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  • Pauline Nardella

What You Should Know About Breastfeeding Laws

woman breastfeeding in public

What are the legal rights of women who breastfeed their children? One would think that the act of feeding your child…anywhere…would be as normal as the act of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been the norm in infant feeding since the beginning of time. There are historical statues all over the world on display breastfeeding their children and they have not been removed or covered with a blanket! So why are women constantly asked to cover up or go into the bathroom to nurse their child? The answer is lack of knowledge, the more information the public receives, sees and experiences the more normalized the act of breastfeeding becomes. Protecting and promoting breastfeeding around the world has become a serious task. Have you ever noticed how many formula ads there are? How about formula freebies and coupons that are given to families at discharge from hospitals and even mailed to expecting mothers? Have you ever noticed all the pictures/ads of babies drinking from bottles? These are only a few examples of what has led to the normalcy of alternative feeding of our children.

Discrimination against breastfeeding families is alive and well. Recently KLM airlines asked a breastfeeding mother to cover up during a flight and she refused. This sparked an outcry from women all over the world regarding the rights of the mother and the baby. A little over a week ago KLM airlines answered the question, what is your breastfeeding policy? They tweeted, "Breastfeeding is permitted on KLM flights. However, to ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this."

In 2014 a local mom went to Barnes and Noble in Nanuet, NY and was asked to cover up or leave the store when breastfeeding her son. This mom knew her legal rights and told the manager she had the right to breastfeed her child in the store without having to cover up. The assistant manager told her that the store policy stated otherwise. With knowledge of her rights and the NYS breastfeeding laws this fierce breastfeeding mom contacted the NYS Attorney General. As a result, Barnes and Noble now trains all of its employees in the local state laws and promotes and protects breastfeeding mothers within their stores. In fact, Barnes and Noble, Inc throughout the state of New York pledged to make its stores friendly to nursing mothers as part of a settlement with New York State.

If you are a breastfeeding mom, or plan to breastfeed, know your rights and be prepared to share them with naysayers. For everyone else, understand the laws and protect and support these mothers as they feed their child.

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