Breastfeeding Your Toddler in Public Isn't Always Allowed


State laws on breastfeeding in public vary, but MOST states have a law that says that wherever a mother can be with her baby, she can breastfeed. While private home owners and certain businesses (not national chains!) can have their own private policies, public places and government-owned buildings are always available.

But up until the passing of a new law, Tennessee toddlers were treated like second-class citizens, because you see ... this is the law until July 1:

68-58-101. Right to breastfeed in any location. — A mother has a right to breastfeed her child who is twelve (12) months of age or younger in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present.

Toddlers weren't allowed to eat with other people in public ... well, not breastfeed, anyway. The law revision is better, but still not good enough.

On July 1, the age restriction removal goes into effect, thanks to Governor Bill Haslam. But what remains is wondering why it would have been there in the first place, not respecting the AAP's beliefs that nursing should go until a minimum of a year (not only UNTIL), and the LLL, Surgeon General, CDC, and WHO's support of nursing until TWO years old as a minimum. In no situation should breastfeeding your own baby be illegal.

One of the problems even with the bill's revision, and the bill in many states, is a lot of the general public has an issue with women nursing in public. And the most businesses, security guards, or employees get when they go out of their way to make a breastfeeding mom feel like she is doing something wrong is a verbal slap on the wrist telling them that the law says it's okay.

Obviously, despite being protected by law, there's more that needs to be done if we want women to REALLY feel comfortable nursing in public, whether they choose to use a cover or go into a back room or sit right at their table with their shirt lifted up. What good does a law do if it's never enforced and there's no punishment for breaking it?

Come ON. So I'm glad Tennessee stopped discriminating against people who nurse full term, but really, so many of these laws really just give a mom the right to not go to jail, but they don't help support nursing. We need to impose at least a fine or give people some reason to not completely and utterly ignore it entirely.

What do you think should change about the laws to help protect breastfeeding moms' rights?


Image via MelanieLouise/CafeMom

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PonyC... PonyChaser

This is going to make me really unpopular, but please tell me WHY mothers must breastfeed their toddlers in public? I am not saying that they shouldn't feed their children breastmilk. The two are different. But toddlers are well able to eat solid foods, and in fact, at that point, should be eating solids in addition to breastmilk. What is so horrible about pumping some breastmilk and bringing it along to feed? Put it in a cup and nobody is any wiser.

I think it's ridiculous that a government would make such a law, and I don't think that it should stand. But I don't see why it's such a massive problem, when a mother has other options.

Emmoney Emmoney

I can't pump, don't respond to it. And why should I have to for YOUR comfort?

Emmoney Emmoney

Oh and my toddler and preschooler get a lot more out of nursing than just sustinence. 

Sol Soto

@PonyChaser - you said it yourself. We have options. Breastfeeding our children is one of them. Why should I put breastmilk in a cup when my child can easily get it from the source? I don't pump now that I no longer work and I don't see why I should when I don't need to. I don't care if anyone else is 'wiser' to what I am doing.

Jocelyn Lequier-Jobin

When the other option is having an overtired one year old tearing at your shirt and screaming boobies, breastfeeding your toddler in public is very appealing.  My one year olds weren't very good at drinking from a cup until around 18 months.  I also found pumping very difficult after 9 months or so. 

I got  a few looks nursing my toddlers but never had anyone say anything to me.  I think if you are brave enough to nurse a toddler in public most people don't want to mess with you, lol!

lau55 lau55

The same people who get so offended at nursing toddlers in public are the most likely the same ones who get so offended and irritated  at toddlers throwing tantrums in public. Would you rather my child be screaming and crying or quietly nursing while they recover from whatever upset them?

I think any place of business that harasses a nursing mom ought to be publicly flogged. ;)

Anna V Ilkka

I get enough negative attention & hate from envious women as it is, and, unless it is an emergency do not plan to nurse my toddler publicly...unless nursing in one's car counts as public nursing, well then, look somewhere else.

My daughter is picky, only milk from the boob because it is the proper temperature. My breastfed toddler is visually much healthier than the unbreastfed toddlers whose faces tend to be inflammed due to teething. Breastfeeding a toddler really helps them through the big molars, and, somehow reduces the facial inflammation. Those chipmunk cheeks on a toddler always make me sad. In additon, nursing my toddler forces me to slow down and relax, something I don't normally do because as an ADD there is always something to many projects so little time (it was very useful as a farmgirl).

I can also, safely say, that breastfeeding beyond 24 months really helps to keep mommy's weight down, also. Not that anyone in this society is concerned about being the most physically healty as possible, but JIC someone else is, I thought I'd throw that in there.

Memph... MemphisSuzi

I work with Dr. Julie Ware who was the front runner in getting this bill passed.  It isnt completly what she wanted but it's better.  So go DR. JULIE!!

But in my personal opinion, there is no necessity for a toddler over the age 2 to be BF in public.  At this age, the majority of what they eat is not breastmilk.  My 2 year old is fine drinking out of a cup and eating food until we are home.

Rachel Soumokil

I think it's absolutely ridiculous that something that is COMPLETELY NATURAL to our species is being legislated in such a manner.  I'm feeding my child.  I can't stay home ALL THE TIME so you don't have to see a glimpse of less skin than you see on half the magazines at the news stand.  Seriously?  

Fonda Norris Sargent

My 13 month old was very slow to start solids. I'm following his cues as he has a very sensitive gut. What little solids he does have occasionally constipated him. Given the nature of his sensitive gut it's obvious breast-feeding is the healthiest option for him. I'm not going to overstuffed my baby or try to pump(I don't even own a pump) in anticipation of others comfort levels or hangups or whatever else they have going on. Being adults, I would hope that they'd be mature enough to look away if they see something that bothers them. My baby, unfortunately, is too little to understand that some folks are grossed out by his perfectly normal and natural need to nurse so I don't make it his problem. Worried about older kids seeing a nursling? Take it as an opportunity to explain what breastfeeding is. If more kids witnessed their moms, friends and relatives breastfeeding we wouldn't be having this discussion since nursing in public would be the non issue that it is in many other countries.

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