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Public Breastfeeding ... Illegal?

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A new bill will finally protect women who choose breastfeed at the movies, on the bus, and in a restaurant.

woman breastfeeding her baby
Here's good news for breastfeeding women: Washington state reps are sponsoring a bill to ensure that nursing moms have the right to breastfeed in public.

Moms from around the state say they're being discriminated against for breast-feeding and want legislation saying they can legally nurse in public -- specifically theaters, grocery stores, restaurants, even swimming pools.

Rep. Tami Green is sponsoring "HB 1596" which would protect a mother's right to breastfeed in public. The bill has the support of House leadership, and so has no opposition. Green says she wants to make sure "infants in our state ... are getting the very best brain food they can get," and she wants women to be comfortable and safe feeding their babies wherever they go.

Mom Melissa Bonghi doesn't have a problem breastfeeding her baby in public, but others are offended. One time she was nursing at the edge of an outdoor pool and a lifeguard told her: "You can't breast-feed because there's no food allowed in the pool."

Bonghi testified about the day she was asked to leave the pool. She was sitting on the side, with her feet in the kiddy pool, watching her 6-year-old and nursing her baby.

Suddenly she was interrupted and asked to leave, because food was not allowed around the pool and "because her breast milk would contaminate the pool."

Kerri Christie, another new mom, also testified that most mothers don't feel safe breastfeeding in public.

"Unfortunately the general public feels this is inappropriate," she said, "because there is nothing in our law that says it's appropriate to feed one's baby wherever you go."

If the bill passes, Christie hopes people's opinions about breastfeeding in public will change. "Knowing that we aren't on the brink of being thrown out, that we can say we have the right to feed our child, I see that as very important," she said.

Rep. Lynn Kessler  says the bill is a great piece of legislation because it encourages women to choose the healthiest and most natural form of feeding for their children.

Her response to the people who think that breast-feeding in public is obscene? "Grow up."

Tell us - would you support a bill that allowed women to breastfeed in public?

next: Nanny to Mom: You Suck!
27 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley February 10, 2009, 7:30 AM

Now, everybody don’t jump on me here. I am ALL for breastfeeding. I breastfed my daughter for 13 1/2 months. I breastfed her in many public places. Lots of restaurants, in Wal-mart in between the dressing rooms (it’s a little more private there), everywhere I had to. She wouldn’t take a bottle, not even with breast milk in it. I always stayed completely coveered up though. For all anybody knew she might just be sleeping under there. The reason I covered up? I don’t want to show everyone my junk and they don’t want to see it. I remember seeing this woman sitting there (somewhere, I don’t remember) and she was breastfeeding and you could see her whole breast, nipple and all. It was gross. So, while I’m all for breastfeeding in public, at least have enough respect for yourselfand others to cover up with a blanket even a little thin recieving blanket. Then maybe people won’t make such a big deal out of it.

Christine February 10, 2009, 9:36 AM

I would say, have enough respect for yourself and others to not ever feel like you have to cover up. The more that women feel free to breastfeed in the most convenient and natural way possible, the more our nation will realize that a woman’s breast is not gross. It’s not junk.

I have breastfeeding pics all over my blog and my house, so that my kids will be raised knowing that it is completely natural. I use to also feel that it was fine, as long as it was behind a blanket. I finally realized the problem is not with an exposed breast. The problem was me.

It took me awhile, but I fixed my problem! :)

George February 10, 2009, 10:22 AM

Most nursing mothers DO cover up, but regardless, they must have the right to breastfeed their babies. If the sight offends, look away; and seek help, because you have issues. If you really think breasts and the sight of breastfeeding is “gross”, you need help.

The real problem is, when most people object to public nursing, it’s not because of the sight. It’s the activity itself they cannot tolerate, and the problem is all theirs. They don’t want the mother in question to cover up, they want her to stop it and go away. That’s just wrong. America really needs to grow up.

N February 10, 2009, 10:23 AM

i breastfeed but i can’t believe they put theatre in the bill i hope that part is removed, how rude is that i would never dream of taking a baby into a theatre, sometimes people need to think where its appropriate to take a baby.

Anonymous February 10, 2009, 11:13 AM

I don’t care that you do it; but cover up. Nobody wants to see your boob.

Queen Bee February 10, 2009, 1:35 PM

The word I would like to use here is “uncomfortable”. I am uncomfortable with a women exposing her bare breast in public. I have several friends who have/are breastfeeding and they cover up. I have never had the thought to “stare” at the feeding baby and what it is attached to. I did go to an amusement park once with my hubby’s friend and his wife and she had NOOOOOOOO problem whippin the boob out RIGHT in front of another family with young kids that we didn’t know. The whole family stared, my hubby and I stared, and the rest of the theme park guests who walked by us stared. I was embarrassed. The middle ground is to allow those mothers who NEED to feed their children via breast to feed where they feel is the best at whatever time. The breastfeeders need to realize that the majority of America are uncomfortable with the exposure (natural or not) of the boobies and would appreciate the cover up. I would like to enjoy my movie/dinner/swim/shopping without having to see your nips.

Ariana February 10, 2009, 1:50 PM

I think breast feeding is a wonderful thing to do for your child so to all the mothers that do it, more power to you. However, I do think that when you breast feed in public you should cover up. Regardless of whether you’re at a park, a supermarket, or a restaurant, there’s going to be someone there who is uncomfortable with your exposed breast, then there’s the people that stare because they don’t know what else to do.

