Know Your Rights! Breastfeeding in Public.

I realize that World Breastfeeding Week is over, but there is something I have been thinking about for a while and wanted to post about.  Everytime I nurse my son in a public place, I am always prepared with a witty comeback to defend my rights.  But, I am not prepared with what I should be: proof of legality.  I am perfectly within my rights to breastfeed in public; covered, uncovered, semi covered, etc.  If the manager at Uno’s came to me and asked me to leave I would have choice words for him, but would I be able to justify my right to breastfeed with concrete fact?  A few days ago I looked up my rights.  La Leche League has a handy list of state laws, which I utilized.  Here is the law for New York State:

BFcard copy
My BF Card

NY CLS Civ R § 79-e (Article 7 Miscellaneous Provisions).
1994 N.Y. ALS 98; 1994 N.Y. LAWS 98; 1994 N.Y. S.N. 3999

§ 79-E. Right To Breast Feed.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breast feed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breast feeding.

This addresses my right to breastfeed, and addresses the showing of my breast, but what if the manager argues that any of my breast showing is against exposure or obscenity laws? Well, he ya go mister!

NY Penal Laws § 245.01, 245.02

§ 245.01. Exposure of a person

A person is guilty of exposure if he appears in a public place in such a manner that the private or intimate parts of his body are unclothed or exposed. For purposes of this section, the private or intimate parts of a female person shall include that portion of the breast which is below the top of the areola. This section shall not apply to the breastfeeding of infants or to any person entertaining or performing in a play, exhibition, show or entertainment.

Since I am a busy mother of a very busy 8.5 month old, I don’t have time to memorize this.  As hilarious as it would be to rattle off penal codes to a very unsuspecting individual, it isn’t going to happen.  Instead, I have made myself a handy business card with the law printed on it.  This card will be stored in my wallet, and laminated.  Since it is a business card, I have opted to use the first law.  If you are interested in doing the same, which I highly recommend, and wish to include obscenity laws, perhaps you should make a sheet with all of the applicable laws.

Do you have any ideas on how to protect your rights?  Leave a comment, I would love to hear them!

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  • MISSOURI

    In 1999, Missouri enacted a law that requires new mothers be given information by the hospitals on breastfeeding and the benefits to the child, as well as information on local breastfeeding support groups. The law also requires them to offer breastfeeding consultations to new mothers when determined appropriate by the attending physician. Also, all physicians who provide ob/gyn care shall inform patients as to prenatal preparation for and postnatal benefits of breastfeeding.

    The law then goes on to state that a woman has a right to breastfeed her child in public “…with as much discretion as possible.” This restrictive language requiring discretion does not promote breastfeeding, and should not be copied by other states.

    They don’t give you any info on breastfeeding here. No help. And I’m so lucky as to never have gotten into trouble when walking down main street nursing my little one in my wrap… 🙁

  • I have a card I got from the WIC office that has the Oklahoma breastfeeding laws on it. It doesn’t however have the obscenity laws on it. I will have to find them. Thanks for this great post.
    .-= Kristy Moon´s last blog ..Blog Link up – Getting to know you =-.

  • I am going to do that! I was breastfeeding in Cracker Barrel the other day and got a few looks from other patrons, but no comments about it other than my teenage waitress telling me that my nursing cover was cute.

    • I was just breastfeeding in front of Cracker Barrel in the rocking chairs outside a few days ago. How funny!

  • Jennifer B

    You know, I’ve never gotten any comments about nursing in public. I’ve been walking through Target nursing away, restaurants, etc. I’m usually fairly discreet, but I don’t freak about it. Apparently I was slightly less discreet on my last trip through the aiport, when I nice older couple sat down on the terminal chairs nearby and the lady said, “oh my, I don’t mean to be nosy, but have we come a long way!”. The best I could come up with at the time was, “well actually, we’ve just gone back to what always worked!” She was not squeebed out or anything, just surprised to see it, and she said “good for you!”. If all nursing moms just did their thing out and about whenever necessary, then I think it would help to at least desensitize folks to it and then maybe they’d come around a bit. There will always be people who are so uptight they can’t handle it, but oh well. Some people still think that smoking doesn’t kill ya. What can you do? I for one, love reading posts about stuff like this, and try to encourage my fellow BFing moms. Speaking of BF, little one’s stirring from nap now. Peace all!

  • @ Jennifer B That is a great story! I would love to be complimented for NIP. Normally, people just sheepishly turn away. Probably out of respect, not disgust. I have also nursed everywhere, including walking around Target, and everywhere else. I am also lucky in that I have never had a negative comment come my way. I hope that is a sign that is it becoming more mainstream. When people don’t turn away then we will know it really is! Thanks for stopping in!

  • Tammy in TN

    This is VERY useful. Thanks for posting!

  • Elisha

    I was nursing at a Texas Ranger game off in a corner last week because my 13 month old son gets very distracted. A sweet worker came and brought me her chair to sit in and chatted with me. She told me that it was so nice to see me nursing my older infant out in public. She then told me she nursed her daughter to age four but had to hide it because everyone gave her such a hard time. : (. But it was so nice to have someone come and chat with me and not look embarrased because they accidently glanced at the woman breastfeeding ((gasp!)).

    Almost always when I nurse at a resturant the waiters avoid coming to our table until I am done. And I even use a hooter hider! Crazy. But I have yet to have a rude comment after nursing all three of my kids in public : )

  • Breast milk is one power packed liquid. It offers more for your baby than formula, or any other scientific creation for that matter. As you begin to plan for the future of your baby, make a commitment to breast feeding him for as long as you possibly can – as it will do both your bodies well