Breastfeeding in public
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A breastfeeding infant
Breastfeeding in public deals with the social attitudes to nursing mothers breastfeeding their babies in a public or semi-public place and to laws which either deprive them of the right or which recognize their choice to do so.
Some people are uncomfortable with seeing a mother breastfeed her baby, and some societies consider breastfeeding in a public place to be indecent.
Some nursing mothers may feel reluctant to breastfeed in public, either because of their upbringing or because of their own attitudes to exposing their breast in public to breastfeed, or because of anticipated reactions of others. Many countries have laws which make breastfeeding in a public place legal and disallow businesses from prohibiting it in the workplace.
Attitudes by region
In Canada, Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives equal rights and freedoms to men and women. The Canadian Charter does not explicitly mention breastfeeding. However, a 1989 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Brooks v. Safeway Canada held that as pregnancy was a condition unique to women, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination. Some commentators note, however, that the case was concerned with maternity pay and not with the right to breastfeed in public.
In June 2009, 27-year-old Tanya Constable was approached by a Walmart employee in the baby section of the Langford, British Columbia retail store and told, "You can't be here," suggesting that she move to the washroom instead. According to Constable, when she asked to speak to the manager, "The manager said that if someone complains, the store's policy is to ask them to move." Constable then decided to leave the store rather than breastfeed her 11-month-old daughter in the washroom. Walmart Canada later apologized for asking the mother to move and said that,"Customers can breastfeed in whatever manner they see fit anywhere in the store."
In Shanghai, breastfeeding in public is considered embarrassing. There have been calls for the establishment of baby care facilities in public places.
While public breastfeeding has been widely accepted especially since the Movement of 1968 when Nurse-Inns (German: Still-Inns) in public places, university lectures or even Bundestag sessions were a common sight, there is no legislature that specifically addresses breastfeeding in public.
Paragraph 2 Article 6 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany provides that "the care and upbringing of children as the natural right of parents" while paragraph 4 "entitles every mother to the protection and care of the community".
In recent decades acceptance for public breastfeeding appears to have decreased and according to surveys an increasing number of mothers try to avoid breastfeeding in public whenever possible. In a recent Bundestag session a member of the SPD party had to leave the floor after members of the Christian Democratic Union (Germany) complained that they felt disturbed by the breastfeeding mother.
The Public Breastfeeding Act since November 2010 safeguards the right to breastfeed in public, and to forbid, eject, or interfere breastfeeding in public is to be fined 6000 to 30000 new Taiwan dollars.
Breastfeeding in public (restaurants, cafes, libraries etc.) is protected under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 under the provision of goods, facilities and services section. If the child is under 6 months old, the mother has additional protection under a 2008 amendment to the act which protects maternity rights.
A UK Department of Health survey found that 84% (about 5 out of 6 people) find breastfeeding in public acceptable if done discreetly, however 67% (2 out of 3) of mothers are worried about general opinion being against public breastfeeding. To combat these fears in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation safeguarding the freedom of women to breastfeed in public in 2005. The legislation allows for fines of up to £2500 for preventing breastfeeding in public places.
Most US jurisdictions permit breastfeeding in public. In the United States, for instance, a federal law enacted in 1999 specifically provides that "a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location."
However, these laws generally do not apply to rules imposed by private organisations or on private property, such as restaurants, airlines, shopping malls etc.
In November 2006, Emily Gillette, a 27-year-old from Santa Fe, New Mexico was refused service in Burlington, Vermont after being asked to leave a Freedom Airlines flight by a flight attendant after she refused to breastfeed her baby under a blanket.
During June 2007, Brooke Ryan was dining in a booth at the rear of an Applebee's restaurant when she decided to breastfeed her 7-month-old son. While she said she attempted to be discreet, another patron complained that her partially revealed breast was "indecent exposure." Both a waitress and the manager asked her to cover up. She handed him a copy of the Kentucky law that permitted public breastfeeding, but he would not relent. She ended up feeding her son in her car and later organized several "nurse-in" protests in front of the restaurant and other public places.
In Parenting magazine there was a debate on whether moms have the right to breastfeed anywhere they would like. The results were 85% said yes and 15% said no.[dubious – discuss]
In 2005, Barbara Walters remarked on her talk show The View that she felt uncomfortable sitting next to a breastfeeding mother during a flight. Her comments upset some viewers who began organizing protests over the internet. A group of about 200 mothers staged a public "nurse in" where they breastfed their babies outside ABC's headquarters in New York.
Facebook has come under fire for removing photos of mothers breastfeeding their children, citing offensive content in violation of the Facebook Terms of Service. Facebook claimed that these photos violated their decency code by showing an exposed breast, even when the baby covered the nipple. This action was described as hypocritical, since Facebook took several days to respond to calls to deactivate a paid advertisement for a dating service that used a photo of a topless model.
The breastfeeding controversy continued following public protests and the growth in the online membership in the Facebook group titled "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! (Official petition to Facebook)."