Know Your Breastfeeding Rights

Know Your Breastfeeding Rights 1 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families

Breastfeeding can be hard enough without the external pressures that can sometimes creep up on a new mother.  The news is too full of stories of women being asked to leave public places or told to cover up for simply feeding their baby.  Having a basic understanding of your breastfeeding rights will help you become more confident and knowledgeable when faced with tricky situations.

Breastfeeding in Public

No law in the United States forbids breastfeeding in a public place, and forty-five states have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location where she is otherwise lawfully present.  Of the states that protect public breastfeeding, they do so by expressly stating that a woman has a right to breastfeed in public or by specifying that the act of breastfeeding is not indecent exposure.

Only two states place any limitation on public breastfeeding.   In Illinois, the statute states that women should follow the appropriate feeding norms within a place of worship.  In Missouri, mothers are encouraged to nurse “with as much discretion as possible.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) provides a comprehensive summary of state breastfeeding laws.

Know Your Breastfeeding Rights 2 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families

Breastfeeding at Work

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required “reasonable” break times to allow employees to express milk for up to one year after her child’s birth, though they are not required to compensate the employee for these breaks.  The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to pump.  Here’s the kicker: employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the requirement if allowing such breaks would place “undue hardship” on the employer.  If your state provides greater protections, these are not preempted by the federal requirements.  For more information, check out this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Breastfeeding and Jury Duty

Love it or hate it, jury duty is part of being a citizen of a democratic country.  Breastfeeding mothers, however, will understandably run into some challenges when called upon to fulfill their civic duty.  Fifteen states exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow jury service to be postponed: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota and Virginia.  Other states may provide exemptions through the court. La Leche League can provide support, but contact the court directly to see if they will entertain an exemption request.

Breastfeeding and Flying

According to breastfeeding rights expert and lawyer Jake Aryeh Marcus, “aviation law can be confusing and there really isn’t a straight answer,” when it comes to whether airlines can legally dictate breastfeeding policies. Since airlines are federally regulated in the US, in theory, federal laws apply, so your right to nurse in public should be protected. In practice, U.S. courts have failed to protect women from breastfeeding discrimination and some jurisdictions have specific legislation regarding breastfeeding if the plane is grounded. Most airlines say they are family friendly, with a few requesting mothers to cover up. Chances are you won’t encounter any problems but you should call your specific airline for clarification on their official policy.

Know Your Breastfeeding Rights 3 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families

Disclosure: The material in this post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice, and is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney.

Photo credits: According to Lara, The Art of Making A Baby, Baby on airplane adapted from Caitlin Regan (CC BY 2.0).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  Breastfeeding Public Health Law
La Leche League: Breastfeeding and Jury Duty
National Conference of State Legislatures Breastfeeding State Laws
Spoonful: Tips for Flying With A Baby
PhD in Parenting: Breastfeeding on an Airplane: The Collection




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A California girl recently transplanted to chilly Seattle, Lara is a stay-at-home-mom to G and two crazy poodles. She's obsessed with food, breastfeeding, and Kate Middleton, and when she's not chasing her toddler, she's nursing him. She constantly walks the line between salads and burgers, bookworm and tabloid junkie, hippie and conservative. She is an aspiring barre class enthusiast and non-committal blogger at According to Lara.

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