What All Businesses Should Know When Dealing With Breastfeeding Moms

nursing moms and babies welcomeWhen you run a business, you have to train employees for all sorts of situations. Included in that is state laws -- which, in almost all states, allows a woman to breastfeed wherever she is as long as she's allowed to be there with her baby. Some stores ask moms to cover up, move, or leave if there's a complaint (and sometimes it's the employees themselves with the problem), but really, is that the best solution?

For both your customers and your business, what's likely the best way to handle this? I have some answers ....


It's worth noting that in some states, like California, the laws protecting nursing moms even extend into privately owned businesses, and only stops at the doorstep of a private residence. Wisconsin specifically says you may not ask a nursing mom to move somewhere else, and many clarify that breastfeeding is not lewd nor can be considered indecent exposure/public nudity. West Virginia and Idaho moms? Sorry ladies, your states have woefully little to do with protecting your rights -- start writing to your legislators!

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's say there's a nursing mom in your restaurant, and for the sake of argument, she's not using a cover, but her baby covers her belly and the lifted shirt falls down over her breast. A customer complains that she doesn't "like that," it makes her "uncomfortable," so can you please make the woman "cover up or move?"

What next?

Many businesses, sadly, tell the nursing mom to throw something over herself and her infant, ignorant of the fact that many infants refuse to nurse while covered and some even think it's a game. Or, they ask her to relocate herself and her child, regardless if that means abandoning a meal she's paid for or a cart full of groceries. Notice both of those situations are totally disrespectful of the mother as a customer, and ignore the baby's needs entirely?

Another point made by Avery Lunn in her article "Customer Complaints About Breastfeeding Babies" is that when you go from one person who is complaining to interfering with the breastfeeding mom, you've made the business decision to take one dissatisfied customer and potentially increase that number to two -- or even more, depending on reactions of nearby patrons to your actions. So even from a business sense, it makes sense to try to quickly -- and quietly -- resolve the problem while involving as little people as possible. In this situation, that means only involving the person with a complaint, by either offering to help them move their table or informing them that the state law protects the woman's rights to breastfeed where she sees fit.

The downside, obviously, is that the person whose tantrum isn't resolved may complain about your business. But that's nothing compared to the negative press that a bunch of angry moms and supporters will bring on a business for discrimination, including news broadcasts and nurse-ins. And frankly, is it really worth it?

For nursing moms, check out the website or Facebook page of You Can Breastfeed Here for a list (not comprehensive by any means yet) of places that welcome nursing mothers. As a business, consider putting a "Breastfeeding Friendly" decal or sign up, to encourage business from parents and deter complaints before they start.

Do you feel it benefits businesses to remove breastfeeding babies and their mothers from sight? Or should businesses be welcoming to nursing moms?


Image via ok.gov

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