Is Breastfeeding in Public Illegal?

By  | 

Breastfeeding in public can be intimidating and challenging, especially for new mothers who are new to both motherhood and nursing and whose babies are getting the hang of breastfeeding. Along with the natural challenge of maintaining comfort and confidence while breastfeeding in public, society sometimes adds a stigma of pressure and negativity toward mothers who nurse their babies in public.

Society — especially Western society — has unfortunately put an unnecessary label on breastfeeding in public, classifying it as a faux pas or inappropriate. The reason behind this is mainly due to it be over sexualized.

There is nothing about breastfeeding that is sexual in nature. Breasts’ primary function is to feed and nourish babies. It is one of the greatest bonds between mother and child and I’m sure many mothers can agree that there is nothing sexy about breastfeeding. It requires a lot of work and is oftentimes very painful. There is nothing more excruciating than a baby be distracting by something behind them and turning, while still latched, to see what it is.

breastfeeding pain

Fortunately, laws in forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands protect mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies in public, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website. In these states, it is illegal and punishable by law for to discriminate a mother for feeding her child in public places.

Mothers should feel comfortable to feed their babies whenever and wherever they choose. Sadly, this does not always happen and several cases of discrimination have been reported. One example of such discrimination occurred in Indiana in 2013 when a restaurant manager asked a mother to nurse her baby in the bathroom instead of the restaurant. In other instances, mothers have been asked to leave stores or to cover up while they nurse their babies, even though in most states it is illegal to request breastfeeding mothers to do so.

The laws that protect nursing mothers from being discriminated against while feeding their babies in public are in place to do just that: protect nursing mothers. Sometimes mothers are unaware of these laws or feel nervous to mention them if they are asked to stop breastfeeding their child in public. Mothers should be able to feed their babies with confidence, and businesses should abide by these laws and ensure that their employees are aware of mothers’ rights to feed their children.

Laws that protect nursing mothers vary by state. In addition to the laws set in place in forty-nine states, D.C., and the Virgin Islands, twenty-nine states, D.C., and the Virgin Islands also exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. Several states have state-specific laws regarding breastfeeding. Because these laws are different in each state, mothers can educate themselves by learning their unique laws. Learning their rights is one way nursing mothers can gain confidence in feeding in public. This can also change the negative view that many people unnecessarily have regarding public breastfeeding.

For more information regarding laws that protect mothers’ rights to breastfeed in public, visit, or contact your local La Leche League or state representative.

Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures
Breastfeeding State Laws

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>