I have been privy to the scoffs and apparent looks of disdain for breastfeeding in public. I have even heard stories of mothers being told that they have to stop breastfeeding their babies in that public location. Some mothers ignore the stares and comments and others are visibly uncomfortable.
If someone is trying to prevent you from breastfeeding your baby, know that you are not breaking any laws (at least in New York State)!
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, forty-five states including the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow woman to breastfeed in any public or private location.
However only twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws (Yikes). Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws that relate to breastfeeding in the work place.
Some of the Laws that are specific to New York State include:
- N.Y. Civil Rights Law § 79-e (1994) permits a mother to breastfeed her child in any public or private location where she is authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother's breast is covered during or incidental to the breast feeding.
- N.Y. Correction Law § 611 allows a mother of a nursing child to be accompanied b her child if she is committed to a correctional facility at the time she is breastfeeding. This law also permits a child born to a committed mother to return with the mother to the correctional facility. The child may remain with the mother until one year of age if the woman is physically capable for caring for the child. (2009 N.Y. Laws, Chap. 411; SB 1290)
- N.Y. Labor Law § 206-c (2007) states that employers must allow breastfeeding mothers a reasonable, unpaid break time(s) to express milk or permit an employee to use paid break time or meal time to express breast milk for up to three years following the child's birth. Employers must make reasonable attempts to provide a private location for her to do so. Prohibits discrimination against breastfeeding mothers.
- N.Y. Penal Law § 245.01 et seq. excludes breastfeeding of infants from exposure offenses.
- N.Y. Public Health Law § 2505-a creates the Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights and requires that it is posted in a public place in every maternal health care facility. It must be available on the health department's website so that health care facilities and providers can include the rights in maternity information leaflet. https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2028.pdf
Know your rights, and let others know them as well. For a list of each state and their unique laws regarding breastfeeding visit https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx