Breastfeeding in Public: What's OK?

November 09 2019


It seems crazy to live in a world in which a lingerie ad can be on the side of a bus, but feeding your hungry baby on a park bench can be deemed inappropriate.  Unfortunately, many mothers have been shamed for feeding their babies while on-the-go. 

But the bottom line is this: breastfeeding in public is allowed. You can breastfeed anywhere a mom is permitted to be. This includes private establishments and restaurants.  The only exception? If you’re in a moving car!

If you want to confidently and proudly feed your little one in public, you may want to gain a good understanding of your state’s breastfeeding laws, as well as the support of breastfeeding groups to help you along the way.

At 1 Natural Way, we want to help all mothers along their breastfeeding journey, and we want to provide you with the information you need to be confident and successful wherever you choose to nurse. 

FEDERAL LAWS

When it comes to breastfeeding in public, a woman’s rights lie within the rules and regulations written within the state level, not federal. 


STATE LAWS

  • As of 2018, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have laws that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. 
  • 30 states, along with District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws (meaning, if you’re in a state or territory NOT listed here, that state may recognize mothers' rights to nurse in public, but the mother could still be prosecuted for public indecency). The 30 states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
  • 17 states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow jury service to be postponed. The 17 states include California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.

It is important for expectant mothers who plan to breastfeed or moms who are breastfeeding to research and review their state level laws as it relates to breastfeeding in public. Pay close attention to specific keywords that relate to location (public, private, residence) or to discretion (showing the breast vs. the nipple), etc. We recommend you use this resource from the National Conference of State Legislators.

If you believe a business, organization or individual has violated a state law that permits you to nurse your child in public, we recommend contacting your local breastfeeding advocacy group or contacting an attorney for legal advice.


BREASTFEEDING WHILE FLYING

In 2017, the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act was made into law. This act requires all medium and large airports to provide clean, private facilities separate from the restroom for breastfeeding or pumping, lockable and accessible to people with disabilities. The ultimate goal of the act is to have private lactation areas beyond security in every terminal by October 2020. You can find these dedicated areas tucked away from the public, near family and individual restrooms or as standalone pods.  

Notable breastfeeding friendly airports include Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Seattle-Tacoma George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and many more!

As it pertains to airlines, each national and international carrier has their own policy. Each varies – from allowing mothers to breastfeed at their in-flight seats or their frequent flyer membership clubs, to offering more nursing space within the galley, etc. Please check with your specific carrier to better understand their breastfeeding policy on the plane and in their terminals. 

Click here for additional tips regarding air travel for breast pumping moms.

 

BREASTFEEDING FRIENDLY CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES

Despite the laws that are making public breastfeeding more common, the choice to do so is still a very personal one. Culture, religion and personal preference factor into how comfortable a woman will be. Luckily, modern breastfeeding mothers have a lots of options to make their breastfeeding journey easier and fuss-free.

 

Here are some public breastfeeding tips and must-haves:

  • Dresses can be layered with leggings and a cardigan (perfect for the fall and winter!). Just look for dresses with hidden nursing panels, slits or a surplice neckline.
  • Choosing to use a cover is YOUR choice. While nursing covers are a steadfast public breastfeeding option, try using a shawl, cardigan and draped scarf.
  • Purchase a copious amount of hands free nursing bras, clip on/off nursing bras, nursing tank tops and clothing that is comfortable and easily removed, unbuttoned or lifted.
  • Choose pants that allow you to be flexible, like yoga and athletic pants, leggings or lounge pants. If you need some additional abdominal support after birth, consider a postpartum recovery garment.

 

ADDITIONAL PUBLIC BREASTFEEDING TIPS

  • Carry a printed copy of your state’s public breastfeeding law for any instance of discrimination or questioning. However, if you feel threatened in any way (especially with a little one depending on you keeping them safe), do not hesitate to leave the establishment and call law enforcement.
  • Partake in one or two public breastfeeding trial runs so you can assess your comfort level, preferred spot and what positions/accessories/clothing help or hinder you.
  • Become attuned to baby’s first signs of hunger. These signs often include sucking on their hands or fingers, making smacking or sucking noises with their mouth or turning their head towards your breast. Understanding these signs help your little one ease into their feeding session calmly and without unneeded stress and attention on you.
  • Reach out to local and national breastfeeding support groups, organizations and additional resources. Check out our recommended support systems!

1 Natural Way offers a complete array of products and services to make moms more comfortable and confident throughout their pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. We provide mothers with name brand breast pumps, monthly breastfeeding supplies, maternity compression stockings and postpartum recovery garments, as well as expert and compassionate advice and top-notch customer service. Click here to start the qualification process and find out if you qualify for a breast pump at no cost to you.

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