Women's Health

Breastfeeding Mamas, Know Your Rights

Published: Aug. 1, 2021

Every time I see a mom feeding her baby from one of those yellow Medela® collection bottles, I think to myself, “Gosh, I hope she’s feeding from that bottle because she wants to or needs to – not because she doesn’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable.”

Let me preface the topic of breastfeeding in public by saying whichever way you choose to feed is entirely up to you and baby. But choosing not to breastfeed in public out of fear that you’ll receive certain looks, comments or pushback is only doing a disservice to yourself and other moms who want or need to nurse exclusively.

And word to working moms: Pumping is still breastfeeding. By practicing our rights as nursing and working mothers, we normalize breastfeeding and move further away from the taboo that society has made it out to be.

So, to all my fellow mamas who may be hesitant to pump or feed their babies anywhere other than home, know this: There are laws that protect you.

Breastfeeding in Public

Nebraska and Iowa laws regarding breastfeeding in public are simple. As long as she’s not trespassing, a woman can nurse anywhere she is authorized to be, and she is not required to cover her chest or baby’s head while doing so.

This is important to know should you ever be told to cover up or leave.

Here’s how to report breastfeeding harassment or discrimination in:

Returning to Work

According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, your employer is required to allow you to pump breast milk as frequently as you need to and for a “reasonable” amount of time each break, for up to a year after your baby is born. Your employer is also required to offer a private hygienic space other than a restroom for you to do so.

It can be hard to keep up with pumping after returning to work. Your days get busier. You might lose track of time. And not to stereotype women, but most of us have a hard time letting people cover for us when we need to step away. We moms are good at a lot of things – especially carrying guilt.

There is a reason these breastfeeding laws exist. Take advantage of them!

The Importance of Support

The benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented. But it can be hard. Don’t wait or be ashamed to seek out:

  • Support groups
  • Breastfeeding classes
  • One-on-one guidance
  • Lactation tools and supplies

Comfort and convenience can have a lot to do with a woman’s choice to breastfeed. But the support she receives – at home or in public – can be critical in her breastfeeding journey.

While acknowledgement and acceptance of breastfeeding in public are getting better, we still have a long way to go.

Business owners, employers, passers-by and nursing moms: Know your rights. Know your requirements. And know that a mother who provides for her child is empowering – not embarrassing.

More Resources

About the Author

Inspired by her own breastfeeding struggles, Erin Valasek, RN, IBCLC, a certified lactation consultant at Methodist Women's Hospital, has a passion for instilling confidence in new mothers.

“There’s something about helping someone through it,” she said. “Because it’s hard! Breastfeeding is hard work. And letting them know that, ‘Hey, you’re going to do this. You’re going to get it.’ That’s what I love about my job.”

See more articles from Erin Valasek
Photo of Erin Valasek