Nursing in public...what's the story?
Seriously, every time I see a mother nursing in public, I like obnoxiously go out of the way to say something, even if I’m like, hold on entire family. Wait just one second while I walk across the restaurant to be like, you’re doing great. Do you need anything?
Welcome to The Milk Minute Podcast. This is Maureen Farrell and Heather O’Neal we’re midwives and lactation consultants, but most importantly, we’re two breast friends on a mission to bring you accessible information about lactation, body positivity, boobs, relationships, and mental health with a few laughs along the way.
Join us, for another episode. Today I want to talk about a sensitive topic. I want to talk about breastfeeding in public. Yeah. What’s to say, just do it. Yeah. If only it were that simple. Fucking right. We’re going to kind of focus this in, on the USA. So if you’re listening outside of that welcome, we love you.
But anyway, this is about this. So yeah, we have had some folks from our breastfeeding Facebook group request podcast topics and nursing in public was one of them. We wanted to just address, like all, I don’t know, all kinds of shit about that. Yeah, I’m just still reeling from the fact that we are still discussing this.
Like there are laws in place, like really, I’m just kind of surprised it’s still not just your mother-in-law giving you a hard time, you know, like really there are assholes out there that are still making rude comments to people for breastfeeding in public. I can’t believe it. I feel like we’ve done a pretty damn good job with promoting and normalizing, but I guess we’re just not there yet because people are still asking about it.
Yeah. Yeah. So I want to make it clear that all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands all have laws that specifically allow people to breastfeed in any, let me repeat, any public or private location. Okay. But some of them specify how much of your body can be showing. What? Right. Is that by state?
Yes. So this is by state. This is where it gets fucked up guys. There’s no federal law that’s like, whatever, you can breastfeed your baby wearing whatever the fuck you want, wherever the fuck you want, whether or not I can see your nipple. And there should be a law that says that because we should all feel comfortable feeding our babies without trying to take one of those stupid covers and put it on a kicking screaming baby, when it’s 95 degrees at the zoo.
Oh my gosh. And for those of you that don’t live in the United States, where this isn’t a problem, I can just imagine some females in France being like, what is happening in America? What’s new? Right. So, okay. So I’m going to do a quick legal rundown for you. And you can quote me on this also. I’m going to put my sources in the notes for you, so you can print this out and wave it in front of somebody’s nose when they’re being a dick about it.
31 states have laws that exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. So those are the states that allow you to breastfeed irregardless, which was added to the dictionary by the way. No, it wasn’t. Yes, it was. I’m going to say it however much. I want you, regardless of how much of your nipple and areola are showing.
So I’m just going to list them. Why the fuck not. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming plus DC Puerto Rico and the Virgin islands.
So those are the states that exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. Yes ma’am. Oh, okay. Well that’s more than I thought, honestly. Yes. So that’s cool. However, that means, let’s do a little. Who’s left? Who am I supposed to be mad at now? Let’s do a little math. That means that basically almost the same amount of states don’t have those laws.
Yeah. Who’s on the shit list. Huh? Vermont weirdly. Interesting. That’s true. Yeah, me too. So that’s good to know, but the reality is that breastfeeding is legal no matter where you are. Somebody can’t say that you can’t breastfeed in my shop. And we hear that a lot. “This is private property. You can’t breastfeed here.”
That’s against the law. Breastfeeding is legal in any public or private property in the United States. But in some places they can ask you to cover up, which is bullshit. So in half the states, is that just private entities can ask you to cover up? Good question. I don’t know who in a public entity could ask you to cover up.
I don’t really know, get out of my public space, get out of my public space. But the thing is like, this is it’s really interesting because state to state this varies so much. So like here’s the list, right? Alabama rights, this says, allows the mother to breastfeed her child in any public or private location.
But then you know, Alaska’s law says that it just prohibits municipalities from enacting ordinances that prohibit people from breastfeeding. Right. It’s really convoluted. It shouldn’t be that hard. Who did this? I need their names. Our legislatures/ legislators, I hold on, let me pull up west. Virginia’s because that’s where we’re from.
And I know we have a lot of listeners in our, in the state that we reside in. So the West Virginia code states that it is not considered indecent exposure for a mother to breastfeed in any location, public or private. It also provides that a mother may breastfeed a child in any location open to the public.
So it’s interesting. So those like, and that second one kind of seems contradictory to the statement that breastfeeding is legal in all public and private places in the United States, right? Because West Virginia is saying, oh, actually we’re just talking about any location open to the public. And we all know in the United States our government is set up so that state’s laws are more important than federal laws.
So that’s why this is state by state and it’s important then if you feel like you need to understand what’s legal in your state to look that up. Where can they look that up? Yeah. I’m going to get this website. It’s NCSL.org. It’s the national conference of state legislatures. Right. Of course.
