Breastfeeding in Public

As all new parents know, when your baby is ready to eat, they won’t always wait for the most convenient times to let you know. Whether you’re in the comfort of your own home or out and about, your baby will want to be fed on their schedule. Breastfeeding in public can be hard since there’s not always a private place to feed your baby. It can be tricky to navigate, but the truth is that it is your right to breastfeed no matter where you are. Let’s break down some of the frequently asked questions about breastfeeding in public and issues that some moms face.

What are my legal rights … ?

In every state in the United States, you have the right to breastfeed in any private or public area that you are comfortable in. In 31 states and DC, breastfeeding is excluded from public indecency laws. To read more about your specific state check out the National Conference of State Legislatures. These laws mean that when you’re ready to feed your baby, nobody can get in your way. Breastfeeding is an awesome and powerful act and it should be celebrated! In addition to these laws, the Affordable Care Act requires that employers allow for ample break time for mother’s to pump or breastfeed their babies, and that they must provide an area other than the bathroom to express milk in. There is still work to be done on destigmatizing breastfeeding in public, but as far as the law is concerned, you are free to feed whenever and wherever you and your baby are ready.

States where Breastfeeding is Exempt from Public Decency Laws

What might make it easier … ?

Breastfeeding is no walk in the park at home, let alone in the middle of running an errand. What are some issues that moms often face when it comes to breastfeeding in public? One of the most common problems moms run into is the clothing. When your clothing makes it difficult to expose your breast, it can take longer or be more uncomfortable to start nursing. Loose tops or button ups combined with a nursing bra tend to allow for the most flexibility. 

In addition to clothing, having the right gear to make your baby comfortable is important to make your public breastfeeding experience as smooth as possible. Since it might be hard to bring your breastfeeding pillow with you, some moms suggest using a sling to help support and comfort your baby. If you want to use a blanket for coverage, try practicing with it at home so that the transition is easy for the both of you! 

What else should I know … ?

We have come so far in terms of public breastfeeding and legal support of nursing mothers, but there is still room for improvement. If you experience criticism, remember your rights and that all you are doing is providing your baby with the nutrients they need! Breastfeeding is an awesome thing and your body is doing something incredible. The most important thing when it comes to breastfeeding, especially in public, is to do whatever makes you and your baby the most comfortable while providing them with the food they need. 

Resources

  1. Tahra Johnson, K. B. (n.d.). Breastfeeding State Laws. https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx
  2. Breastfeeding in Public. Office on Women’s Health. (n.d.). https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-home-work-and-public/breastfeeding-public

Claire Dowell