Go ahead, feed your baby in public

meghanraeder_thumbby Meghan Raeder, RN, BSN, CLC – OB Supervisor and Certified Lactation Counselor at the Birthing Center at Southwest Health

How would you react if you saw a mother breastfeeding her baby in public? Would you stare? Would walk over to her and ask her to cover up or go elsewhere? Would you see the beauty in the connection between mother and child, and smile? Or would you just act as if nothing is different?

The most important thing to remember is that breastfeeding in public is legal, and can take place anywhere a bottle feeding mother can feed her child. Statute 253.165 of the Wisconsin State law regarding Maternal and Child Health states:

The right to breast−feed. A mother may breast−feed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breast−feeding her child, direct a mother to move to a different location to breast−feed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breast−feeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breast−feeding her child as provided in this section.

Breastfeeding in public can be challenging. While nursing in public is becoming a more accepted practice, unfortunately, it can also attract a lot of undesired attention. So in order to set yourself and your baby up for success, there are a couple of tips/tricks that you can try to help you not draw undesired attention.

  • Wear breastfeeding friendly attire: This will give baby easier access to feeding and also allow you to be more concealed. Button down shirts, v-necks, and other specific nursing gear make it easy for baby to access the breast without undressing.
  • Nursing covers: Whether you prefer to use a blanket or special nursing cover make sure that your little one has enough room to not only feed but most importantly room breathe and not overheat.
  • Look out for special nursing stations or areas that are more private: Something as simple as requesting a table that is out of the way or finding a specially designated nursing area (these are found in most airport, malls, and parks) may aid in your comfort. The more relaxed you and baby are, the better success you will have during feeding.
  • Feed baby before the fuss: If you can catch the baby before the crying and fussing starts this will make the latch and nursing easier for you and baby.
  • Go with what feels right: If breastfeeding in public feels right for you, then just do it.

Also, carrying a copy of the law in your diaper bag can be invaluable if you draw too much unwanted attention with breastfeeding in public. Know that the law is on your side and that you are protected.

Even Pope Francis encouraged mothers to breastfeed their children in a baptism that took place in the Sistine Chapel. “You mothers give your children milk, and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them, don’t worry,” (TIME, 1/11/15).

The more people that affirm their support of public breastfeeding, the sooner the barriers that keep mothers from feeding in public will come tumbling down. To all of those moms out there who are currently doing this, I applaud you! Keep up the strong work and healthy babies, and continue to pave the way for other mothers.

For more information on breastfeeding, or for class schedules visit The Women’s Center or call (608) 348-2331.

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