I was watching the local news one night, and the reporter was speaking to woman who stated that she was asked to leave a mall because she was nursing her son. She said she sat down at a table and started to breastfeed when a security guard approached her telling her that it was “indecent exposure” and she needed to go to her car or the restroom. This happened in a town not too far from me, and as a nursing mother myself, this both infuriated and intimidated me because I’ve had fears about this very situation.
It’s an interesting thing that healthcare professionals promote and advocate for the benefits of breastfeeding and women are commended on the choice to breastfeed but for some reason it still seems to be a controversial topic when it comes to breastfeeding your baby in a public area.
According to the NCSL, at present there are 49 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, that have laws that specifically allow and protect women’s rights to breastfeed in any public or private location (Idaho being the one exception). The news article stated that the woman presented her Oklahoma breastfeeding law card, but it didn't sway the security guard's decision to ask her to leave. In protest, she arranged for a “nurse-in” where women all met at that very mall to nurse their babies so nobody would feel singled out.
The statement that was released by the mall explained that there was a private nursing area in the restroom, along with other designated areas, that breastfeeding moms can go. Perhaps the mall staff would care to eat their lunch in the restroom to get an idea of just how unappealing, isolating, and unhygienic that truly is. The fact of the matter is, they can offer the Taj Mahal of nursing stations, but a mom is not obligated to use it. You are legally allowed to nurse wherever you are legally allowed to be, whether a facility has provided designated nursing areas or not.
It is also entirely up to you if you want to use a cover or not while nursing in public. For me, it got to the point where my baby was flailing around underneath and yanking at it every which way that it ended up drawing more attention. So mamas: nurse your baby when your baby is hungry, don’t feel that you have to leave the group you are with to seek out a private area unless you want to and know that law is on your side.
Lisa is a babywearing, breastfeeding, cloth-diapering mama who has perfected her stare of “just try and say something to me” while nursing her baby in public.