Breastfeeding in Public: Law and Tips for The Nursing Mum

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Breastfeeding on bus
Source: https://www.popsugar.com

While it may seem like common sense and a widely accepted fact, breastfeeding is in fact great for both you and your baby. With how widely accepted breastfeeding is by the general public, it seems silly just how many people get up in arms and throw giant tantrums when faced with a mother who chooses to feed her child in public. People will ridicule you, confront you, or complain to whomever they can to try to force you to cover up. This public shaming causes many women to try and avoid feeding in public as much as possible and even leads a lot of new mothers to stay home and isolate themselves for fear of having to breastfeed in public. This is terrible! Breastfeeding is a wonderful and natural part of being a mother and there is no reason to feel any shame at all! In this article, we will help you decide if you want to feed in public and how to prepare yourself as much as possible in order to ensure the best situations for you and your child.

Know the Law

Mother breastfeeding her son by the sea
Source: http://www.parents.com/

One of the most important pieces of knowledge you can arm yourself with when choosing to breastfeed in public is the legality of it all. Yes, it is entirely legal in the United States to breastfeed your child in public. Despite what naysayers will try to tell you, it does not violate any public indecency laws, or any other law for that matter. It is legal in all states, and furthermore, many states have actually enacted even more legislature to ensure the protection of publicly breastfeeding mothers. As long as you are authorized to be somewhere, such as a grocery store, restaurant, public park, library, or other public venue, you are fully within your rights to breastfeed your child. Certain states may also have laws on the books that forbid people from asking you to stop breastfeeding, cover up, or move elsewhere. These actions are seen as a violation of the breastfeeding mother’s civil rights and thus open up the commenter to being sued by the mother in civil court. Many mothers choose to carry a copy of their state’s law with them in case anyone tries to force them to end breastfeeding or move.

[Read more about Breastfeed]

3 Common Arguments

While you are out and about and choosing to breastfeed your child, be aware that some people might try to comment on your actions. Below are some of the most common arguments that people will try to use against you breastfeeding your baby in public and some responses to them.

1. It is Indecent

This is probably the most common argument used by breastfeeding naysayers. You will hear this often from people who can only view breasts as sexual organs and not in their biological purpose as a source of nutrition for your child. Most disappointingly, you might be faced with this argument from other mothers who feel as if you breastfeeding your child might somehow damage their children who see it. There is not a great way to win this argument, but should someone confront you with it, you can feel free to point out that breasts are a natural part of the female body and that breastfeeding is also natural. It is no more indecent to feed your baby with your breast than it is for someone to feed himself or herself with a fork. It is simply a different manner of eating. For the mother who is concerned about their children witnessing nature at work, you can try to let them know that you appreciate their concern, but you both are doing what you feel is best for your children.

Three mothers breastfeeding in public bathroom
Source: http://www.babypost.com/

2. Go Breastfeed Elsewhere

You will also hear this quite often. Many people might suggest that you feed your baby in a bathroom, closet, your car, or other place, which is out of the view of other people. This argument can easily be turned around on the person making it by asking if they would be comfortable eating in any of those places. Have they ever willingly chosen to eat in a dirty public restroom? If it is not acceptable for an adult with an adult’s immune system, then why should it be acceptable for a baby? Asking a breastfeeding mother to feed in secret is a way of treating mothers as second-class citizens and thus, the argument should end.

3. Cover Up

Covering up while breastfeeding is a deeply personal choice on behalf of the mother and what she feels is best for her child. Many people will ask you to cover up and hide, but you are under no obligation to do so. If someone asks you to hide your baby while you are breastfeeding, you can treat it as if they asked you to move. Ask the person if they would be comfortable eating in the dark, under a sheet. If they would not want to eat covered in blankets then there is no reason to demand that your baby do the same. You can also choose to point out that the cover may be a hindrance to what you are trying to do, especially if you are trying to eat dinner at a restaurant or grocery shop.

7 Tips for Braving Public Feeding

Now that you have heard the arguments that people use against breastfeeding mothers in public, you may feel a little anxious about choosing to do it yourself. However, you should feel empowered by your choice to prioritize your baby’s wellbeing over the potential discomfort of strangers. Below are several tips to help you boldly face the world should you choose to breastfeed in public.

1. Practice

If you are concerned about how much of your body might be exposed while breastfeeding, one of the easiest ways to correct this is by practicing in front of the mirror. Allow your baby to latch, and observe how much of your breast is exposed. This way you can change positions, and see your body as others might. This will give you an opportunity as well to become more comfortable with your nursing body.