Anyway, the point is though that it kind of doesn’t matter what the law is because people don’t want to be made to look bad. And if you are breastfeeding in public and somebody harasses you, there are actually a lot of groups that are there to support you. A lot of like local lactation advocacy groups who will come out and do something called a nurse-in. Oh, a Nurse-In.
Have you ever seen one? No, but I would totally , I would find a baby to breastfeed just to do it. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. They, these groups will call out to their members and be like Hey, Heather is at Hooters and they’re saying she can’t breastfeed there. And then this is actually a true story. This has happened at Hooters before that my friend helped organize.
And then all of these wonderful breastfeeding people with their babies just like descend on that location and start breastfeeding and don’t order anything. And they call the press and it’s a big deal. And then you know, because, because these people are really dedicated to normalizing breastfeeding.
And it’s stupid that we even have to do that, but because we do have to do that if you are one of those people that schedule a Nurse-In, I want to personally have a video call with you. And let’s talk about it and we want to have you on the podcast. So if you are in a situation where you’re being harassed and a Nurse-In happens, we need video. We need all the details about how that went down, please.
And yeah, I want to also give a shout out to the Milk Truck in Pittsburgh. So these people took an ice cream truck and converted it with a giant boob on top. And it drives around and can give assistance to people who need breastfeeding support when they’re being publicly shamed. Or when they need to like draw attention to the issue, it is painted pink and blue and it’s fucking hilarious.
And they’re great. Yeah. And they, you know, nothing says discretion like a giant pink ice cream truck with a booby on top. Right. And I’m sure a lot of you guys are listening and you’re like, okay. So like I want to breastfeed in public. I also don’t want to call a big truck with titties on top of it if this is uncomfortable for me, what can I do?
This is a hard one, folks. It is a hard one and it’s a completely personal choice. And some of you do want to cover up and that’s great. Like if you want to cover up, know yourself, know your own body and do it. Like, no, I’m not going to go up to a nursing mom who’s covering and rip her cover off and be like, normalize it, help us, join the team.
I’m going to be like, oh, look at that nice parent doing exactly what she wants to do. You know what I do and have done is walk up and say, do you need a hand? Yeah. Do you need a hand? If you could, like it already feels like it takes six hands to breastfeed a child in public. Like not to mention then trying to put a covering over the two of you that actually stays there as your child is kicking it off of you repeatedly.
Right? Nobody can ask you to go to a bathroom to do this. That’s not okay. Nope. That’s not okay. So yeah, you can be nice like Maureen and ask this parent, that’s trying to, desperately trying to keep covered if she needs a hand. For sure. That’s great.
But I also want to say, if you are in a relationship and you don’t want to be covered, but your partner is uncomfortable by it, Maureen, what do we tell these people? I’m having trouble finding a n appropriate response that isn’t just profanity. I, okay. So I think if that’s the case, you definitely need to start with communication before that happens. Like, you know, this is the kind of thing where you want to sit down with your partner and say, Hey, I noticed that it makes you uncomfortable when I breastfeed our child in public.
Can we talk about that? Yeah. Or you could just put a bag over their head and tell them to eat a cheeseburger. Yeah, that’s kind of what I was thinking at first, but I’m also thinking, I don’t know, maybe there are some like decent people who think this because they’ve just been raised in this fucked up culture.
Yeah. And actually having a conversation about it where you’re like, Hey, like breastfeeding, isn’t sexual, it’s food. This is me feeding our baby. And if you don’t want me to feed our baby in public, we’re not going into public for two years and maybe three. You know, if your relationship is already on the rocks and you’re getting accused of doing it on purpose, like, oh, you’re just breastfeeding out in public with no cover because you’re doing it to spite me.
That’s a problem. That’s a huge red flag, everybody. If that is you, I want you to just write on your calendar every time that happens to you and just look at it at the end of the month. And if more than half of those days, you are being shamed for breastfeeding in a way that is comfortable for you and your baby, you need to find help because that’s really not the safest situation for you.
Okay. So I did just think of a story I wanted to tell you. So earlier today, Heather and I were talking about parents and growing up. And some interesting experiences we had, do your parents listen to this? Oh, they do? Cool. Mine don’t. And I especially don’t think my mother does well. I hope not. If, if not, Hey mom, about tell a story about you.
Okay. So, but my mother did not breastfeed us and definitely grew up in a culture that really was, was pretty, I don’t know, group grew up in a way where she didn’t feel comfortable with exposing a lot of skin in public, particularly not breasts. Right. So I was visiting my mother once, which takes a lot of effort for me sometimes.
And my son was somewhere between one and two, I think, or maybe around one. He was pretty small still. And we were at a Panera. And of course, you know, I’m eating and my son also wants to eat and obviously he wants boobs first. So no big deal to me by that time, I’m kind of like public breastfeeding pro, whatever, just whip it out.
