Breast-Feeding: Private Act or Public Right?

Several states have passed laws allowing women to breast feed in public.

ByABC News via logo
July 15, 2007, 8:08 AM

July 15, 2007 — -- It is an act millions of new moms do everyday. But when it comes to breast-feeding, some argue there is a time and a place for it.

The topic is a provocative one for parents and even those without children.

"I think it's perfectly natural and decent," one woman said.

Another man agreed.

"It doesn't bother me," he said. "It's none of my business, to tell you the truth."

But not everyone was on board for breast-feeding.

"It's something that should be kept behind closed doors," one man said.

Another woman said she found it disgusting and immoral to breast-feed in public.

"We have a lot of ambivalent feelings about breasts being used to feed because we see them as sexual objects," said ABC News parenting contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy.

Cate Bruce-Low tries to be discreet and cover up her skin, unless it becomes too hot or uncomfortable for her child.

"I'm not trying to show myself off," the 29 year old said. "I'm just trying to feed my child."

Bruce-Low is an active woman with a 7-week-old boy and 2-year-old daughter. She finds everyday mundane errands often become a major juggling act.

"You're in the middle of supermarket, you have one hand on the cart, one hand on your credit card," she said. "In a pinch, if you have another child screaming at you..."

Bruce-Low said occasions exist where she can cover up, but there also are times when it's impossible. She recalled how aggressive onlookers were on a few occasions when she was unable to cover herself.

"At the restaurant, I had a woman coming over to ask me to cover up," Bruce-Low said. "One time, I was in an office [and] a woman came to tell me I needed to go to the bathroom to nurse."

She said she was hurt and offended by the comments.

But now, 46 states allow woman to nurse in public or at least exempt them from prosecution.

But, public opinion hasn't caught up with the law. A recent study found 57 percent of Americans said women should not have the right to breast-feed in public. Seventy-two percent said it was inappropriate to show a woman nursing on television.


Use a cover up.


Feel comfortable while breast feeding. There are lots of products on the market that let moms cover up while nursing.


Wear a button-down shirt and nursing bra.


Ask permission if you are a guest.


As a courtesy, when at a private home or party, ask if it's okay if you breast feed.


Stand up for your rights.


Don't be ashamed of feeding your baby. In most cultures, it's considered completely normal.