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 http://www.aap.org/policy/re9729.html.
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
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 http://www.lalecheleague.org/LawBills.html.
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
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.