Stories about moms being shamed for nursing in public go viral all the time, but most moms won't ever experience that type of rudeness. Science and common sense agree that breast milk is the best way to nourish infants, and most people do understand that babies can be unpredictable when it comes to mealtimes. Since moms often list embarrassment and fear of disapproval as a reason they stop nursing, we want to make sure you’re armed with the right kind of knowledge.
Breastfeeding laws vary state by state, so the best step is to become familiar with your local laws and the laws of any place you may visit. For the most part, you’re probably guaranteed the right to nurse in anything considered a public location, which is usually property owned or controlled by the state. However, most states don’t have laws regarding breastfeeding in privately owned businesses, so unless specifically mentioned in anti-discrimination laws, nursing moms can be asked not to breastfeed in these establishments.
Without a doubt, breastfeedinglaw.com is the best resource for nursing moms. Jake Marcus, JD, has compiled an incredibly detailed list of state and federal laws. Be sure to check out her articles “Lactation and the Law” and “Lactation and the Law Revisited” for more insights, explanations, and case studies.
Other helpful resources include La Leche League’s “Breastfeeding and the Law” as well as the National Conference of State Legislatures’ “Breastfeeding State Laws” and Parents.com’s “Breastfeeding Basics: Know Your Legal Rights”
The Bottom Line?
In all likelihood, no one will bother you. In fact, you’re more likely to have people compliment you or thank you for taking care of your baby.
Like so many other aspects of motherhood, the choice to breastfeed in public is entirely up to you. Go with what makes you feel comfortable, and arm yourself with a basic understanding of how the law protects you. IIf you’re worried that someone might shame you for feeding your child, try to plan out the steps you can take to advocate for your rights and keep yourself and your baby safe.
Be you bravely.