Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world—after all, our bodies were built to feed our babies. And yet, public breastfeeding continues to be a hot-button issue. Whether in a store or at the park, when people spot a mother nursing her child while out and about, it often sparks a debate. Breastfeeding bullies claim indecent exposure. But according to law, is breastfeeding in public legal? The answer is yes: You can nurse baby wherever, whenever you want (with the exception of one state—more on that below). And that’s important, because when baby is hungry, the last thing you want to think about is where you can go to feed him. Curious to know what federal breastfeeding law specifically says? How about what’s considered legal in your individual home state? Read on to learn about your breastfeeding rights and breastfeeding laws by state.
Federal Breastfeeding Law
When it comes to breastfeeding in public, women’s breastfeeding rights are determined at the state level. But the federal government does have a pumping at work law on the books. Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed by President Obama in 2010, women have the legal right to pump at work.
By law, employers are required to provide a reasonable break time for employees to express breast milk for their children for up to one year after giving birth, according to the Department of Labor. All employers (with more than 50 employees) also have to provide a lactation room at work that’s shielded from view and free from intrusions—and the bathroom doesn’t qualify. “As a breastfeeding mom, you need to be comfortable,” says Michele Dwyer, RN, IBCLC at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, New York.“You need a sink to wash your equipment. And you need a quiet, clean environment to pump every two hours.”
Currently pregnant? Now’s the time to talk to your employer. Plan a time during your second or third trimester to talk with your managers about your plan to breastfeed after returning from maternity leave. Ask where you can pump, and explain how frequently you’ll need to do it. “Having a conversation in advance makes it much easier to work out the details,” Dwyer says. “By the time baby comes, everything will already be in place.”
Breastfeeding Laws by State
Good news for breastfeeding moms: Nearly every state (with the exception of Idaho) has laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed anywhere they’d like, in public or private. But while breastfeeding in public is legal, the 49 states with breastfeeding laws all have unique interpretations. Some focus exclusively on where you can breastfeed (i.e., anywhere), while others take the workplace and jury duty into consideration. Scroll down to find breastfeeding laws by state and learn what’s considered legal where you live.
Alabama breastfeeding laws
In Alabama, a mother can breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be present.
Alaska breastfeeding laws
Alaska law specifically states that a mom breastfeeding her baby, either publically or in private, cannot be considered “lewd conduct,” “lewd touching,” “immoral conduct,” “indecent conduct” or any other similar term, as long as the mom and child are authorized to be in that space. Furthermore, municipalities aren’t allowed to enact ordinances that prohibit or restrict women from breastfeeding their babies in public or private locations.
Arizona breastfeeding laws
In Arizona, breastfeeding laws say a mother can breastfeed in any public area where she is lawfully present, and specifically exempt breastfeeding from Arizona’s indecent exposure statute.
Arkansas breastfeeding laws
Arkansas enacted breastfeeding in public laws back in 2007 that exempt public breastfeeding from the indecent exposure law. Moreover, the statute states that a woman can breastfeed a child in any public place or where other people are present.
California breastfeeding laws
A mother can breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mom and child are authorized to be present. The only exception is another person’s private home or residence. Jury duty is optional for breastfeeding mothers, and all general acute care hospitals must provide a breastfeeding consultant to new moms during their hospital stay.
Colorado breastfeeding laws
Colorado is determined to “become involved in the national movement to recognize the medical importance of breastfeeding,” its legislation states—which is why a mother can breastfeed in any place she has a right to be, including the workplace.
Connecticut breastfeeding laws
In 1997, Connecticut enacted a law that prohibited any person from restricting or limiting a mom’s right to breastfeed her child. The state was also ahead of the game on enforcing laws that give mothers the right to express breast milk in the workplace, in a clean, secluded location made available by the employer.
Delaware breastfeeding laws
In Delaware, mothers are entitled to breastfeed their babies in any public location where they are legally allowed to be.
District of Columbia breastfeeding laws
In DC, women are also allowed to breastfeed their babies in any location, public or private, where she has a right to be, and they are exempt from any indecent exposure laws.
Florida breastfeeding laws
Fun fact: Florida enacted the first comprehensive breastfeeding legislation in the US (a fact the state is very proud of.) It currently states that a women can breastfeed her child wherever she’d like, public or private. It also includes a breastfeeding encouragement policy for facilities that provide maternal and newborn care.
Georgia breastfeeding laws
Georgia law emphasizes the importance of breastfeeding and states that a mother has the right to breastfeed anywhere she’s allowed to be with her baby. (Previously, the law required that the breastfeeding was conducted in a “modest manner,” but that’s since been eliminated.)
Hawaii breastfeeding laws
In Hawaii, it’s considered a discrimination “to deny, or attempt to deny,…