Breastfeeding in Public

 

You already know that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. Most of the general public knows it too, and yet many people are still uncomfortable with a woman breastfeeding in public. With breasts spilling out on every magazine cover it seems a bit ironic to target breastfeeding women, but that of course is the whole problem. In our society breasts are thought of as sexual objects rather than as the source of nourishment for our babies.

Fortunately, no matter what a person’s personal view on breastfeeding is, no one can legally stop you from doing it. Breastfeeding is a protected Constitutional right in all 50 states as stated by the Supreme Court:

"Nourishment is necessary to maintain the child's life, and the parent may choose to believe that breastfeeding will enhance the child's psychological as well as physical health. In light of the spectrum of interests that the Supreme Court has held specially protected we conclude that the Constitution protects from excessive state interference a woman's decision respecting breastfeeding her child." 650 F.2d at 787.

This means that you can breastfeed anywhere you want – the mall, a restaurant, airport, swimming pool, wherever. You do not need to feed your baby in the restroom or go out to your car. Further, you are within your rights to feed your baby without covering up, and some women choose to do just that. However, most women are more comfortable feeding baby discreetly. If you want to stay covered, here are some things that might help.

  • Consider clothing. A nursing bra is a must for discreet feedings. Loose tops are easy to pull up, paired with a blazer, sweater or open blouse for covering from the side. There are also tops made just for nursing with convenient flaps and slits.
  • You can throw a light blanket or other cover-up over your shoulder. Some babies won’t nurse when they are covered, so this will not work for everyone.
  • The trickiest part is latching on. Once baby is latched, she will do the shielding. You may want to use a blanket until baby is latched on and then remove it if baby is uncomfortable.
  • A baby nursed from a sling is very discreet. Unless someone gets uncomfortably close, they won’t be able to tell whether baby is nursing or just snuggled up to mom.
  • Practice makes perfect. If you are concerned about exposure, practice at home in front of a mirror until you feel comfortable.

While you are breastfeeding, keep in mind that you are doing the best thing for your baby. Confidence matters and your body language communicates a great deal to those around you. If you think you might be challenged about your breastfeeding try making eye contact with the person who seems upset, you might even smile benignly. Most people will turn  away once you make eye contact. If someone does ask you to leave, stand your ground, if you can. You are legally in the right.

Finally, remember to support your breastfeeding sisters, even when your kids get big and wean. Smile at breastfeeding a woman, give her a little encouragement if it seems appropriate, comment to the people you are with on how wonderful it is that a mom is nurturing her little one. 

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