Leading health organisations, such as the World Health Organization, recommend breastfeeding for two years and beyond. Despite this, in some parts of the world people still feel uncomfortable about women breastfeeding in public – particularly if they’re not doing it ‘discreetly’.
Society tells mothers that breastfeeding is a very important thing to do.
It’s hypocritical, then, if society isn’t supportive of them breastfeeding in public.
It appears that some people confuse breastfeeding with excretion, because a bodily fluid is involved.
Some people associate breastfeeding with a sexual act. This is because breasts are sexualised in our society.
In Western societies, many women wear skimpy clothing and low-cut tops, and it’s commonplace to see exposed and semi-exposed breasts on beaches, in movies, and in advertising, etc.
It seems strange, therefore, that breastfeeding in public should be perceived as being scandalous or ‘indiscreet’.
Women have breasts for a clear biological purpose: to nourish and nurture babies.
Breastfeeding In Public
Regardless of what people might think, breastfeeding is protected by law in many countries around the world.
This article explains what various countries have to say about breastfeeding a baby in public.
Breastfeeding In Public In Australia
Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984, breastfeeding in Australia is a right, not a privilege.
It’s against the law to prohibit a mother from breastfeeding in any place she is legally able to be. It is also against the law to discriminate against a mother on the grounds she is breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding In Public In The UK
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 indicates that to treat a woman less favourably, on the grounds that she is breastfeeding, is regarded as discrimination.
Discrimination can include refusing to provide a service, providing a lower quality service, or providing a service on different terms. A restaurant owner, for example, cannot make a woman stop breastfeeding, or refuse to serve her.
Women can breastfeed in public places such as public buildings, public transport, parks, sports facilities, shops, restaurants, hospitals, theatres, cinemas, and petrol stations, etc.
Breastfeeding In Public In The US
In almost all 50 states in the US, the law protects breastfeeding in public.
In 47 states, and in Washington DC and the Virgin Islands, there are laws that specifically allow mothers to breastfeed in public.
Two of the remaining states (South Dakota and Virginia) exempt breastfeeding mothers from public indecency or nudity laws.
Idaho is the only US state which has yet to pass any similar laws.
Currently, in Idaho, the only protection breastfeeding mothers have is exemption from jury duty.
Breastfeeding In Public In The Philippines
In the Philippines, breastfeeding is protected by various laws, including the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 and the Milk Code of the Philippines.
In addition, employers in the Philippines must allow breastfeeding employees breaks to breastfeed or express their breastmilk.
Offices, public places (e.g. shops and schools) have to provide lactation stations, where mothers can breastfeed their babies or express breastmilk. These stations must be separate from the bathrooms.
Breastfeeding In Public In Europe
Public breastfeeding in Europe is widely accepted and legal.
In the Netherlands, the law states that, for the first 9 months, an employer is obligated to provide a breastfeeding mother with a suitable breastfeeding room, and allow for 25% of work time to be spent on breastfeeding or expressing.
In other parts of Europe, breastfeeding just is. There might not be specific laws to protect breastfeeding but it’s so commonplace that laws are not needed.
Breastfeeding In Public In Africa
While there are no laws in Africa about public breastfeeding, in many parts of the country, breastfeeding in public is the norm. Babies are typically carried around on their mother's back and are moved around to the front for feeding.
Babies who are carried by their mothers for most of the day tend not to cry very much.
In fact, in Africa, it’s assumed that a baby who is crying is being carried around by a woman other than the baby’s mother.
That's because if she were the mother, everyone would simply expect the woman to breastfeed the baby.
Breastfeeding In Public In Nepal
In Nepal, breastfeeding is considered a must for mothers.
The country doesn’t have any particular laws about breastfeeding in public, but it is common and widely accepted.
Given the importance of breastfeeding, it is essential that mothers feel confident about breastfeeding in public.
This is because if mothers don’t see other mothers doing it, it reinforces the idea that breastfeeding is something to be done only in private.
Breastfeeding, in fact, should be done whenever and wherever a baby needs to be fed.