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You Have the Right to Breastfeed

Court building. You have the right to breastfeed in all 50 states.

All 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have laws protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in any public or private location. Breastfeeding is your right — yet we frequently see headlines or hear stories of moms stopped from breastfeeding.

All-too-familiar headlines

Mothers in multiple states and multiple settings have been the subject of those headlines or viral videos. Here are just a few recent examples showing that, even with a law to protect them, mothers are still encountering trouble.

At the public pool in Texas

At a local pool, a lifeguard, and later a manager told a Texas mom she couldn’t breastfeed her 10-month old there. The police got involved, and an officer told the mother and her children to leave the pool.  

At a gym in Virginia

A guest on my show, Jill DeLorenzo, was harassed at Gold’s Gym for breastfeeding her children. Jill had actually breastfed there before this occasion. No one ever showed her the gym’s policy about breastfeeding there. In this instance, gym leadership told her to move after an unnamed party was offended by her breastfeeding.

At the public school in Kentucky

While volunteering for picture day at her children’s school, a Kentucky mom was asked to move into a private office while breastfeeding her infant daughter. The law allowing breastfeeding in public includes public schools. After the incident, the school has stopped the mom from volunteering at the school. Now, she is suing the school district.

At a restaurant in Pennsylvania

A breastfeeding mother in Pennsylvania was asked to cover up with an apron while feeding her child at a pizzeria. She received both support and backlash on social media after sharing her story.

Staff uneducated on the law

All too often, people in positions of authority think they can strong-arm a mother. They use tactics such as intimidation, threats of legal action, and references to an un-posted (and likely nonexistent) policy about breastfeeding in public.

Understandably, many moms may feel it’s easier to relocate to another area than rather than deal with the harassment or criticism. But it’s not necessary! It’s your right to breastfeed! No one should be shamed or harassed for breastfeeding an infant or child.

Glimmers of hope and progress

Laws are continuing to catch up on the normalcy of breastfeeding.

In Texas, Target recently made headlines for their “whenever, wherever” policy on breastfeeding. A sign said that moms were welcome to nurse whenever and wherever they wanted, but also offered a nursing room with free goodies if mothers wanted a more private space.

The Friendly Airports for Mothers Act goes into effect October 1, 2020, and requires airports to provide lactation spaces for traveling mothers. Mothers are not required to use the spaces when nursing. However, they provide convenience, and are designed with specific requirements to accommodate the mother who is expressing her milk or nursing her baby.

Advocating for yourself

I hope you never get in a situation where you need to fight for your right to breastfeed. But in the meanwhile, if I were you, I’d print out a copy of my state law on breastfeeding in public places, and put it in a place where I could quickly retrieve it. You might fold it up and have it in your purse, your diaper bag, your suitcase, or whatever, but have it handy!

To be clear: it is not illegal to breastfeed in any US state. And, as I read the laws, you are not required to “cover up,” nor “hide” in a secluded part of the building. The laws are there to protect a woman’s right. Personally, I think it’s silly that we need a law to protect the right to breastfeed. Generations of Americans breastfed without these laws, but obviously, we do them!

Have you encountered challenges to your right to breastfeed? Please comment below, and share with moms that would find this post helpful!

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