Nursing In Public In Louisiana
By Amanda Miller
While seated at a local eatery with her family surrounding her, Allison picked up her crying newborn and began to breastfeed him. Not long after, the manager appeared at the family’s table and tried to discreetly tell Allison that she could not breastfeed there. Shocked, embarrassed, and unsure of how to respond, Allison stopped and relocated to the facility’s bathroom where she finished feeding her child.
At the time, Allison wasn’t aware of her rights when it came to nursing in public. And unfortunately, few moms are sure of what their rights are, especially when each state’s rules are put into play differently. The law in Louisiana states that “a mother may breastfeed her baby in any place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement, and clarifies that breastfeeding is not a violation of law, including obscenity laws.”
Despite breastfeeding being legal in our state, women are still experiencing harassment when they are nursing their children. And many are not sure how to respond when they are put into that situation. Marci Brewer of the Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition (LBC) shares, “Women can inform the offender that Louisiana law states that they can breastfeed anywhere and anytime. Women do not have to ‘cover up’ or go to a private place when breastfeeding. Businesses, however, do not have to create separate spaces for breastfeeding patrons, although sometimes a private, quiet space can be helpful, especially for new mothers.”
If a woman is harassed for breastfeeding in public, she is encouraged to report the incident to ensure that the laws are continuously being followed. Brewer adds, “Women who experience harassment should file a complaint with the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights, the entity that oversees the breastfeeding in public law in Louisiana. Women should also file a complaint with LBC. The LBC tracks complaints and can provide additional support and resources, if needed.”
For business owners who are unsure of how to respond to concerns from patrons who see a mother nursing in the establishment, Brewer encourages them to validate the complaining patrons’ concerns and kindly let them know that their establishment is breastfeeding-friendly, and that they comply with state law.
While there are some businesses that have not only embraced the laws but have also signed pledges to provide a breastfeeding-friendly environment, there are a few business owners that are still violating the law.
“We recently received a report from a mother who experienced harassment by restaurant staff in a north Louisiana restaurant while dining with her family. Reports like this remind us that we must continue to educate the public about the rights of mothers to breastfeed a child in public.”
And it doesn’t stop at just patrons visiting local businesses, employers are required to support employees who are breastfeeding. Brewer states, “Under the Federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law, employers are required to provide employees with space and time for milk expression. Providing lactation accommodations for employees is also a part of the state’s Well Spot designation that businesses can also receive.”
Parenting and breastfeeding are challenging enough on their own, and mothers should not have to worry about whether or not they will be able to breastfeed their infant in public.
The vast majority of women who are breastfeeding their child, do so in a discrete manner. They aren’t looking to cause a scene or make a statement. They are simply wanting to feed their child when he or she is hungry.
Brewer adds, “Breastfeeding support must be integrated at all levels–workplace, child care settings, healthcare, hospitals, and communities. As more women breastfeed in public, it moves the needle closer to normalizing breastfeeding.” ■
Report an Incident
Best for Babes, a national organization, has a Nursing In Public Harassment Hotline which women can use to report incidents and get support if she wants to take action.
Breastfeeding Rights Cards
The Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition offers Breastfeeding Rights Cards that can be downloaded from the website. louisianabreastfeedingcoalition.org/legislation