We hear the same story over and over again. Women are shamed for breastfeeding in public, sometimes even while they’re wearing a cover. More often though the problem arises when a mother nurses her baby in public without a cover. A person may make an unnecessary and inappropriate comment or an employee at a place of business may ask a mom to excuse herself to a more private location to breastfeed or stop breastfeeding altogether. Once this happens, controversy ignites. Mothers host nurse-ins to exercise their rights, complaints are plastered all over social media and some businesses get a lot of bad publicity because they’ve asked a mom to stop nursing or to cover themselves while breastfeeding.
If you are a nursing mother who has breastfed without a cover, you may have experienced dirty looks or backlash yourself. If you aren’t and you’re wondering why a mom can’t just “cover up” there are several reasons a mother may not use a nursing cover. She may not own one or it may be too hot to add an extra layer. Sometimes babies just plain refuse to be covered and kick it off! Whatever the reason, a mother has the right to breastfeed in public. As the law in New Jersey clearly states:
Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a mother shall be entitled to breast feed her baby in any location of a place of public accommodation, resort or amusement wherein the mother is otherwise permitted. (N.J.S.A. 26:4B-4)
So what can we do to help normalize breastfeeding in the public eye?
- Breastfeed in public.
Pretty simple, right? Use a cover or don’t, it’s totally up to you! The more moms don’t duck out of the public eye to feed their babies, the more comfortable men, women and children will become with breastfeeding in general. The fewer incidences will occur.
- Business owners educate their employees.
If you’re a business owner, you should make sure your employees know the law. Post the law clearly, add it to your employee handbook and make sure it is a subject included during the new hire orientation process.
- If you’re a breastfeeding advocate, IBCLC or counselor, share the law.
Everybody spread the word! Sometimes moms don’t know their rights. Make sure your clients and friends are aware that breastfeeding without a cover is legal and not considered public nudity.
- If you are approached, stay calm and confident and know that the law is on your side.
You may feel embarrassed or ashamed when someone tells you to cover up. It may make you angry and compelled to lash out but that could make things worse. Remember that it is completely legal and within your right to breastfeed no matter where you are in New Jersey. Staying calm is key. The New Jersey Breastfeeding Coalition provides cards with the law printed clearly. Carry one in your pocket and present it every time someone approaches you.
Post written by by Gina Guariglia Kelly, Breastfeeding USA Counselor and Breastfeeding Mom
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