Parents Perspective

Breastfeeding in Public: Can We Just Get Over It Already?

Woman Breastfeeding in Public
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and there's perfectly-timed proof that such a month is necessary—not just to promote the benefits of breastfeeding, but to raise awareness of a woman's right to do it.

Just last week, the Houston Chronicle reported that the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum apologized to a nursing mom who was told she needed to breastfeed her baby in a bathroom. According to news reports, mom Vanessa Bailey was told by a security guard that she couldn't nurse her child in the lobby, and that she needed to find a restroom in which to do so. (She's hardly the first mom told to be told to nurse in a bathroom—in fact, there's an entire campaign, When Nurture Calls, about it.) According to the Chronicle, "Bailey later tweeted and emailed her disagreement with the museum's ruling directly to the Bush museum's official social media accounts and also to former first lady Laura Bush and Bush's daughter, Jenna Bush Hager."

The museum did the right thing by apologizing to Bailey and letting her know that the security guard's directive wasn't "in line with their official rules, nor federal rules which state that mothers have the right to feed their children in public." They also offered her free passes to the museum. (Hey, it's something.)

The fact is, women have the right to breastfeed in public in almost every state in the Union. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 46 states, plus D.C. and the Virgin Islands, legally protect a woman's right to breastfeed anywhere in public or private. And yet it seems like practically every week another breastfeeding "controversy" makes news, whether it's (ridiculous) complaints about a breastfeeding booth at a farmers market, people getting riled up about a woman breastfeeding at her graduation ceremony, or a breastfeeding mom being told to leave a Michaels store and nurse her child outside. (To its credit, the store apologized.)

Frankly, I just don't understand the fuss. Breastfeeding in public is not immoral, indecent, or obscene. It's not something that should be relegated to dirty public restrooms (or even clean ones, for that matter. Breast milk isn't bodily waste, after all.) Lots of celebrity mamas do it. It's healthy, and if you don't like it, you have the right to look away. What you don't have the right to do, in most cases, is ask a nursing mom to stop or go somewhere else. Let's hope National Breastfeeding Month makes that clear.

Breastfeeding in Public

Image of a woman breastfeeding: Shutterstock