Breastfeeding in Public: Know Your Rights

International Breastfeeding Symbol

While exploring the city with her toddler son and infant daughter, Audrey needed to nurse. She found a spot out of the sun and began discreetly nursing her baby. Two women sitting in the same area as her made their opinions on nursing in public known. One accused Audrey of not having class and told her she should be doing that in a bathroom. The other said Audrey should at least cover the baby with a blanket, even on a sweltering hot day.

Woman breastfeeding

Audrey’s story is not unique, women still frequently face opposition to breastfeeding in public. But what happens when it is more than uncomfortable glances and you are actually asked to leave a public establishment for nursing?

Is it in your legal rights to breastfeed in public?

Some women who feel uneasy about nursing in public are afraid of being made to feel uncomfortable and/or being asked to leave the area or establishment. The first step in conquering this fear is getting educated. Learn what your state laws say about the matter. States across the U.S. are becoming more aggressive by enacting laws that give women the right to breastfeed in a public place.

Genevieve was educated on her rights before she was approached at a laundromat while nursing her son. The woman working there told her, “You can’t do that here.” When Genevieve questioned what she was referring to, the woman just stared at her, then at her baby. Genevieve knew the laws in her state protected her from being asked to leave a public place for breastfeeding, so she replied that she was within her legal rights. The woman then told her to at least cover up and walked away. She did not approach Genevieve again, and she seemed flustered after she was informed that Genevieve was within her legal rights to nurse in public.

Many business owners and those in the general public are frankly unaware of the laws that protect women who choose to nurse in public. Don’t rely on their ignorance.

There are also many Internet and local groups that will support your efforts and help you navigate the issue. Some offer support and education while others even offer a safe haven for nursing. Pittsburgh’s The Milk Truck does the latter. The truck cruises the streets in hopes of helping women and educating people about breastfeeding in public. The truck is quite a spectacle, with a giant boob on the roof. However, it also does serve a purpose, allowing women a space to feed their child if an establishment has asked them to leave for breastfeeding in public.

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