Breastfeeding in Public: Tips for Nursing Confidently

For mothers, the act of breastfeeding is not just a source of nourishment; it's a beautiful bond between parent and child, a natural connection that should be celebrated and supported. Yet, many mothers feel a wave of apprehension when contemplating the idea of breastfeeding in public. The good news is that it's not only entirely natural but also 100% legal. To help you better understand, here's what you need to know about laws that protect your right to nurse in public and how to do so with confidence.

Understanding Breastfeeding Laws

While some mothers may feel uncomfortable about the idea of public breastfeeding, it's completely natural and 100% legal. In fact, laws for nursing mothers are strong, and nursing in public is legal in all 50 states. It's also protected by federal law, and women are allowed to breastfeed in any public place. Additionally, thanks to the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2019, some public buildings are required to provide a covered, hygienic area (not the bathroom) for women to sit and nurse or pump.

Laws that protect nursing mothers in public mean that you can feed your child in any place that you are legally allowed to be. The only exception is when you're in a moving car, as your baby is required to be secured in a car seat at all times. Aside from that, breastfeeding moms are free to nurse wherever they feel comfortable.

Breastfeeding mothers should also be able to feed their babies on flights. However, some airlines may have specific regulations, so it's important to contact them ahead of time and know your rights before booking a flight.

Nursing moms also have additional protections when they're in certain places. This is especially true for any federal property. Your employer must also provide you with adequate time and a comfortable location to nurse or pump at work. If you're unsure about your right to breastfeed in public locations or are looking for additional breastfeeding support, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant for recommendations. Many states have specific tips and laws for nursing that extend your rights, so don't be afraid to feed your baby when you need to.

Should You Nurse in Public?

The decision to breastfeed in public is a personal one, and it ultimately comes down to what makes you feel comfortable. Many mothers embrace the opportunity to nurse their babies wherever they are, while others may prefer more private settings. The important thing to remember is that you have the right to nurse in public, and you should never feel ashamed or discouraged from doing so. There are laws to protect you throughout the U.S. and plenty of tips to help you feel as confident as possible while nursing.

7 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public

Mothers everywhere are fighting to normalize breastfeeding outside of the home, but it can still be a little intimidating. To help you feel more comfortable, consider some of the following tips.

1. Know Your Breastfeeding Rights

The most important aspect of nursing your baby in public is understanding your rights. Do your research based on your state and consider printing out a copy of the laws to carry with you. This can make you feel secure and comfortable breastfeeding in areas where you may have been unsure. Plus, when you know your rights, you can stand up to unwanted attention and protect breastfeeding laws for you and others.

2. Consider Your Options for Breastfeeding Locations

With that being said, if you're still a little uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public, try to do some research ahead of time. Learn about areas that may provide you with a little more coverage so you can feel more comfortable as you adapt. While you should never be ashamed to breastfeed your baby, whether you're in shopping malls or restaurants, some women do prefer a little privacy.

3. Have Breastfeeding Supplies on Hand

Many moms like to nurse with the help of a nursing pillow, nursing pads, or other supplies. If you normally use something to breastfeed, pack the diaper bag with your supplies so they're with you on the go. If you're nervous about the idea of breastfeeding in public, consider using a nursing cover to help you discreetly feed your child wherever you are. While nursing rooms may be available, you don't necessarily have to find one. Breastfeeding your baby in public can be simple, especially if you're well-prepared. Alternatively, express breast milk in advance to feed your baby on the go in situations where you might not feel comfortable nursing.

4. Dress Comfortably

Choosing comfortable clothing can make public breastfeeding easier. Consider wearing nursing tops and nursing bras, which provide quick and easy access to your breasts without the need for extensive wardrobe adjustments. Loose-fitting, layered clothing can also offer added coverage and discretion. For example, tops that pull up from the waist are easier than tops you need to take off over your shoulders. There is a ton of maternity wear designed to help you maximize efficiency, so spend some time shopping around.

5. Wear Your Baby in a Sling

Babywearing is a great way to make breastfeeding in public even easier. When you do this, your baby will have easy access to your breasts without you needing to hold them in a strategic position. You can provide all of the benefits of breastfeeding hands-free. Plus, a sling can help you feel a little more covered, as it's not as obvious as some nursing positions.

6. Carry a Blanket for Privacy

Bringing a lightweight blanket or shawl can provide an extra layer of privacy for both you and your baby during public breastfeeding. These versatile items can be draped over your shoulder or across your lap to cover you while you nurse discreetly. It's a simple yet effective way to make yourself feel more comfortable, especially if you don't have a nursing cover.

7. Practice in Public or Private

If you're new to feeling a little unsure, consider practicing in both public and private settings. The more you nurse in different environments, the more confident you'll become. Start by nursing in front of friends and family to build your confidence, and gradually work your way up to public spaces. Remember that practice makes perfect, and soon you'll be a pro at nursing in any location.

What to Do if You're Being Harassed While Breastfeeding in Public

Unfortunately, people sometimes go out of their way to harass women practicing their rights. If this happens, it's important to follow the steps below.

Stay Calm

While breastfeeding in public is your right, you may encounter negative reactions or even harassment from some individuals who may not understand or respect your choice. The first and most important step in such situations is to stay calm. Remember that you are within your rights, and your primary focus should be nourishing your baby.

Call the Police

If you're in a situation where harassment escalates or becomes threatening, do not hesitate to call the police. Your safety and that of your child should always be your top priority. The authorities can help ensure your rights are upheld and maintain a safe environment for breastfeeding.

File a Complaint

After the incident, consider filing a formal complaint against the harasser, whether it was an individual or an establishment that failed to support your rights. By doing so, you contribute to protecting breastfeeding rights for all nursing mothers.

Speak Out

Your experience can serve as a valuable teaching moment for others who may not fully understand the importance of breastfeeding rights. Share your story and experiences to raise awareness and advocate for a more breastfeeding-friendly society.

Breastfeeding in public is not only your legal right but also a beautiful and natural way to nourish your child. By understanding your rights, preparing yourself, and staying confident, you can nurse your baby in any location comfortably and without fear. And if you encounter challenges, remember that you have the support of the law and a community of mothers who have faced similar situations.

In instances where you'd rather stick to bottle feeding, Byram Healthcare can help. Byram is here to help you find the perfect insurance-covered breast pump for your needs. We partner with various insurance providers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Anthem, Ambetter, United Healthcare, Cigna, and more to simplify the ordering process. We also offer several options for ordering breast pump replacement parts and accessories through leading insurance partners. If you need any assistance throughout the process, don’t hesitate to contact one of our specialists today.