Breastfeeding in Public

In light of last week’s post about why to choose breastfeeding over formula feeding, I felt it necessary to address the issue of breastfeeding in public places and at work.  It is not new news that there are laws to protect mothers and their right to breastfeed in any public or private location. 

  • Forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.
  • Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws
  • Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace.
  • Twelve states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty.
  • Five states and Puerto Rico have implemented or encouraged the development of a breastfeeding awareness education campaign.

Here you can read more about laws related to breastfeeding and unique laws specific to your state.

However, there are certain circumstances and rare occasions when a mother may be harassed for breastfeeding in public and those moms are entitled to speak out and take action.  That is exactly what Houston mother, Michelle Hickman, chose to do.  Earlier last year Hickman claims she was harassed by Target staff when she found a quiet space in the store to breastfeed her infant.  She says it was humiliating and she wants to “make a stand in support of nursing in public so this doesn’t happen again.”

Subsequently, Hickman planned an international “nurse-in” which was held at all Target locations on December 28. Here is some live footage of the moms who took part in the breastfeeding flash mob that was held at the Houston Target.   

There are also laws in place to protect women and their right to breastfeed at work. As part of Obama’s health care reform legislation, employers are federally mandated to provide nursing mothers with breaks and a place to pump.

Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA

“[Employers are required to provide] reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth … [as well as] a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.”

Some companies that have already been cited for breaking this law according to the Department of Labor are:

  • Dollar General
  • Dillard’s
  • Starbucks
  • McDonalds

It is a positive sign to see an increase in awareness and greater emphasis placed on women’s rights related to breastfeeding.  Hopefully the increased awareness will influence future moms and their decision to breastfeed, and reinforce the message that breast is best!