I’ve got the double shirt layer thing going on. Fucking awesome. And my mother, I knew she was like, not comfortable with breastfeeding, but I didn’t realize how much, because we had never been in public with it before. And she, she just kind of leans in and whispers something like, do you have to do that here?
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Maybe we can go to the car. Why don’t we go to the car? Oh, and I was like, no, I’m good here, mom. I’m really, we’re fine. I’m fine here. In fact, I need a refill. Right. And she kept making little comments like that. And at some point I remember her saying, well, I just think I’m, I mean, it’s just not a great place.
I mean, there’s children here. And I looked around and I was, and I, and at this point I was so pissed and I know my mother and I know she hates a scene. Right. And so I start raising my voice and I say, well, mom, sorry, I’m not going to do it right in the microphone. Well, mom, if children look over here, they’re just going to see a baby eating.
And I start kind of shouting across the restaurant, which it’s a small Panera. Everybody stops what they’re doing to look at us. Oh, nice. And my mother shut up right there and we finished our lunch. See, I have experienced something a little bit more passive aggressive. Like every single time you go to feed the person says, “you want me to get a cover?”
Oh, yeah. “Do you need help covering up?” Every time. My grandma does that. I know. Do you need help covering up? And so I kind of always take it. I try to take it with a grain of salt, but it’s kind of funny. Like I think my husband, God love him. He’s got a little bit of short-term memory loss and it wasn’t malicious.
It was more just like he would want to cover up if, if he was breastfeeding, you know, and he’s trying to be helpful. And he’s like, “oh, you want me to cover you up?” But there’s no, and I would look at him and I would just be like, no, I don’t. And I would just go ahead and breastfeed and he’d be like, okay.
And he’d just sit back. And he, you know, he didn’t care, but he would still ask me every time. So I guess handle that how you will. I guess it depends on the person. I feel like my, my dad was kind of like that the first time I breastfed in front of him in public. And I must’ve said something really fucking snappy and rude cause I don’t think he’s said anything about it ever heard again.
My dad is hilariously supportive. Like he was actually there when my daughter was born, which a lot of people are like, ew, you’d have your dad there? And he wasn’t down there. He was like way back in the corner. And he asked me if he could be there because he had only ever seen C-sections.
My mom had three C-sections and my first son was a C-section and he had been there in and out while I was laboring and he saw how hard I was working. And he was just like, would you mind if I stayed? And this, this like really super conservative, you know, upper middle class white guy is just like really wanting to be a part of a birth.
A natural birth. I was like, that’s cute. Sure, Dad, go ahead. It was really nice. And he’s always been really supportive of breastfeeding, but not everybody has that luxury of having a parent who’s very supportive of it. So if you’re that person, just know that there’s, there’s other people out there that can support you.
There’s us. There’s other friends. There’s groups. Yeah. I mean, you can also, you know what, if you’re like, I don’t want to argue, but I do want to get my point across. You can get like breastfeeding covers that have a picture of a baby breastfeeding on them. Oh yeah. Or like the little booby hats for the babies.
I mean, you know, if, if you just want to be like, sure, I’ll cover up that, taking it to that level makes people so much more uncomfortable and they back away really fast. Yeah. That’s basically like wearing a badge that’s like fuck off. Yeah. Come at me, bro. I think what helped me the most is I’m privileged enough to be with a partner who just is a very large imposing male. Aw, Ivan.
Yeah, he basically would just kind of stand behind me, scowling, and it like scared everybody away. And baby’s got to eat. Can you imagine if somebody came up to you while you were eating and they were like, “we’re going to need you to put a cover over your face,” right? Or, “could you go do that in the bathroom, please?”
Yeah. No, no. Yeah. How would a baby feel? Have you ever taken a boob out of a baby’s mouth prematurely and that, that mean mug that they give you? They look up and they’re just like, what the fuck? Yeah, seriously. That face used to crack me up. My daughter has the best mean mug. You ever cut her off prematurely and she will mess you over with her eyes.
Just like put it back in. But you know, we, like all of us can do something to help. Help make this more normal and be supportive seriously. Every time I see a mother nursing in public, I like obnoxiously go out of the way to say something, even if I’m like, hold on entire family. Wait just one second while I walk across the restaurant to be like, you’re doing great.
Do you need anything? I’m going to do that. I’m like ashamed that I haven’t done that before. I mean, I’ve picked things up for people when they drop them, of course. I think I’ve even washed a Binky or two in the bathroom, but I’ve never gone out of my way to be like, can I help you with anything?
Totally. I mean, so I had thought about this a lot and kind of was like, Hmm, like how would that, like, would people be okay with that? I’ve never had somebody appear uncomfortable with it. And I’ve mostly just gotten big smiles in return. And I can really think back to times that that happened to me or something similar.
