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Breastfeeding is among the most normal and natural things in the world. Though research about the benefits of breastfeeding is always ongoing, it is absolutely clear that breast milk offers many benefits to babies and their mothers.
For babies, these benefits include a lower risk of obesity, fewer chest and ear infections, lower odds of diarrhea or vomiting that would require hospitalization, and less constipation. Research even shows that breastfed babies have slightly higher IQ scores on average. Moms reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by nursing their children. The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively during the first six months, and that they continue until the baby turns two.
Have you ever heard of someone calling a mother out for bottle-feeding her baby in public, referring to the act as shameful and disgusting? Have you ever heard of a restaurant manager telling a formula-feeding parent to “take it to the bathroom, please?”, or a receptionist at a doctor's office asking a mom to cover up her bottle feeding?
I didn't think so either.
Babies are born with the need to feed frequently, and breastfeeding has repeatedly been demonstrated to be the best way to meet this need. It is, I think, socially acceptable for parents to be out and about with their infants. So why is breastfeeding in public still controversial?
More to the point, what are your rights are a breastfeeding mother — and what are your child's rights? What can you do when you feed your baby in public and you are asked to cover up, take it to the bathroom, or leave?
What The Law Says About Breastfeeding In Public
Breastfeeding in public should undoubtedly be a legal right. I see it as the child's right to be fed, not the mother's right to either nurse her baby or... expose her breasts, if you like. Breasts have become extremely sexualized in modern western society, but the fact is that they have always had a dual purpose and that feeding babies is the primary one.
In the United States, breastfeeding laws vary from state to state. Breastfeeding laws at federal level address breastfeeding rights at federal premises.
Furthermore, the Fair Labor Standards Act states that employers must provide reasonable break time for breastfeeding mothers of children under a year old, and that the mother should have a private place other than a bathroom in which to nurse the baby.
US residents who want to know what rights they have in their particular state should always check state laws. However, it is good to know that 45 states have laws that protect a mother's right to breastfeed her child wherever and whenever she needs to. Generally, this means that you may breastfeed if you are in a place where you are otherwise permitted to be, and this includes stores, medical facilities and restaurants.
Breastfeeding in public is also legally protected in the United Kingdom, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Australia among other countries.