Breastfeeding in Public: An Important Right for Every Mom and Baby

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine
By Gina Cicatelli Ciagne

For breastfeeding moms in the United States, we have come to the point at which there is much more acceptance of nursing, yet there is still work to be done.

According to a 2017 survey from the Centers for Disease Control, we are seeing the highest rate of women breastfeeding in our country (83%), Zyet many moms fear being ridiculed or publicly shamed for nursing in public. More awareness of breastfeeding and the myriad benefits have helped to normalize it somewhat, but there is still a feeling of unease with babies being breastfed in public.

The 2017 Lansinoh Breastfeeding Survey found that 65% of moms said breastfeeding in public is “perfectly natural,” and 20% have been openly criticized for nursing in public.

While breastfeeding is often seen as just feeding a baby, it is much more than that. The health benefits, such as lowering heart disease, obesity, allergies, asthma, certain cancers, diabetes, and more, last a lifetime for mom and baby. Breastfeeding impacts our health costs, insurance costs, and those related to preventive health measures; it is not just a nice thing to do.

Many have asked: “When is it appropriate for mom and baby to nurse in public, and who should make that determination?” We say baby and mom should determine where nursing occurs, and if they happen to be out of the home, that is where they should nurse. It is important to remember that this is about feeding a hungry, growing, developing baby. Babies’ stomachs are very small when they are born, and when they pee and poop, they need a refill. That is why they feed so often — and not always when it is convenient. It is about that baby and mother’s comfort.

Having a healthier society should be a goal for all. Law is also on mom’s side, as federal, state, and local laws have been put in place to protect her rights to nurse in public. It is paramount that when laws are in place, they are upheld. I often pose this question to naysayers: Would you rather see a baby nursing in public (as moms are often discreet and few would know she is nursing) or hear a baby crying inconsolably? I say let the baby nurse, let the mom relax and feed her baby, and those who don’t understand or agree can look away.

The more we see babies breastfeeding and images of it in our media, the more normal it will become. More laws to protect their rights ensuring the Affordable Care Act’s breastfeeding- and pumping-related mandates are being honored and followed by employers, and a more general sense of support and guidance are important components that will continue to make breastfeeding seen as acceptable by more people. We believe it is absolutely acceptable; it’s human milk for human babies.

Gina Cicatelli Ciagne a certified lactation counselor at Lansinoh, which has been providing breastfeeding sup-plies and support to mothers since 1984