Confession: before having kids, I had a pretty douchey attitude toward breastfeeding in public.
I don’t remember it, but my mom vividly recalls me saying something harsh to my sister about covering up while she was feeding her newborn.
Being a jerk is not beyond me, so I don’t even question whether or not this happened. I trust my mother’s memory more than my own.
My sister was pretty good at blowing off my comment. She could care less what anyone thinks, especially me.
Now that I’m a breastfeeding mom, I am appalled by my former actions. I probably would have felt really hurt and ashamed if someone had said that to me.
To say that I deeply regret my words is an understatement.
After giving birth to my first daughter, it took all of three seconds for my boobs to move to the bottom of the sexual totem pole. My pinky toes now have more sex appeal.
During that time I also came to the realization that breastfeeding is really freaking hard! I needed all the support I could get.
If my only option was to cover up, it would have been impossible for me to leave the house. Like, ever.
So, while all of us breastfeeding moms aware that breastfeeding is far from sexual, and is actually extremely difficult, the rest of the world is still catching up.
Thankfully, the rest of the world has made great strides in recent years.
*This post contains a few photos which are affiliate links. You can read my super anticlimactic disclosure here.
What Does the Law Say About Breastfeeding in Public?
In 2018, it officially became legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states! Hurray! What took so long?!
Seriously, the right to feed a hungry baby should be a no-brainer.
While public breastfeeding is legal, each state words their laws about it a little differently.
Some states such as Florida state that they “allow a mother to breastfeed in any public or private location,” whereas states such as Iowa only specify “the right to breastfeed in any public place.”
What’s the difference between a public location and a private location? Good question.
According to Privacy Observer, “What determines whether a given location is public, is whether it is open to the public.”
Any privately owned business that is open to the public is considered a public location. It doesn’t matter if the land owner and the person who owns every single share despise breastfeeding without a cover, your rights remain.
That means that if Ted, the owner of the burger joint down the street tells you that you have to cover up because you have no right to breastfeed in his private business, you can tell him to shove it.
That’s right Ted, shove it.
If you were breastfeeding in Ted’s house, that would be another story. But who really wants to hang out at Ted’s house with their baby if he’s going to be like that?
Do you want to know exactly what the public breastfeeding laws are in your state? This website will tell you all about it.
I’m working on creating state-specific printables right now. That’s right, all 50 of them. It is a labor of love your you, my friends.
If you sign up below, I’ll send you the link to download your state printable as soon as they are ready! This should be somewhere between 1-3 weeks from now. It depends on how much work my toddler lets me do every day.
Tips for Breastfeeding in Public
Now that we have established that breastfeeding in public is completely legal, it’s time to learn how.
There’s no right or wrong way to breastfeed in public. You are fully within your rights to whip out your boob in front of anyone and everyone, or sneak it out stealthily.
The important thing is that you do what is comfortable for you.
If you’re like my sister who doesn’t care, go ahead and pull the whole thing out. Honestly, it’s the easiest way to feed a newborn.
But if you’re like some of my more modest friends, here are some tips to make breastfeeding in public a little less awkward for people who are only comfortable around dairy-free boobs:
- Practice at home in front of a mirror. While your eyeballs might be full of nipple and areola, chances are high that those around you can’t see anything. Your baby’s head is going to obscure most, if not all of their view. Perfect your practice by getting an idea of what they see with a mirror.
- Wear clothes designed specifically for breastfeeding. While it’s possible to breastfeed in most clothes, having some designed specifically for breastfeeding can make life a hellova lot easier, especially in the early days when babies aren’t very good at latching. I highly recommend nursing clothes because they are an easy way to breastfeed discreetly without carrying extra gear.
- Use a nursing cover. Nursing covers come in a few different styles. Some loop around the back of your neck with a bendy metal thing to help you see baby’s face (top photo), while others are like a stretchy infinity scarf (bottom photo). Nursing covers can get warm, but they are the easiest way to breastfeed without the off-chance of someone getting a glimpse of skin *gasp*
- Nurse your baby in a front carrier. Many baby carriers make it easy to breastfeed your baby while wearing them. This is very difficult if not impossible to do with newborns, but it gets increasingly easier as they get older. Most people will never guess that you’re breastfeeding. They’ll assume that your baby is taking a snooze.
How to Handle Uncomfortable Situations while breastfeeding in public
Just because breastfeeding in public is legal in all 50 states, it doesn’t mean that everyone knows it. A lot of people aren’t aware of the new laws in place to protect nursing mothers.
This means that it is entirely possible to run into uncomfortable situations.
Hopefully that never happens to you, but if it does, here are some tips to handle the situation:
- Try to remain calm and turn your body away from the offender.
- If you feel unsafe, don’t hesitate to call the police.
- Whip out your handy dandy copy of your state’s breastfeeding laws. Sign up to get yours soon-ish.
- Ask to speak to a manager.
- File a complaint with the business. This can be done on the spot or at a later date when things have calmed down.
- Report them to the Better Business Bureau.
If you thrive off of confrontation:
- Videotape the encounter
- Post said video to social media. Public awareness is priceless.
- Stage a nurse-in with your friends because, why not?
Well, there you go friends. I hope this helps you breastfeed in public like the boss babe you are.
Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters where I will be sending out a link to download your state-specific breastfeeding laws in the next few weeks, and share this with a friend.
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