NC Moms Can Legally Breastfeed in Public. So Why Don’t They?

>>7526071876_8dc1c5d2fc_bIn his first seven weeks of life, my son has made one thing very clear: he is not a discreet eater. A chorus of wheezes, grunts, sighs, and gulps issues forth as he nurses and when he unlatches from my breast to take a breath. Then he whips his head back and forth before attacking his meal again.

My son’s eating style isn’t an issue at home, but it does make breastfeeding in public even more, well, public.

And it makes covering up while I feed him difficult. He unlatches often — and even more frequently when he is warm from having a blanket over him. It is not any more discreet to nurse under a cover from which loud noises are issuing and under which I am constantly ducking to help him relatch than it would to have him breastfeed in the open air.

Being a mother with a hungry child is stressful enough, but wondering if I have the right to feed him in public and what would happen if I expose myself only adds to my angst. Therefore, I found it helpful to know >>NC’s breastfeeding law makes it legal for women to breastfeed in any public or private location as long as they have a right to be there, regardless of whether my >>little barracuda unlatches and displays my nipple.

North Carolina’s law is not an anomaly. While wording varies, almost all other states have >>laws that protect a woman’s right to breastfeed on public or private property, or at least protect her from indecent exposure charges.

But having a law on the books doesn’t do any good unless people are aware of it, so moms, please know that you have the right to feed your child wherever necessary. You do not need to cover up, retire to a bathroom, or leave the establishment — even if asked.

While I don’t think it happens as often anymore, there are plenty of horror stories about breastfeeding mamas being harassed and humiliated in public. If someone were aggressive or hostile to me while I was breastfeeding, I would leave, probably in tears. So I’d like to see NC amend its law to include wording that prevents nursing mothers from being discriminated against either by the owners or the patrons of an establishment.

In the meantime, business owners can help by creating a breastfeeding-friendly area in their establishments (while knowing that women are not obligated to use them), training employees in the correct way to approach someone who is breastfeeding, and explaining the law to concerned customers.

An upset customer might leave at the sight of a nipple, but I imagine more customers would be annoyed at the sound of a screaming baby. And there is more clientele to be gained by supporting the lactators, >>if social media is any indication. The internet is being used to promote places that support the cause, and people are using it to >>share their stories and cause change.

Whether you breastfeed, bottle-feed, or never had a kid, the most important thing is that our children are well nourished and well cared for. That starts with supporting our mothers and helping them to do their jobs.

Jennifer Brick is a writer and teacher in Durham, North Carolina. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. Follow her on Twitter @jenbrickwrites.

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  1. Jessica

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have never wotnessed anyone breastfeeding in public but i hear about it on social media all the time from my mom groups. They gave me the courage to do it. I started covered. And my daughter has issues staying latched as well. So I finally directed the cover. I would never sit in a stall with my daughter for her to eat. It just seems unsanitary. I did however have to pump in a gas station bathroom one time and I realized how disgusting it was. I wish establishmemts did have breastfeeding desinated areas. With power outlets too! For pumps or to just charge your phone! I hear other states talk about their tagets have them and its quite popular. I think if esablishlents started desinating an area for nursing and pumping they would be surprised at how often it would get used. A lot of women in NC nurse or pump but they dont feel comfortable in public. It seems to be taboo in nc for some reason. I now breastfeed wherever i need. I am proud to be apart of a movement. I hope I encourage other mothers to stand up and do the same. I had to in wal mart the other day. A lady trying to assist me kept asking why my baby was crying. She was hungry. She kept commenting on if i was going to feed her. So I pulled her out her seat and started feeding her. It was clear that is not what she expected. it is the most natural and beautiful thing in the world and i hope to see more of it in the future

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