Breastfeeding in Public? Returning to Work and Pumping Milk? You are Protected!

With ongoing headlines about celebrities being “caught” breastfeeding in public, military moms being fired because of breastfeeding in public, or the occasional news story covering a mom who was asked to leave a store for breastfeeding, making the choice to breastfeed can seem very intimidating. Some of you will contend with outrage from your family, friends or a random person in public who shoots you a look of disdain. However, your baby needs to nurse constantly, and for many breastfeeding moms that is a scheduled time every 2-4 hours. Beyond those first 6 weeks, you are bound to breastfeed in “gasp” public. This may include your car, a restaurant in the mall or grocery store aisle if you can’t get away immediately. Here are some tips for new moms to make the experience less awkward for you or those around you.

  • Become familiar with your local mall, church, or other enclosed area. Many of these places provide a room for nursing mothers.
  • If you are with a group of friends and can’t get away simply announce I need to nurse my baby. This gives anyone who might become offended a chance to walk or look away.
  • Always try to cover yourself. If you don’t have your nursing smock within reach, simply use a baby sheet, or burping cloth to throw over your shoulder and leave a small pocket for baby to breathe.
  • If you don’t have any of these items available, lift your shirt up from the bottom (not the top) to nurse. This provides a cover for the baby and you will have minimal flesh showing.
  • If you are more self-conscious or have the amazing ability to pre-plan your outing, carry pre-pumped milk with you in your diaper bag to bottle feed your baby.
  • If all else fails, you can discreetly cup your hand over your breast and baby’s mouth.I have had the honor of trying all of these methods, which work pretty well.

By using these simple steps you can work your way around the jaw dropping breastfeeding in public conversation.

It is also important to know that you do have the right to breastfeed in public or pump breast milk at work! In most states women may breastfeed in public, without being slapped with indecent exposure citations. However, in any instance know the law of your state and comply with a local law that requires you to show more discretion. The majority of states already protect a woman’s choice to breastfeed, with some state’s providing greater protection for breastfeeding women. Federal Law (Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) requires ALL employers to allow women to have reasonable breaks to pump milk at work for ONE YEAR after the baby’s birth. Yes, you may take a break each time you need to express milk, but it may be unpaid. Additionally, employers are required to provide a space, other than a bathroom stall, for women to pump breast milk, (unless providing a separate space causes an undue hardship to the employer).

Happy Nursing!

Below is list of breastfeeding laws by state. You may obtain this information directly at:


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