Finally, you can feed your baby in public without breaking the law — and it took long enough
Women and their babies, rejoice! Finally, way later than it should have happened, it’s perfectly legal to nurse your babies in public in all 50 states. Yes, legal breastfeeding should have been a thing a long time ago (or rather it should have never been illegal in the first place) but at least it’s now officially the case.
What does this mean? It means that you can make sure your baby isn’t hungry anywhere public that you please. Just note that you can only breastfeed without having to worry about covering up (which can be a huge pain for both mother and baby) in 49 states — male religious zealot lawmakers in Utah are still being jerks about that.
Public breastfeeding has been legal in most states for some time now — and a federal law passed in 1999 made it legal for women to breastfeed openly on all federal property and in all federal buildings. But there were a few holdouts: Idaho didn’t have a specific law on the books protecting breastfeeding mothers and Utah, due to its conservative, Mormon representation, said the issue was about modesty (and, let’s be real: oppressing women).
Utah Rep. Justin Fawson was the hero of nursing moms in Utah, who sponsored the Breastfeeding Protection Act this year.
“I don’t feel like we should ever relegate a mom to a restroom to breastfeed their child,” Fawson said during an interview. “That’s a big reason why I’m running the bill. I’m seeking to further normalize breastfeeding and allow moms to feed their babies as needed.”
Opponents to the bill, like Rep. R. Curt Webb, seemed flummoxed that women would be showing parts of their boobs in public in order to give nutrients to their offspring. “But this seems to say you don’t have to cover up at all,” he said. “[I’m] not comfortable with that at all, I’m just not. It’s really in your face.”
Hopefully, someone explained to him that breastfeeding isn’t about him, and that breasts are literally present in the universe to nurse children.
Sadly, while the Utah law passed 66-5 in the House (surprise – the five holdouts were all male! Women, run for office!), it was only after language was eliminated that would make uncovered feeding totally legal.
In Idaho, Rep. Paul Amador, a father to an infant, sponsored the breastfeeding amendment that protects nursing moms from obscenity and indecent exposure laws. That law passed unanimously without debate, after Amador said:
“I think we can take a proactive stance here through legislation to promote the natural bond and health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. I also believe the health and nutritional choices of our families are best left as decisions for our families, not our government.”
Again, it’s a great thing to happen, but it would also be great if all men, not just the fathers of infants, realized that breastfeeding in public is both 1) no big deal and 2) none of anyone’s business but the nursing mom and her baby.
Still, the fight to normalize breastfeeding is not over. Just this week, the police were called on two moms who were breastfeeding at a public pool, even though the law protected them. And let’s not forget that you can still get arrested for showing your nip while breastfeeding in Utah, even with the new laws.
What’s the best way to fight back? Start by breastfeeding in public with pride (if you breastfeed) and by supporting the moms around you that do, too, to smash the stigma. You can also participate in nurse-ins and call your representatives over any related issues. It’s natural, it’s necessary, and it’s not going anywhere.