[Read more about Latch]

2. Successful Dressing

Mother breastfeeding her child in park
Source: https://www.midwiferytoday.com

In order to make transitioning to public breastfeeding as easy as possible for both you and your baby, you might want to consider wearing clothes that are conducive to breastfeeding. If you love to wear dresses, you might want to wear one with soft material, which can be pulled away from your breast, or a wrap style that you can adjust for breastfeeding. Button up shirts might be better suited to breastfeeding, or even shirts that are designed for breastfeeding. These can allow you more of a sense of privacy, should you decide that is important to you.

3. Scouting

Scout out places to nurse if you are in a new location. If you know you might need to nurse, you could ask to be seated at a booth instead of a table while eating in a restaurant, or look for a quiet corner of a store in which there is not a lot of foot traffic. Not only does this lessen the likelihood of you running across a Nosey Nancy who feels like it is her place to comment on your parenting, but it will also be more restful for your baby. Another great idea is to ask the employees of a location if they have a room for nursing mothers. Many states are now requiring that businesses, schools, and other public places provide a room specifically for nursing mothers to ensure they can feed their babies comfortably. While some places may not have these rooms, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes the employees may have other suggestions to help you as well.

4. Start in a Less Threatening Environment

Mother breastfeeding at the coffee shop
Source: http://www.parenting.com/

This tip depends entirely on the mother’s comfort zone. If you are hoping to step into the big, beautiful, world with your baby, you might want to acclimate yourself to feeding in public by starting in a location that is less threatening. Malls, bleachers at a game, busy restaurants, etc. often have a lot of people and are often more chaotic. If you are trying to decide if breastfeeding in public is for you, you might consider starting in a quiet public park, a low-key café, the bookstore, or somewhere similar. These places can help you gain confidence in yourself, and keep the stress level low for both you and your baby. After these places become old hat, you might want to then step it up to breastfeeding anywhere your little heart desires.

5. Look at your Baby

Breastfeeding in public may be an anxious moment for you, and that is perfectly okay. Not everyone will feel open to just whipping out a boob and feeding. However, if you are still interested in feeding in public, but have some anxiety, one of the best solutions is just to look at your precious little baby. Looking at your baby will remind you why you have chosen to follow through with feeding in public. Looking at how peaceful and calm baby is should help you refocus and help calm any anxiety you might have.

6. Smile

People will probably stare at you. Some might stare because they have never seen a breastfeeding mother before in public, children might stare because it is not something they know, and some might stare because they disapprove. The best response to this is just to give them a beautiful smile. This will help show the people who are curious that everything is going great for you, will help show the children that breastfeeding is nothing weird, and the confidence it will give you will help deter any busybodies.

Breastfeeding on bus
Source: https://www.popsugar.com

7. Take a Deep Breath

Despite the doom and gloom attitude taken by most of this article, please be aware that most people will not attack you over choosing to feed your baby in public. Most people who would object or say anything to you are a minority, and you might be surprised by how many people approach you just to congratulate you on your baby, or even on your choice to publicly feed. So take a deep breath, relax, and remain positive.

Tips for Discreet Feeding

What should you do, however, if you aren’t quite at the “I am Mother, Hear Me Roar!” part of public breastfeeding? Don’t fret, there are quite a few options for mothers who are interested in breastfeeding in public, but may be searching for a more discreet method.

1. Use a Sling

Using a baby sling is a great option for many women. You can expose a breast and have your baby latch, all while it remains covered up by the sling. You can then walk around and feed to your heart’s content without anyone being the wiser.

2. Covers

Mum breastfeeding baby in public with covers
Source: https://www.medela.com

Yes, you can cover up! No one will take away your Proud Breastfeeding Mama badge. Many women simply feel more comfortable using a breastfeeding cover to conceal their breastfeeding. Others may choose to instead use a shawl or a scarf so that there is not a specific baby print fabric thrown over them. This allows an air of a little more subtlety.

3. Modified Clothing

If you cannot afford or simply do not have access to breastfeeding specific clothing, you can also modify your own clothing to allow for discreet breastfeeding. One suggestion is to cut a slit in a t-shirt and wear that shirt under your normal clothes. This way, when you need to breastfeed your baby, you can simply lift up the top shirt and have your baby latch through the slit in the t-shirt. This allows your breast to remain covered, as well as keeping your midriff covered as well.

Whatever you choose to do, be proud of yourself! Breastfeeding is a wonderful time in your life, and you should feel confident in entering the world! There is no reason to hide away at home, or to hide yourself away while out in public. Be assured that the law is on your side, as well as hundreds of thousands of breastfeeding supporters. You have the right to make choices that you feel are best for your family, and if that includes breastfeeding in public, hopefully this article has helped you prepare. Good luck!

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