Public Breastfeeding in Texas
It’s disgusting. It’s indecent. Can you believe she would just whip it out like that? I don’t want my child/husband/dog to see that!
Ah yes, reaction to the ever-so-controversial idea of nursing in public. Why the controversy? Apparently it is a difficult step to get past breasts as sexual objects and see them for their primary intended purpose – providing sustenance and nutrition to the young. The reasons and implications of that could take up plenty of time and space, but today that isn’t my goal. Right now, I’m here to offer you tips for nursing in public.
Decide whether nursing in public is something you want to do.
For some women, the idea is so out there that they can’t ever imagine doing such a thing. If that’s you – and you’re alright with that – then don’t sweat it. For many women, myself included, the idea of having to stay home for the first year because someone else needed my boobs every few hours was a little stifling, to say the least. So early on I decided that I was going to figure out how to make it work. Once you are committed,
Take it one step at a time.
Nursing itself can be a complicated process. Throw in the anxiety and unfamiliar challenges of nursing on the go and you can start feeling overwhelmed. Start with baby steps. First visit a playdate or park meet-up with a few other moms and give it a go.
If even that seems to be too much, when you are accustomed to nursing only in your glider with the pillow and the supplies and nobody to watch, try nursing in your car. Hop in the backseat with baby and see how things go. Once you’re feeling more comfortable, many stores have nursing rooms, lounges, or large dressing rooms that you can use until you start to feel ready for more public venues. Just don’t listen to the fools who suggest you nurse in the restroom. Ick.
Dress the part.
For myself, showing my boobies wasn’t the big issue. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not featured in any Girls Gone Wild videos or anything. But what was really uncomfortable for me was my post-partum stomach. I figured out that I could wear a great, supportive nursing tank (I personally loved Glamourmom tanks) and top it off with my usual t-shirts or button downs. Then, when feeding time arrived I could unlatch the tank, pull up my t-shirt and latch baby without showing any breast – or any tummy.
Covers are great – if they work for you and your baby – but they can sometimes call more attention to what you’re doing under the blanket. Honestly, unless I told people I was nursing, they just thought I was holding a sleeping baby. That brings me to my next tip.
Be prepared to deal with people invading your space.
People love babies. They want to see them and touch their hands (ugh – hand sanitizer, anyone?), and ooh and ah over their innate adorableness. And that’s cool. But you may find that people want to come check out baby while you are feeding, so think about how to deal with that.
Usually a simple, “He’ll be done eating in just a minute” will get you some personal space. This can give you a chance to show people that nursing in public isn’t this disgusting display of nudity and exhibitionism, but simply a mother attending to her child. But,
Be prepared to deal with people who suck.
I nursed three kids, all for over a year, and pretty much anywhere I happened to go. I was very lucky in that the majority of my interactions with people were positive. Surprisingly, older people tended to be the most complimentary – stopping to tell me how they remembered their own babies and congratulating me on nursing mine. I fed babies in restaurants, parks, cars, offices, schools, homes, malls, amusement parks – you name it, I nursed there. I only had one truly negative encounter.
Amusingly enough, I was on a bench in the mall, directly outside Victoria’s Secret. Another mother, with a toddler, gave me a look that would kill and jerked her toddler away to cover his eyes. Of course, she dragged him directly towards the larger-than-life billboard of perky breasts barely contained by a lace bra in the store window, but you know – wouldn’t want him to see breastfeeding – that’s disgusting.
She didn’t have the nerve to speak to me, but if she did I was happy to tell her that the opinion that mattered wasn’t hers – but my own. I decided that nursing my baby was important to me, and some stranger in the mall wasn’t going to change that anytime soon.
By the same token, don’t feel like you have to change opinions. There are some people who aren’t going to like nursing in public. They don’t have to. But the law (in 45 states) supports a woman’s right to feed her child in any place that she is legally allowed to be. So don’t worry about what anyone else says – just what feels right for you, and your baby.
Texas Breastfeeding Laws
- Tex. Health Code Ann. § 165.002 (1995) authorizes a woman to breastfeed her child in any location.
- Tex. Health Code Ann. § 165.003 (1995) provides for the use of a “mother-friendly” designation for businesses who have policies supporting worksite breastfeeding.
- Tex. Health Code Ann. § 165.032 (1995) provides for a worksite breastfeeding demonstration project and requires the Department of Health to develop recommendations supporting worksite breastfeeding.
- Tex. Health Code Ann. § 161.071 (2001) requires the Department of Health to establish minimum guidelines for the procurement, processing, distribution, or use of human milk by donor milk banks.
- TX HB 475 (2019) includes infant nutrition and the importance of breastfeeding in a list of information to be disseminated to foster children that are pregnant and minors who are pregnant by the Department of Health.
- TX HB 541 (2019) relates to the right to express breast milk, provides that a mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby or express breast milk in any location in which the mother’s presence is otherwise authorized to be.
Do you have any tips that helped you feel comfortable nursing in public? Please share in the comments.