If you are a new breastfeeding mother, then you know your baby will eventually want to eat outside of the house. If you’re feeling nervous about breastfeeding in public, don’t worry. It’s one of the many trials of new motherhood, and we’re here to help you navigate.
Know your rights
Public Breastfeeding is not illegal.
There’s a persistent belief that breastfeeding is some form of indecent exposure. This is patently not true. Federally, breastfeeding is protected in all government buildings and in the workplace. Forty-nine states, DC and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public. Idaho is the only hold-out.
No matter what anyone tells you, exposing breasts for the purpose of feeding is not a criminal offense.
Your state or territory may also have extra laws to protect you.
Seventeen states exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. New York has a “Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights.” Puerto Rico requires many public areas to provide non-bathroom spaces for breastfeeding mothers.
Make sure to check the National Conference of State Legislatures for your state or territory’s specific protections.
You’re allowed to nurse whenever your baby needs it.
Wherever you are in the U.S. or in the U.S. territories, you’re allowed to nurse your baby when necessary. Apart from being in a moving car, because in that situation the child must remain in their car seat, you’re allowed to breastfeed in any area that your child can be.
If you’re in an area where you’re allowed to bottle-feed, you’re allowed to breastfeed.
Tips for Breastfeeding in Public
Do what makes you comfortable– Breastfeeding in public, just like breastfeeding at all, is a personal decision. If breastfeeding in public doesn’t feel natural, even after practice, you don’t have to do it. There are ways to get your baby breastmilk without breastfeeding in public. Likewise, if you’re comfortable feeding your child in public, don’t let anyone tell you can’t.
Get some special accommodations– Breastfeed in style. Malls, airports, amusement parks, department stores and many other public places may offer specified nursing rooms. A far cry from typical bathroom “accommodations,” nursing rooms can have comfy chairs and nice changing tables. There are some online nursing room directories, so you can find a nursing room near you.
Plan Ahead– If you’re taking your child out, it’s likely you’ll have to feed them. If you plan on breastfeeding in public, make sure to fill your diaper bag with the essentials- burp cloths, blankets, wet wipes, etc. You’ll be in public, make sure the two of you are able to stay clean and happy.
Take care of yourself– We know how easy it is to sacrifice yourself for your child. Your baby needs you, and has so many needs. But you’re just as important, and you need to take care of yourself, too. Breastfeeding can leave you winded, so make sure to pack water or a sports drink, as well as snacks or money for a meal. By caring for yourself first, you’re caring for your child as well.
Despite some people’s aversion to public breastfeeding, it’s completely your right to do so. While you should never feel pressured to breastfeed in public, if you choose to, it can help to know your legal rights and any possible accommodations available.