It’s probably no surprise to anyone to know that breastfeeding has long been a taboo subject and something that breastfeeding mothers have felt self-conscious about for quite some time. People find themselves often asking if breastfeeding is even legal given the backlash and comments they receive from others. Having someone shout at a breastfeeding mother in public to “show some decency and cover-up”, go feed their child in the bathroom, etc. is unacceptable and harmful. We’re here to dispel the myth that breastfeeding in public is illegal and to share with you some ways that you can breastfeed in public in peace.
Everything you need to know about breastfeeding in public
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things we do as humans. Breastmilk is packed with nutrients and antibodies, vital to development and growth, which the little developing human can benefit from. Not to mention the bonding experience that occurs between a lactating mother and her infant. The process is undeniably magical. However, the choice to breastfeed in public, or even breastfeed at all, is completely one’s own decision and you should not feel pressured either way. We won’t lie though, for many years breastfeeding has been met with some controversy. From restaurant owners to patrons asking breastfeeding mothers to cover up or feed their child in a toilet, it seems like a large portion of the public are still uncomfortable and against the idea of breastfeeding in public.
Benefits of breastfeeding
There are several benefits to breastfeeding that encourage good health for the baby. I think any mother can agree that babies are hungry quite a lot of the time and being able to breastfeed at any given moment can be crucial for a lactating mother. They shouldn’t have to worry about where and when they need to breastfeed and should feel at ease to do this whenever (and wherever!) it’s necessary. Studies have even shown that breast milk is one of the best ways to protect both babies and mothers from illness and disease (1).
A few examples of how breastfed babies may grow up to be healthier:
- Fewer instances of allergies
- Fewer childhood cancers
- Lower risk of type I and II diabetes
- Fewer instances of Crohn’s disease and colitis
- Lower rates of respiratory illness
- Fewer speech and orthodontic problems
- Fewer cavities
- Less likelihood of becoming obese later in childhood
- Improved brain maturation
- Greater immunity to infection (2)
Breastfeeding is also healthier for the mother both mentally and physically as it:
- Promotes faster weight loss after birth
- Stimulates the uterus to contract and return to its normal size
- Reduces postpartum bleeding
- Fewer urinary tract infections
- Less chance of anemia
- Less risk of postpartum depression and more positive mood (2)
This list isn’t exhaustive as there are plenty more benefits for both mother and child. If you have any questions about breastfeeding, please speak with your healthcare provider for a more detailed discussion.
Is it legal to breastfeed in public?
Yes, breastfeeding in public is perfectly legal and protected by federal and state law in all 50 states in the USA (3)! Breastfeeding in public is legal in most countries too but be sure to check if you are visiting another country outside of the US and wish to breastfeed your child. Breastfeeding mothers have extra protection in certain places in the US too and federal legislation guarantees that nursing is always allowed on federal property. One’s employer must allow them to nurse or pump during work breaks, daycare centers must provide nursing facilities, and nursing mothers are exempt from jury duty in 17 states (3).
If you are breastfeeding and are approached by anyone on the matter of your breastfeeding, try to stay calm and keep your composure. You have every right to breastfeed in public. You can consider getting their details to file a complaint against them. As well, you can consider sharing your experience, so the wider community is aware that people are still trying to shame or comment on breastfeeding mothers. We know, it’s hard to believe that even in 2021 there is still shaming in public for breastfeeding.
No, breastfeeding is not sexual
There is a widely held notion that breasts are considered sexual; however, this could not be further from the truth. Breasts are a portal by which mothers can feed their babies and transmit health and wellness to infants at a very crucial time in their lifecycle. The breast is a comforting place for a baby to be, having been ejected from the mother’s womb during the act of giving birth, being nursed by a lactating mother can provide a sense of comfort that a baby is needing.
Not every baby is accepting of being covered while they eat. This is highly understandable as we ourselves would not like a sheet or scarf over our heads while trying to eat. Breastfeeding is perfectly natural and breastfeeding mothers have a right to a normal life where they can take their baby out with them and feel free to feed the baby as and when the baby needs.
Perifit: Supporting your postpartum journey and helping you gain back strength in your pelvic floor with games and biofeedback
Perifit advocates for everyone’s health and wellbeing and is committed to providing information on topics related to personal health such as reproductive and intimate health. Perifit offers a device and platform that uses the biofeedback approach to provide you with instant feedback on your pelvic floor strength and the quality of your contractions (Kegels) by using its internal sensor and mobile app (4). This device uses a program, which can be accessed through your smartphone, to provide pelvic floor biofeedback training to all users regardless of age or pelvic floor condition. Perifit offers a fun and engaging way to increase your pelvic floor strength.
- How to check your breasts for lumps
- The Case for Kegels: 5 Before & After Pregnancy Perks
- Postpartum bodies: 5 things you should know
- Taking care of your pelvic floor postpartum
- USA Today, ‘This is why moms breastfeed on flights and in public…not that we should have to explain’ date accessed on 10/27/2021: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/parenting/2019/08/01/breastfeeding-public-and-flights-explained/1865134001/
- Cleveland Clinic, ‘The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby and for Mom’ date accessed on 10/27/2021: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-breastfeeding-for-baby--for-mom
- What to expect, ‘Breastfeeding in Public : Tips and Laws for Nursing Mothers’ date accessed on 10/27/2021: https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-in-public/
- Perifit, ‘Strengthen your pelvic floor with games’ Perifit, date accessed on 10/27/2021: https://perifit.co/