Like, you know, I, one incident, I remember I was at the laundry mat cause we didn’t have a washing machine at our house and I was alone and I had my son. And he was teething and it was a fucking disaster and I’d so much goddamn laundry. Like I hadn’t done laundry in like a month, you know, I was like, I’m just going to save it all for one trip.
Bad fucking idea. Don’t do that. Except all of you will, if you have to go to the laundry mat, cause that’s how we do it. And I just like was in there and it was just me and my son and this really, really old man in there all freaking day, moving laundry. And I was breastfeeding and carrying him, putting in the carrier and putting him down.
It was like a fucking circus of breastfeeding and crying. And finally, at the end, this man just kind of sat there and read his paper, like glancing up every once in a while. And at the end, like my son is just out of control. Like I put him on my back in the carrier and he was like doing the back arch of death and flailing. I’m crying at this point cause I was so frustrated.
And I’m like trying to carry these big baskets and the older man comes and gets one for me and he puts it in my trunk and he just looks at me and he goes, I just want you to know. Very slowly, very like very well-articulated, you know. I just want you to know that you are a good mother and you’re doing a very good job and it’s going to be okay. Oh, that makes me want to cry now. I mean, I was already crying, so I just started crying harder. Oh. But I felt so good. And like I’ve was so validated because honestly the whole day I was like, this dude’s probably fucking judging me.
Right, right. And really, what he was just thinking, was like, wow, look at this strong mom doing her best to feed her baby, get her stupid laundry done. He’s thinking I would never be able to do that. Yeah. So I, I, every time I see somebody nursing, unless it’s like, obviously they’re having fun with their friends and I’m just going to interrupt their whole goddamn conversation.
But really I do just walk over and if they look like they’re struggling and I’m like, Hey, like, can I help you? You’re doing a great job. Like, Don’t sweat it. You paid it forward like a hundred times over. I try. I really do. So that’s the challenge for all of you and myself. I’m going to take it on from now until the end of time.
When you see somebody breastfeeding in public, just tell them they’re doing a great job. You know, even if you’re shy, just give them a smile, thumbs up, thumbs up, crushing it. You know, it, it really makes a difference. I mean, Maureen is sitting here years later still remembering that person four years ago, three years ago.
Yeah. So sweet. So special. So let’s all be there for each other. And just really understand that this sisterhood is exactly that. There are millions of women that have come before us and, and, and people are going to feed their babies and they’re going to do it however they can. They’re going to breastfeed.
They’re going to chest feed. And they need you and everybody else to support them. So what they also need is you, they need you to talk to your kids about it. They need you, if you see your friends or relatives being like, oh, look at that lady with her boob out, they need you to be like, fuck you, dude.
She can take her boob out all day if she wants, that baby is hungry. Yeah. I think it used to crack people up that my son used to try to help me breastfeed my daughter. You know, they’d come over and he’d be like, you need, you need a little help, mom? Like he was totally that person that was like, let me unclip your bra.
Let me pull your boob out. We don’t have to do that for strangers. No, no. I mean, just like, as far as bringing children in and normalizing it for them. “Can I help you unclip your bra?” At least I asked. Yeah, my son is funny. Like the other day he said, you know, mom, you’re going to have to start telling me things. And I said, well, like what?
He goes, you know, like things like placentas. And I said, what do you want to know about placentas? And he goes, everything. It’s time. I was like, what? And that’s what you get when you’re a midwife and you have pictures of placentas and vaginas all over your house. I can’t remember if I’ve said this before, but so I do a lot of placenta processing for my clients.
And I also, like, I live on a farm. A lot of them live in cities. Sometimes I just take that home and bury it so like a raccoon doesn’t fucking eat it in their trash. Right. And I had a couple in the fridge at one point that I was doing prints or whatever of. My son, who’s four, he like looks at me, he’s like, I’m so hungry.
I’m going to eat everything in the fridge. And then he takes a deep breath. Except the placentas. That is so funny. Oh, so we’ll leave it there, folks. Help your friends, don’t eat the placentas unless they’re yours, I guess, unless you’re starving. I mean, you know, don’t let your kids eat it anyway, just do whatever you want.
That’s the whole point of this podcast. And breastfeed your baby wherever your baby wants to be breastfed and wherever you feel the most comfortable. Boobs out, bitches tits up, boobs out. Thanks for listening to another episode of the Milk Minute Podcast. If you want to help our podcast grow, please subscribe and share with a friend. To support our mission of accessible lactation information you can find us on Patreon at Patreon.com/MilkMinutePodcast. Each level of membership comes with its own personalized member rewards. Yeah, like behind the scenes video, personalized Q and A’s, merchandise. I might send you a mug or a t-shirt. Love the merch. This podcast was edited by Heather O’Neal with music by Bella Zucker. For questions, comments, or sponsorship opportunities. Please email us at [email protected]