Breastfeeding in public is legal in all 50 states across the U.S., but it often doesn’t feel that way with the frequent stories of moms getting kicked out of places for nursing.
From a mom who was stopped from breastfeeding her 4-month-old son in a hospital waiting room to another who was nursing at a Texas Roadhouse when the waiter tried to cover her up with a napkin, it doesn’t feel like it’s actually accepted across the country.
But as of March 2018, when Utah passed a bill stating that mothers could breastfeed in any public place, covered or uncovered, it officially became legal in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
So what counts as a public place? It changes slightly from state to state, but it generally means any space where the public has access.
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“A public place is generally an indoor or outdoor area, whether privately or publicly owned, to which the public have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, whether by payment of money or not, but not a place when used exclusively by one or more individuals for a private gathering or other personal purpose,” according to USLegal.
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That includes grocery stores, restaurants, parks, public pools, airports, amusement parks (Disney included!) and many, many more spaces. Really, the only spots it doesn’t include are private residences.
There are a few spaces that are definitely public, but where moms may be unsure if it’s legal to nurse. In April and May, two different moms spoke out after they were stopped from breastfeeding at their older child’s elementary school. In both cases, the women were volunteering at the school and had to bring their younger babies along, who then needed to nurse.
An elementary school is a public place and both women were fully within their rights to breastfeed there, covered or uncovered, but they were told to move to a private area. Both shared their stories on social media and in news outlets to raise awareness, and one of the moms, from Kentucky, is now suing her child’s school district.
Another spot where moms may be unsure of their rights is in a courtroom. In May, a North Carolina mom was in court for a traffic ticket when her daughter started fussing, so she began breastfeeding. The bailiff made her take the baby out to her husband in the hallway, and the judge allegedly berated the mom and threatened to send her daughter away to Child Protective Services. But, like any other public space, she was allowed to nurse in the courtroom.
All moms should feel confident that they are legally allowed to breastfeed in any public spot, covered or uncovered, regardless of what anyone tells them.