Defending Your Baby's Right to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding in public should no longer be a controversial topic.

The fact is, your baby needs to eat no matter where you are or who might notice.

Don’t let anyone tell you to feed your baby in a restroom, dressing room, your car, or anywhere else where you’d feel uncomfortable eating a meal!

You and your baby deserve more respect than that.

Do you believe that our culture and society frowns upon breastfeeding in public?

Do you have the feeling that dozens of angry (or prying!) eyes are upon you when you sit down to nurse in a crowded shopping mall?

Do you fear being asked to leave or stop by management in a restaurant?

Maybe these feelings and fears are so oppressive that you end up trying to time your outings around baby’s nursing sessions.

Maybe you find yourself always leaving the room (or building!) to nurse, and feeling frustrated + held back from participating fully in social events.

The truth is, you have zero responsibility to cater to others’ delicate sensibilities--regardless of how they feel about YOU parenting your child.

Besides, once baby latches on, the fact is, many people won’t even realize that you’re breastfeeding.

Most importantly, however, you should keep in mind that it’s not your responsibility as a nursing mother to tailor your nursing relationship to other people’s comfort levels.

Your baby’s right to eat freely holds more sway than anyone else’s opinion.

Furthermore, this right is expressly upheld by state law in ALL 50 states. (about time, eh?)

Texas Health & Safety Code, Sec. 165.002. Right to Breast-feed:

A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.

So, they're still hyphenating "breastfeeding", but it's progress.

Many places, including the local WIC offices, often have pre-printed business-style cards available for nursing moms to carry in their purse or pocket, displaying the state law. You can also make and print out your own, if you prefer.

Here’s a link with all 50 states, already formatted and ready to print!

These can come in handy in the unlikely event that you are discriminated against, or if you want to encourage or reassure another mom who’s unsure of her own and her baby’s rights.

Here’s what to do if you’re discriminated against for breastfeeding in public (asked to leave, move, or cover up):

  • Stay calm, level-headed, and polite. It’s possible the person confronting you is just as uncomfortable as you are - and escalating emotions solve little.

  • Know your rights. Remember the phrase, “If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any.” This is where having a copy of the word-for-word state law is very helpful.

  • If it’s an employee, ask to speak to a supervisor or manager, and inform both of them of the law and your rights. If it’s another customer or patron, calmly and clearly tell them that you are exercising a legally protected human right by feeding your baby.

  • Even if there’s a designated “nursing room” or another secluded area, you are completely within your legal rights to nurse your baby wherever you choose.

  • Know that this kind of treatment is harassment and you do not have to submit to their requests. The law is on your side.

Being accosted like this can be a very emotionally draining experience, but thankfully it is rare.

It's only happened to me twice over 8+ years of breastfeeding, and I live in the American south.

Both times were at a Wal-Mart (not surprising), and I may have gotten furiously-teary-eyed, but I stated the law and asserted myself.

In both cases, the manager ended up apologizing profusely. They also agreed to my suggestion that they should train all their workers about the state law regarding breastfeeding in public.

Oh, and there was that one time a Target employee tried to stop me entering the store because they thought my newborn in a sling was a puppy--HA!

They were so embarrassed. :)

So--know your rights, and breastfeed without fear, mama!