Lacy February 10, 2009, 2:46 PM

Yes, you have the right to breastfeed and breastfeeing is wonderful but COVER UP! I am absoultely grossed out and uncomfortable when I am sitting in a fancy restaurant and I see a boob across the table from me. It almost made me want to walk over to that lady and show HER husband, my nice, firm implant. Peeing is natural as well but should be done in private or covered up.
I was at a Los Angeles country club last week for dinner and a lady tried to breast feed and a manager actually told her to go to the restroom. Why do women feel the necessity of exposing themselves. It’s not classy. Again, yes you can breastfeed but please do us all a favor and cover up.

leelee February 10, 2009, 4:22 PM

I agree with Ashley. I also fed both of my boys, often in public, but always covered up!

Jake Aryeh Marcus February 10, 2009, 5:31 PM

I wish it had been made clear in this piece that public breastfeeding is not illegal in any state. Washington state already has a law stating that public breastfeeding is not public indecency so that discussion is long over. The current bill would establish public breastfeeding as a civil right, thereby giving breastfeeding women protection against discrimination. This bill would create a law protecting women engaged in conduct that is already legal.

jw February 10, 2009, 8:04 PM

I was wondering if breastfeeding had suddenly become illegal in WA … Thanks for the clarification Jake.

k February 13, 2009, 6:32 PM

I also breastfed, however when in town
I remained in our vehicle to do so.
Nudity in any form is degrading in the
good old USA. What is wrong with just
sitting down somewhere out of public eye, calmly, (good for mother & baby) and do what comes naturally - covered.

MrsEmbers February 17, 2009, 5:30 PM

OK, you have a right to feel however you do about covering up when breastfeeding, but PLEASE don’t equate it with PEEING. Peeing is the body’s way of disposing of harmful waste products, and that’s why we do it away from where we eat, sleep, bathe, etc.

Breastfeeding has nothing to do with waste disposal and is, in fact, the healthiest food for a baby.

If you don’t like people breastfeeding around your food, you can move or ask her (politely) to cover up. Just please don’t act like it’s something dirty that’s the same as what you do in the toilet. It’s incorrect and a little offensive. Thanks.

kerri February 19, 2009, 10:57 PM

Breast were not made for men they were meant for babies. When i see mothers nursing all i see is either back of babies head or blanket. Majority gets baby latched on under blanket. You cant even see the breast with blanket or nursing tops. I don’t understand why people would stare(creepy) i just notice and think”what a good mom”.I have 2 kids and my breast are never exposed that’s what thin blankets are for and nursing shawls. I refuse to feed a baby where toilets are-would you eat in there?
The movie theater for a baby is strange i wouldn’t want to hear a baby screaming after paying $20.00 to watch a show.:-)

Anonymous February 20, 2009, 10:24 PM

I try to cover when I am breastfeeding my daughter, but she will not keep the cover on. She either lifts it up or pulls it off. It is a constant battle. I try to be discrete, but I also refuse to be ashamed to feed my baby when she is hungry. Nobody has to watch me feed my baby…if they see something they don’t like they won’t look again.

roxanne May 20, 2009, 9:24 AM

A baby should not ever have to eat in a bathroom…. would you eat in a bathroom? Peeing is a private act…eating is a public act…get used to it.

a baby is just as likely to “contaminate” a pool with spit up with formula just as much as with breastmilk.

I publically breastfeed anywhere… I do chose to nurse in the car prior to my outting but if need be I do nurse whereever and I don’t use a blanket. I live in a hot climate and I will not subject my baby to “a sweat lodge” underneath a blanket in order for him to eat… it is crazy!
I don’t enjoy eating when I’m overheated… what subject my baby to that….
nothing is wrong with public breastfeeding…and people need to grow up!!!!!!!

Edouin W. May 28, 2009, 11:21 PM

To those of you whom have problems with breastfeeding in public - without covering up - What is your problem?

Have you looked down the nearest busy street or shopping mall? Hve you taken a close look at the way your daughter is dressing up these days? There are tons of young, teen, 20-somethings and even much older breasts all hanging out for display, nipples very evident, some even enhanced with makeup, or with specialty bra’s worn to “enhance” the shape and amount of breast exposed.

Let me get this straight - This is OK for you, but Natures actual intended use for the breast is NOT? The act of feeding a baby is disgusting? Really? Man, is this ever warped!

How did this get reversed? Are our society’s values so screwed up that movie starlet’s breasts’ splayed all over the movie screen, TV sets and in newspapers for the world to oogle at is just fine, but let one mother feed her baby out in public, and you will throw up?

Give your head a shake and take a close look at your own motives and morals. Mother Nature is apparently disgusting but yet the actual disgusting display of breasts for titilation and base lewd display is actually normalized and accepted? There is something wrong with this picture; A law should not be needed for this, but obviously is required.

Next, we will need a law to blow our noses in public as it is “gross”. Get real!

Mffrfnbd June 24, 2009, 4:22 PM

zXOBTD comment1 ,

Shannon September 29, 2009, 8:35 AM

I cannot believe that people are actually commenting on how a mother feed’s her baby. For anyone opposed to breast feeding in any manner, whether it be the entire action or how you do it, is it fair to stuff a newborn under a blank in the heat of summer just because this country is too conservative to look at nursing mother and see it for the beautiful act that it is. When I nurse my baby I want to be able to look into his eye’s, hold his hand and touch his cheek AND NOT have to do it with him hidden. I never expose myself because it’s not comfortable for me either to make other’s uncomfortable but that is the problem…we are a nation that is a bit twisted in our view points. The problem is that a woman’s breast is viewed a sexual object instead of it’s true intent and that is the ONLY reason that people are uncomfortable…nursing is thrown into the same category as stripping in some people’s minds and it’s not fair to the mother or the child. It is the MOST classy thing a mother could for her child if she able to do it. If she cannot do it, though, she shouldn’t feel bad either.

lilikindsli September 30, 2009, 6:55 PM

KBXnOt I want to say - thank you for this!

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