ProMoM Inc. - Promoting the awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding.

A Mother's Legal Right
to Breastfeed in Public


by Alexis Martin Neely

A breastfeeding mother may nurse her baby anywhere that mother is entitled to be regardless of whether the state she is in has enacted specific legislation providing as much. In nearly half of the United States, legislation has been enacted confirming a mother's right to breastfeed in public, and in some cases, providing a remedy for mothers who are harassed for breastfeeding in public. Underlying such legislation is the understanding that breastfeeding is the natural, normal and preferred method of feeding infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all mothers breastfeed for at least 12 months and continue thereafter for as long as the mother and baby mutually desire. The entire AAP policy statement is available at A recent study published in Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the AAP, found that pacifier use is associated with significant declines in the duration of breastfeeding. Similar studies have shown that the early introduction of bottles is likely to lead to nipple confusion and can lead to a decrease in a mother's milk supply.

A mother's milk supply is generated concurrently with the baby's demand for milk; thus, each time a mother feeds her baby with a bottle she sends a signal that her baby needs that much less milk. It is vital that a breastfeeding mother either nurse her baby whenever he is hungry, or if she is going to feed a bottle because she will be away from the baby for an extended period, stimulate her breasts with the use of a high quality breastpump. Breastfeeding mothers have no need to use pacifiers or bottles when they are going out with their babies in public as they are able to pacify and nourish their infants completely at the breast even, and especially, in public.

A mother's breast is the original convenience food. Breastmilk is always ready and available, at the perfect temperature and in just the right amount, with no preparation needed.

The Federal government recently enacted legislation that ensures a woman's right to breastfeed anywhere on federal property. Many states, and even some localities, have such legislation as well. To determine whether your state has already enacted legislation protecting breastfeeding in public, read the article by breastfeeding rights expert Liz Baldwin available at Additionally, several states currently have legislation pending that will further strengthen a mother's right to breastfeed in public. To determine if your state has such legislation pending and to find out how to support such legislation if it does, check the website

If you live in a state that does not have such legislation, you still have the right to breastfeed wherever you have the right to be. Your legal recourse against someone trying to prevent you from breastfeeding in public may be different, however, depending on the kind of legislation in your state. If someone tells you to stop breastfeeding your baby somewhere you have a right to be or asks you to breastfeed in a different location, you must decide whether you want to address the issue immediately or leave and institute an education campaign later.

As a Los Angeles attorney and expert on the rights of breastfeeding mothers, I usually suggest that whether you decide to confront the issue immediately or take action later, you should ask the harasser whether you are entitled to remain in the location if you stop breastfeeding because that will lay the foundation for you to argue that you were wrongfully harassed. A mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location she is otherwise entitled to be.

If you do decide to assert your right to breastfeed immediately, politely tell the offendor that you are entitled to feed your baby anywhere you are entitled to be. If you live in a state with legislation clarifying that right, mention that your right is protected by state legislation. If this does not appease the offendor, ask to speak with a manager or person in charge and explain to them that you were harassed and you would like an apology. If the harassment continues, leave the location and take action later.

Taking action against harassment for breastfeeding in public can involve a number of steps. First, contact your state representative and let her know that you have been harassed for breastfeeding in public. Begin with a phone call and follow up with a concise letter that clearly states the who, what, where, when, and how of exactly what happened. Also, provide a short paragraph that states the benefits of breastfeeding.

Then, send a copy of that letter and a formal request for a written apology to the manager of the establishment where you were harassed. If this letter does not garner the response that you believe you are entitled to, you may decide to contact the media or write a letter to the editor.

If none of these options work and you think you might want to take legal action against the establishment, consult with a local attorney who you can educate about the importance of breastfeeding and who will help you to file a formal legal complaint against the establishment. Check out the articles here on ProMoM's site, and contact your local La Leche League Leader, too, for assistance with information you can use to educate and inform.

Through activities such as the National Nurse Out, sponsored by ProMoM, and World Breastfeeding Week, education campaigns such as the one described above will not be necessary. The more women who breastfeed in public, the more our culture will accept that breastfeeding is the natural and normal method of feeding young children.