It seems like common knowledge by now that women are allowed to nurse in public. No matter how you choose to nurse, it's a fact that you are legally protected with the right to nurse your baby wherever you're allowed to be with them.
For a lot of women, the fear of negativity is enough to scare them out of nursing in public entirely, forcing them to pump and take bottles (a huge hassle with major downsides), or even women who bring formula, despite the damage it can do to their breast milk supply.
So what's a mother to do? Come prepared.
I've compiled a list of tips, tricks, and comebacks to help you feel more confident to nurse in public, and help you prepare for situations that hopefully never arise.
First and foremost, try to stay very calm. Remember the stadium incident? The man was asking the woman to move because she was in a roped off section, not because she was breastfeeding. Some people also assume you'd be more comfortable somewhere else and think they're being helpful when they tell you that you can go sit in a stinky bathroom.
If approached with a request to move, act like you're a reporter or judge getting a statement: Say, "I'm sorry, what exactly are you telling me you'd like me to do?" If the response is still vague, such as, "Move somewhere else," push for clarification: "Are you asking me to move because I am breastfeeding my baby here?" It might be that it was all a misunderstanding, and you can avoid an explosion, but if it turns out they are just being ignorant:
Know your rights. Look up your state's law, print it on card stock, and have it laminated. Two copies, preferably. Keep it in your diaper bag, purse, or whatever you'll have with you. If someone says something, simply pull out your copy, set it down in front of you, and calmly say, "I am protected by our state law. What I'm doing is perfectly legal." Why do I say laminated card stock? One, it looks more official. Two, there have been women who've printed it and showed it to someone, only to have the ridiculously enraged stranger tear it up. There is no state requirement that you must cover up. North Dakota and Missouri have little quips about being discrete: "a woman discreetly breastfeeding her child" and "with as much discretion as possible," respectively, but they are not enforceable, as discretion is relative. Your method of nursing is totally up to you.
Get local businesses to display a breastfeeding-friendly logo (you can order stickers here to hand out). Not only does this allow you to open dialogue about your state's laws, but you're doing the valuable legwork to help other nursing moms avoid confrontation by helping let them know that there are places that are openly supportive.
Now that we've got the ugly stuff out of the way, I'll share some comebacks provided by Luschka of Diary of a First Child:
When a person says: Excuse me, we have facilities in the ladies' toilets for that (pointing at my breastfeeding baby).
Respond: Thank you, but I’m comfortable here.
When a person says: Would you like a blanket or something to cover yourself with?
Respond: No, thank you. It’s generally not too difficult to find a woman with more cleavage showing than I am when breastfeeding. If I’m not covered it's because I don’t want to be.
When a person says: You shouldn’t be doing that here (in a church).
Respond: Remember the story in the Bible about not squandering the gifts God gives you? God gave me these breasts and He gave me the ability to make milk and He gave me a daughter who gets hungry and requires sustenance. This is what He made them for. I’m not willing to squander my gifts. If that’s a problem for you, perhaps you should take it up with Him?
And now for some comebacks of my own:
When a person says: We prefer people use the bathroom for that.
Respond: I prefer not to, and the Health Department is against serving food there as well.
When a person says: Would you cover up please?
Respond: I would, but my daughter hates not being able to breathe fresh air. If you don't mind, she's trying to eat and I would like some privacy.
Last but not least, you can always pull a Wanda, from Baby Blues:
Are you a nursing mom? What do you say when people tell you to stop?
Image via Curi Hyvrard/Corbis; Baby Blues