Public Breastfeeding And The Law
Public Breastfeeding And The Law
Corky Harvey & Wendy Haldeman (Board Certified Lactation Consultants/Co-Owners of The Pump Station) gives expert video advice on: Is it legal to breastfeed in public?; Do I have to cover my breasts while breastfeeding in public?; How is breastfeeding in public different from indecent exposure? and more...
Is it legal to breastfeed in public?
In any state, any place where it is legal to take a child, you can breastfeed. I believe it was "Fit Pregnancy" just a few weeks ago, that magazine, was talking about this incident on the airplane, and they did go state by state with each state's standing law. So somebody might want to check that website and find out what their particular state is. But as far as we know, it's legal everywhere. In California the way it's stated it has to do with anywhere but in a private home of someone that doesn't want you to nurse in that home, so it's like whatever, don't go there. But you can nurse everywhere, so people can't kick you out of a store. One of the funniest stories I ever heard was a Victoria's Secret story. I don't know if you can use that name. But it happened in Victoria's Secret here in California, and one of our mothers went in. She had a terrible time breastfeeding in the first place, and she had finally gotten it together and she was really proud of herself. She went in and had made some purchases around Christmas time, and she hadn't quite finished paying when her baby started to cry. And she said, "You know what? I need to go and nurse my baby. I'll come back. Could you hold these things?" And so the woman that was waiting on her said, "Well, why don't you just go into the dressing room and nurse your baby?" And she said, "Okay, thank you very much, I'll do that. "Well, the manager came back from lunch, and found this woman breastfeeding and said, "What are you doing? You're ruining our business," and she booted her out of the store. And here it was, Victoria's Secret, of all places. The woman was married to an attorney, had an attorney for a father, so there was a little letter-writing that took place and there was an apology made. But it just is a funny thing that our society is all about breasts, but for a different reason. So being in Victoria's Secret, where breasts are the theme, she couldn't breastfeed according to this female manager.
Do I have to cover my breasts while breastfeeding in public?
You don't have to cover your breasts in public if you are nursing your child. People choose to. I can speak for myself that as far as this part of my breast, that looks like my cheek to me, but my nipple and areola area I didn't necessarily want to flash. But somebody else might not mind at all and they can. Or your baby suddenly pulls away because a door slammed and they are startled, that might happen. That just might happen. Or some babies get hot and they kick off the covers, or they kick off the blanket. They don't like it. We are so lucky today that we actually have different things that women can use to make themselves covered if they want to be and still be easy with their breastfeeding, so that's a really neat thing.
How is breastfeeding in public different from indecent exposure?
Indecent exposure has a different purpose form breastfeeding in public, for me. It's to get a rise out of somebody to sexually turn somebody on and you're doing it on purpose. Breastfeeding is not at all about exposing yourself.
Does my boss have to allow me to breastfeed at work?
I believe that if you can pump at work you should be able to breast feed at work. And I suspect that the rule would have to be "May I bring my baby to work at all?". Is this a work environment that would be conducive and still have a baby there. Because if your baby is at work with you then you would certainly be given those breaks to breastfeed. So it would depend on that environment.
Where can I breastfeed in public?
You can nurse your baby in public anywhere. There are places that we teach moms, sort of a getting started place, sort of learning how to nurse in public. I know this is going more national, for instance there are some department stores like Nordstrom. We have to give a plug to Nordstrom, because they were one of the first places to make a lounge for women and we have to applaud them. It's comfortable, away from the toilets and it has a changing area, nice comfortable couches, it's terrific. Some other places are following suit, or there's a family area in the shopping centre where there's a place for little kids and mothers to breast feed, couches, changing tables. So those kinds of places are good places to start. If you want to eat out, if you want to go out in public we suggest that you call the restaurant, pick a noisy place, pick a place that isn't a very, very high upscale place where you're all alone and it's too quiet. Start with those kinds of places. Nursing in a booth is much easier sometimes than in the centre of the room. So we suggest calling the restaurant and saying, “Hi we're coming to your restaurant tonight” or “we'd like to and we have a young baby who is nursing. Do you have a booth or anything like that to make it easier for us?” See what the response is from the restaurant. We actually released a list, as you would put an A on a restaurant for a good place to eat, we had a list of A places for breastfeeding and we actually sent that list to the restaurants and said you've been named as a great place to breastfeed your baby. So for people that want to promote a good family business, that's really a positive thing to do. So if the mother can gets a negative feeling from the restaurant they go to, then you say “I'll go somewhere else, thanks though” and stay very positive and go somewhere else. We kind of have women training each other on how to breastfeed in public; they'll tell each other, here's where I went and it was great.
What locations should I avoid while breastfeeding in public?
I really think just a place that would not be safe for your baby. Also for your comfort level, some women get literally sweaty if they are thinking they got to nurse their baby and it does not seem like the right place. I think I would be some ill at ease, not because of my breast but because I do not want to disturb other people. I would not take my baby to a real high end restaurant for instance. I do not know if that is a place for a baby anyway; why would I want to do that. But personally, other people might and they should be allow to but that is just one place. A moving car. Mothers should be strapped and babies should be strapped in at all times. Places where toxic fumes would be like for instance a nail salon bothers me a little bit to see babies there, or places that are incredible smoky. I would try to avoid those places but as far as your breast is concerned, No. Plus where your baby can be nursed.
Can I breastfeed on an airplane?
Oh yes. You can actually breastfeed on an airplane. In fact, babies need to be nursed when you are taking off and landing because it helps their little ears equalize, they do not have pain on their ears. It is so much easier. I dreaded the day that my kids were not breastfeeding when I was flying. And remember, that was a long time ago. So, some people have lots of tricks to how they do it especially if they are travelling with their husband. They book the aisle on the window. And then if there is anybody that is coming down the aisle and there is a baby and they won't sit there and they will have a little extra space. But if the flight is full like mine was last night. Then they just say to the person, “Oh, would you care for the window or the aisle, we will move together. Putting the woman next to the window is often easier because she can turn away if she wants to which latching the baby on. The woman who has the most trouble nursing in public, for me, is the woman who has difficulty with her latch. It takes two hands and so if she needs to do that she can turn away. We strongly encouraged them to wear their babies in slings so they can nurse while walking up and down the aisle and nobody would even know. And to get some skill level before they go on a plane. Practicing at home until they get that latch let their husband watch to see, “Can you see my breast,” just a little game of it. Like, yes you can nurse on an airplane and it is so helpful when they are fussy. Again, men are more supportive. And I think a lot of people…so many women can breastfeed and you do not even know what they are doing. It is such a quiet ballet between mother and baby if you will that I think a lot of people do not even realize that until it is over. Or the little joke that the lady says to the man next to her, “I am nursing and I need to do that to help the ears.” And the guy said, “Darn, all these years I have been chewing gum.” I guess I could say, would you like to hear my baby scream or would you like me to feed my baby. The choice would be obvious for both of us if ever we are on an aeroplane. I had a mom coming on the plane behind me last night - she had her stroller, she had her baby on a carrier, and I said, “What can I do to help you?” And she said, “Oh, I am pretty good at this already. I have done it four times this weekend. I am fine, I will yell if I need help.” So I always offer and try to help her.
Do I have to go to a room designated for nursing?
Absolutely you do not have to go to a designated room. You can nurse wherever you are. A breast feeding mother has the right to feed her child any where she wants as long as it is legal to have a child there.