. And they keep the parenting and kids sections well-stocked.
This new cafe on Harbord (just west of Spadina) is owned by Nathalie Robertson, and intentionally makes nursing ‘part of the environment.’ You can relax in this of oasis of calm that celebrates the culture of parenthood. Stay connected downstairs in the cafe/craft area or sneak upstairs to the loft to nurse in serene silence. Located in the now-retired Toronto Women’s Bookstore, RedFish BlueFish has a constant flow of parents and children alike, making for a feeling of instant community for any breastfeeding mom.
Where else in Toronto can each nursing session potentially become a historical event? The Fox is the second oldest cinema in Canada (the Revue opened one year earlier, in 1912) and runs ‘Movies for Mommies’ every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. The Fox is by far the loveliest place to relax, nurse and catch a movie, but be sure to check out other Toronto cinemas offering a similar ‘music down, lights up’ experience for parents with babies.
The gardens are a hidden nursing treasure, tucked away in the city’s north east. Obviously a weather-permitting option, this green space is aces for feeling like you have escaped Toronto’s concrete heart; have a picnic in one of the many gardens in this tranquil spot. You could do a good impression of a dryad whilst nursing by the pond, or hike around the trails nursing a toddler in a carrier. If you would prefer not to nurse in the wild, the cafe boasts a fantastic tea list and incredibly comfortable chairs.
This is relative. We all need to get around and for many mamas who call Toronto home, public transit is how we roll. Given the option of the three modes of TTC transit delivery, nursing moms who want comfort should opt for the streetcar (unless of course it is rush hour, in which case you might find it faster to crawl with your 7-month-old on your hands and needs to your destination). Streetcars win for having the most comfortable seating — and enough room between seats to allow you to hold a nursling without angling yourself like the ROM’s ‘crystal’ extension. Apparently the streetcar also sprinkles magic sleep dust from the ceiling, as every nursing baby I’ve ever encountered riding the rails is lost in nap-land.
After four years of nursing in locales around the world, I can say with confidence that Toronto is down with women nursing their children in public. Often people will go out of their way to assist you if you’re trying to make a nursing nest in the most cramped of coffee shops.
So, take advantage of your right (it’s Ontario law! to nurse anywhere and anytime. Get out and enjoy your city, meet other parents and help normalize breastfeeding by doing it in public.