Is Breastfeeding Appropriate in Public?


I remember the first time I saw someone breastfeed. I was 27 and had just gotten married; one of my best friends had her baby the same year. We all sat around marveling at this amazing little being she had created and when he started to fuss, she fed him. It was miraculous.

A year later, I had my own baby to feed and I remembered what she told me: Put your baby on your breast the minute he is born. Even if there's nothing coming out, keep doing it until there is.

I was lucky to have that advice, and to be able to successfully feed my son until he was a year old, and my daughters until they were each six months. I breastfed everywhere-at the market, in the park, sitting on a mall bench, even at Disneyland-without incident. Which is why it's surprising to me how much fuss is being raised over breastfeeding today.

After Beyoncé discretely fed seven-week-old Blue Ivy in a New York restaurant, she was enthusiastically supported by breastfeeding activists, who noted that the simple act might change cultural perceptions. According to the CDC, breastfeeding is embraced by 74% of white mothers and only 54% of black mothers, despite organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending the practice for a minimum of six months.

Public opinion seems to be leaning in the anti-breastfeeding direction. In Georgia, a mother of four was forced out of church for breastfeeding-which her pastor compared to a "stripper performing," according to the Huffington Post.

A Washington D.C. mother was accused of "indecent exposure" for breastfeeding her four-month-old in a public building, according to the Washington Post. (She also happens to be a lawyer, and after confirming that she was protected by the Child's Right to Nurse Human Rights Amendment Act of 2007, filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights.)

And despite the fact that 45 states have similar laws protecting a woman's right to nurse, reports of similar cases keep popping up, inspiring "lactivists" to stage "nurse-ins," such as those reportedly held at more than 200 Target stores in late December.

Share your thoughts: Is breastfeeding in public appropriate? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

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Rachel Sarnoff
Rachel Sarnoff

About the Author:
Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is the Executive Director/CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, the non-profit that leads the movement to protect children from harmful chemicals.