Breastfeeding in public is now legal in all 50 states following the passage of legislation in Idaho and Utah – the two remaining holdouts. As the sponsor of the Idaho bill Republican Rep. Paul Amador said, “we can take a proactive stance here through legislation to promote the natural bond and health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child.”
Putting new laws on the books won’t shield mothers from having to endure stares and comments from random people who consider nursing babies in public to be an indecent act. That’s why we remain committed to raising public awareness over why seeing mothers breastfeeding is a reason to smile. After all, it’s the sight of a mother providing the healthiest form of nourishment to their babies.
But that won’t happen overnight. Consider that while Utah state legislators were debating the legislation, Republican Rep. Curt Webb told the Salt Lake Tribune, “this seems to say you don’t have to cover up at all. I’m not comfortable with that, I’m just not. It’s really in your face.”
Comments like that reflect the broader issue: too many people equate public breastfeeding with public nudity, and therefore something to frown upon.
That is why it’s perfectly understandable if you feel uncomfortable when you breastfeed in public, particularly if you’ve just had your first child. But let’s face it – when that little guy or girl is hungry, they don’t care about what passers-by might think or say. And neither should you.
There is a wide variety of nursing clothes that can help you overcome your hesitation, or demonstrate you are aware that public breastfeeding still makes some people uncomfortable. You won’t have to expose your full breast, and even people sitting right next to you won’t see anything unless they stare really hard.
Parents magazine offers several helpful tips to help you and your baby feel more comfortable. For example, plan ahead and pack your diaper bag with anything you might need for nursing, like burp cloths, blankets and wet wipes.
But that doesn’t mean cramming everything you use at home into that bag. If you use a nursing pillow or another form of support while sitting in your living room, try nursing without it so you don’t have to deal with unpacking and packing your bag while you’re out and about.
I think my favorite tips is this one: “Do have confidence and enjoy yourself. Nursing your baby is one of the best things you can do. Be proud of what you’re doing and enjoy the nursing experience. You’ll be on to the next phase before you know it.”
In other words, if you don’t want to use a nursing cover in the middle of a hot August day, don’t. Simple as that. You do what’s best for you and your child. If someone has a problem, it’s up to them to stop looking or get up and walk away.
Also, always remember that you’re not alone in dealing with discrimination towards public breastfeeding, including where you work. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are a number of organizations you can join like your local chapter of the La Leche League USA that hold regular education and support meetings to help you and your child.
And now, finally, the law is also on your side, no matter where you travel in the U.S.