Breastfeeding in public is definitely one of those polarizing topics that stirs up a lot of mixed feelings. Often viewed as controversial, what seems like something that should be a natural human right has somehow left many new moms questioning whether or not they have any legal ground to stand on.
After all, if a bottle-fed baby has the right to eat in public, why shouldn’t a breastfed baby as well?
I know, I know…many critics might ask, “can’t you just pump at home and pack a bottle of breastmilk for the road?”
Well, the truth is that this is not always a viable option and even more so, should you have to?
Despite personal opinions on the subject, the important thing is to arm yourself with the right knowledge so that you, as a breastfeeding mama, are not only informed on where you can and cannot nurse, but so you can feel confident in your decision to breastfeed in public as well.
Think you know your legal rights when it comes to breastfeeding?
According to Breastfeeding Law: Know Your Legal Rights, you might not.
Many moms I speak to are often surprised to hear that they can essentially nurse their babies anywhere they want as long as they’re not trespassing.
Other moms, depending on where they live, are shocked to find out that there in fact might be certain limitations to their local breastfeeding laws.
So before you either plan to stand up and stage the next local nurse-in or you decide to shy away in the event of being asked to cover up, do yourself a favor and get in the know.
Know your local, area-specific rights when it comes to breastfeeding in public.
My experience breastfeeding in public
My experience with breastfeeding in public has been, well…less than remarkable.
And I say this in a good way.
Yes, you could argue with me and say, “well you live in California, things are just different there.” And perhaps this is true. After all, according to my state laws, as a nursing mother I legally have the right to breastfeed in any public or private location with the exception of someone else's private residence/home. However, just because this right exists doesn’t mean it’s never met without any criticism.
Although not too often, I still hear stories reported on the news or from other local nursing mamas who were told to cover up or that they couldn’t nurse [input location here].
I can happily report that I’ve never personally experienced any situation like this. I’m also not one to put a blanket or nursing cover over my own kid’s heads while breastfeeding.
One never liked anything touching his head.
Another always needed to see me in order to nurse.
I could continue to go on about each one of my five kid’s unique nursing personalities – I do find it so cute how each baby is born with this – but my point is, as far as I know, nobody has ever made a comment to me while breastfeeding in public.
So what can you do to better empower yourself while breastfeeding in public?
Again, first and foremost, know your rights.
Plenty of nursing mamas actually carry copies of the law with them when going out. What a terrific idea!
Second, if someone makes a comment or confronts you while nursing in public, keep calm and breastfeed on.
Okay, maybe easier said than done, right? In no way do I want to undermine these situations as they can be rather unnerving and cause a great deal of stress for any mama caught in the middle.
And rightfully so.
Keeping calm and confidently stating your legal right, however, can help positively influence the situation.
Third, if you don’t like something, do something.
What do I mean by this? If there’s a problem with your local breastfeeding law, use your voice to make a change. Write to your local officials. Get other breastfeeding mamas involved. Remember that there is power in your voice.
Finally, keep on nursing!
By normalizing breastfeeding in public you help empower a future generation of breastfeeding moms. How cool is that?
Breastfeeding is a basic civil right.
This includes breastfeeding in public as well.
Breastfeeding is the biological norm. It is the natural conclusion and expected outcome of pregnancy.
The health benefits that breastfeeding provides both mom and baby are tremendous. Breastfeeding is a completely eco-friendly way of feeding and nourishing our young. And not only that. Breastfeeding contributes to the overall well-being of our society as a whole and can also save more than $13 billion in excess costs and countless lives just in the United States alone (source).
If that’s not a reason to support mamas breastfeeding in public, then I don’t know what is.
Again, it can be argued that breastfeeding moms just pump a bottle for the road. Or, if they are to nurse in public, just cover up.
Would it surprise you if I said that in many situations this really isn’t even an option?
Because, physiologically speaking, some moms can’t let-down for a breast pump and provide enough pumped milk to feed their babies while away from home.
Because some babies are unable to nurse while covered up.
From a health, sociological and economic perspective we should be celebrating mamas breastfeeding in public instead of discouraging them.
By putting stipulations on how breastfeeding mothers should or shouldn’t be nursing their babies we truly are putting ourselves at a huge disadvantage.
Ridiculing moms for nursing in public is just one more unnecessary barrier to breastfeeding success. It’s these types of barriers that make the decision for moms to prematurely wean their babies that much more vulnerable.
Protecting both mom and baby’s right to breastfeed in public is a basic civil right.
Through proper legislation, education and support we can all help normalize breastfeeding.
It’s time to know your rights!
Here are some other great breastfeeding in public resources to check out: