Posted: Apr 19, 2013 11:00 AM
 
Breastfeeding a baby is the norm, but moms are running into issues when they try to feed them in public. Good news, Mama! You are allowed to breastfeed your baby. She needs you to and society does too.

Breastfeeding in public is the cornerstone of one of the largest debates about early parenthood, period. Some folks continue to believe that breastfeeding is best done at home, or if not at home, completely covered with a blanket. Others believe it's against the law or store policy and ask the mother to cover up, go to another area (usually a bathroom is recommended) or worse yet, phone the police.

Breastfeeding in public is not illegal

Most states in America have laws that specifically allow a mother to breastfeed her baby anywhere she is legally allowed to be — public or private.

Most states in America have laws that specifically allow a mother to breastfeed her baby anywhere she is legally allowed to be — public or private. You would be hard pressed to find a business or a store that has a policy that prevents mothers from nursing on their property. In fact, most businesses have policies that state that breastfeeding mothers are not to be dealt with any differently than any other customer.

As a mom who has breastfed each of her four children, it always gets me a little when I read a story about a mom who was harassed, spoken down to or asked to leave a place of business because she was feeding her baby. The comments on the news stories often bring me to a new level of despair.

Monica breastfeeding in park

Not just a right

Nursing in public is not just a right, I really feel that if more moms do it, it will lead to a betterment of our society. Pregnant women and new mothers may be bolstered by seeing a mom breastfeed her baby. It may encourage them to sit down and nurse their hungry infant instead of taking the time to find a private place to nurse, often to the sadness of the baby who will likely descend into real hunger and need comforting before he can even feed. It also may encourage parents that they don't need a cover — and they're happy, because their baby gets hot and uncomfortable when their head is completely covered when they nurse.

If more people see moms nursing, it will become less of a big deal and more of a normal way to feed a baby.

It's also important because if more people see moms nursing, it will become less of a big deal and more of a normal way to feed a baby. I hope to see a day when I don't read comments comparing breastfeeding a baby to a sexual act, for example, or public urination or defecation. I hope that if more children see women nursing, they will grow up to be respectful members of society and will not compare women who nurse past one year of age to child molesters. I hope that if more moms nurse their kids in public, they will no longer be accused of "whipping it out" and "begging for attention."

Jessica breastfeeding on park bench

Nursing in public

And if some breast is exposed — well, you'll see more at a swimming pool, in a magazine or on the big screen.

I have always worn a nursing tank top under my shirts, which allows for total tummy coverage (honestly I've always been more self-conscious about exposing tummy flab than side boob). When my little one shows signs of hunger, I unclasp the tank and bring the baby up to my breast. I then raise my shirt just enough so that she can latch on. Looking at me from afar, it looks like I'm cuddling my baby. And if some breast is exposed — well, you'll see more at a swimming pool, in a magazine or on the big screen. I have never gotten much more than a glance when out and about.

Nursing isn't just a right for a mother — it's a real need for a baby. A baby can't wait until later and many won't take a bottle. Also, many moms don't respond well (or even have) breast pumps. If you're a new mom, take a few practice runs. And you'll find that the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll become.

More on breastfeeding

Breastfeeding toddlers: Why extended nursing works
Benefits of breastfeeding beyond infancy
Making the decision to breastfeed

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