Your Right to Nurse in Public

 

 "I'm sorry, you can't do that here."

 

Amid all of the things you have to worry about - namely taking care of your hungry, upset baby - you do not want to hear this loaded and accusing phrase designed to fill you with shame and send you away from the "decent" people.  Many women don't realize that, unless this is your mother-in-law talking in her own, private residence (a situation deserving of it's own, separate post), this person is likely 100% wrong! 

Anyone who tells you this in a public place (including employees of stores and restaurants) is not only nosy and out-of-line, but is also legally incorrect in all but two US states.  Except in Nebraska and Idaho (where public nursing is still not illegal, just not protected yet), you can nurse your baby freely in public - not in a bothroom, not in a "special" hidden room far away, but anywhere you are allowed to be. 

See the map posted here with lots more helpful information by the Centers for Disease Control to learn more about your rights, state-by-state.  The La Leche Leage is also a great reference for breastfeeding rights.  Another informative listing updated in the fall of 2009 is provided by the National Conference of State Legislators.

*Update:   A great article from Mothering magazine provides lots of current inforamtion and detail: Lactation and the Law

One great thing to have in your wallet or diaper bag is a breastfeeding rights card or "license to nurse."  These can be found online for most states.  I am providing links to a couple below as examples. 

South Carolina License to Nurse

Washington D.C. License to Nurse

Printed material can be nice to have, but whether you have it or not, don't be bullied!  You might also consider wearing the shirt depicted above which I found at cafe press (throw this onsie on your kid and you're good to go).  It will probably cause that manger at Applebees or Toys R Us to think twice before approaching... 

More posts to come on this, including other important legislation that has and has not yet been passed to support breastfeeding families, and what you can do to help.