Hey breastfeeding mamas! It’s important to know your rights – especially when it comes to nursing in public. The laws vary from state-to-state, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with the laws before you travel. Here’s a comprehensive list of Breastfeeding State Laws.
In Wisconsin, a new law was signed by Governor Jim Doyle this past March. The law states:
253.16 Right to breast-feed. A mother may breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breast-feeding her child, direct a mother to move to another location to breast-feed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breast-feeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breast-feeding.
Basically this means that if you have a right to be there, you have a right to breastfeed there! And, if anyone tries to interfere, they could face up to $200 in fines. There’s no need for you to cover up or move to a separate location.
For those of you who prefer to nurse in a more private area (or have a distractible child like I do!), I know that all Motherhood Maternity stores welcome nursing mamas into their dressing rooms. I have had no trouble using the dressing rooms at the east side Target and Old Navy to nurse, and Babies “R” Us has a small nursing room with two chairs and a changing table.
Tiffany and I are both still happily nursing our little ones! And our experiences nursing in public in Madison have been mostly positive ones.
Tiffany: I’m happy to report that I have never had any negative experiences breastfeeding in public. I nursed my now 3.5 year old daughter for the first 18 months of her life, and I used a nursing cover or blanket about 50% of the time, but never received anything but encouragement from strangers. With my son – now almost 7 months – I cover up almost all the time in public, mostly because he gets distracted so easily without it! I have never been approached at all while feeding him.
Happily, the only “negative” experience I’ve had while feeding my children was someone criticizing me for bottle-feeding my then 9 month old daughter (we supplemented due to supply issues). I’d gladly take that experience (in which I agreed with her that breast is best, and then thanked her for making me feel worse about something I was already in tears about most days), than have to defend myself for breastfeeding while my boobs are out and my child is eating.
Kat: I’ve had only positive experiences nursing in public. It’s been 16 months, and I have yet to receive any negative feedback or judgmental looks (or maybe I’ve just been too focused on my daughter to notice them!). Actually, the only comment I’ve ever received came just last month at a baby shower when one of the ladies remarked that she hadn’t even realized I was nursing Milena (even though she was sitting only a few feet away from us).
Within a few months of Milena’s birth, I was going to parent/baby groups (and then out to lunch, etc) where I was surrounded by other nursing mamas, so nursing in public because very normal very quickly. It’s difficult to feel awkward about something when you have that kind of support!
We’re so glad there is now legislation to strongly protect nursing mamas and babies in Wisconsin. In the end, we’d continue to nurse in public even if we received negative comments because by doing so we’re showing that nursing is normal. We would love for breastfeeding to be a totally acceptable non-issue when Milena and Lily are mamas so they could nurse their babies wherever and whenever they need to without a second thought.
We both have friends who’ve mentioned feeling so painfully awkward and uncomfortable the first times they nurse in public. Tiffany and I sit up tall because we’re giving our children the best we can and frankly, we’re proud of our decisions! And we hope that this new law will help other mamas do the same.
How about you? What has your experience been with nursing in public? Have you found Madison to be a breastfeeding-friendly city?