It is your legal right to breastfeed anywhere you are lawfully allowed to be, covered or uncovered, with any amount of exposed breast skin as might naturally show in the process of feeding. No one can make you leave and carry on in, say, a public bathroom or the backseat of your car.
“Forty-six states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location…
Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws…
Several states have unique laws related to breastfeeding [including Virginia, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, California, New York, and my resident state of Texas].”
However, there are no laws in place to stop anyone from verbally harassing a nursing mom and it’s not illegal for anyone to ASK her to leave. Let’s hope soon enough more people will know better so they can do better, too.
You have the right to freely feed your child at the breast without making grand attempts to cover up any resultant flashes of skin. You also reserve the right to cover yourself or your child for privacy, minimizing distractions, or any other reason without being judged or ashamed.
Is it ridiculous that our country instates LAWS around normal feeding of infants in public? Absolutely.
Especially for women who practice what is commonly called (but I hate to call) “extended breastfeeding” (it’s actually just natural term breastfeeding, no extension). This entire article for La Leche League is devoted to the topic of what a mother should do if she’s been reported or investigated for child abuse or neglect on the basis of — wait for it — breastfeeding a child past infancy.
“Some people are upset, if not shocked, to learn that children can nurse for so long. Curiously, these same people are hardly surprised to see kindergartners sucking their thumbs or fingers. The truth is that the need to suck, like many other dependency needs, does not disappear overnight, and often lasts longer than we as a society are willing to accept. Indeed, the average age of weaning around the world is 4.2 years.”
I don’t need legal backing to assure me that on-demand nursing any time, any place, any age within natural weaning is not only perfectly fine and appropriate, but also perhaps a visceral reminder for the most oxytocin-repressed of the core compassion our culture seems to lack toward mothers and babies.
But we do want these laws. Without them, many mothers are left vulnerable and their babies, by default, in great need. If people in your state tend to run insensitive to normal infant feeding in public, in the workplace, or in private, make sure to stay abreast on state-specific breastfeeding laws in the United States here.