Breastfeeding in public

Forty-five states have laws that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private place, Michigan is not among these.

Breastfeeding benefits the health of both an infant and a mother. As a result, it has become a focus of public health in order to decrease health problems and medical costs. Though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least one year, this goal is not easy for many women. One obstacle to overcome breastfeeding is embarrassment in public. According to Michigan State University Extension, many women may feel awkward breastfeeding their infants in public or may perceive that they are making others uncomfortable. Though women may choose to pump breast milk to feed their babies in public, this creates much more effort and time than simply putting the baby to the breast. Pumping to feed in public not only requires the time to pump the milk and feed the baby, but also requires transporting the milk safely, keeping all bottles and nipples sanitized, and cleaning the pump and bottles. This process can be exhausting for new mothers and may prompt them to start formula or stop breastfeeding all together.

Though 45 states have laws that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private place, Michigan is not among them. The only law protecting public breastfeeding in Michigan was passed in 1994 and states that public nudity laws do not apply to a woman breastfeeding a child.

In order to make breastfeeding in public easier, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends wearing clothes that allow easy access to the breast (such as tops that pull up or button down), breastfeeding the baby in a sling or practicing breastfeeding at home to ensure the mother is only exposing as much as she feels comfortable. Most importantly, it is important to remember that breastfeeding is vital to meeting an infant’s needs, and staying at home all the time is impossible. Though it may be difficult to nurse in public, breastfeeding mothers can be proud of their dedication to providing their infants with the best possible nutrition.

The Breastfeeding Mother to Mother program by MSU Extension can answer your questions about breastfeeding.

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