Your Breastfeeding Rights in California

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In March 2013, Robin Kaplan created the San Diego Nursing in Public (SDNIP) Task Force in response to several local nursing in public harassment incidents.  The Task Force is a collaboration between the San Diego Breastfeeding Center and the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition (non-profit) and is managed by Robin Kaplan and Jenna Ikuta.  

The goal of the SDNIP Task Force is to educate our community about the California laws that protect a mother's right to breastfeed in public and to provide support and guidance to mothers who have faced harassment or discrimination for breastfeeding in public.  The resources provided were created with the intention to empower mothers, by educating them on their civil rights to breastfeed in public and how to handle a harassment incident, and to empower business owners, by providing resources that they can integrate into their employee handbooks and training materials so that they are compliant with California law.  This online resource is a work in progress, as we hope to include additional materials over the course of the year.

The role of the SDNIP Task Force is to maintain this free online resource for community members to prevent and ameliorate nursing in public discrimination, as well as serve as free local advocates for mothers who have faced harassment for breastfeeding in public.   

San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force Resources

Scenarios for Ways to Handle a Nursing in Public Harassment Incident (Link to PDF

Wondering what to say when someone asks you to cover up in a store or restaurant?  The following are scenarios demonstrating a situation where a mother has been asked to cover up, move to another location, or leave a business due to breastfeeding in public.  Each scenario proposes steps that the mother can take to resolve the situation proactively and immediately.

Handling a Nursing in Public Harassment Incident Without a Local Task Force (Link to PDF)

Did you or a friend just experience a nursing in public harassment incident?  Want advice on how to resolve the situation peacefully?  Take this miserable experience as an opportunity to educate your community on a mother's right to breastfeed in public.  Follow the steps that the San Diego NIP Task Force uses to resolve these situations and help change the way your community views breastfeeding in public!

Template Letter to Send to a Business After a Nursing in Public Harassment Incident (Link to PDF)

Want to send a letter to a business or organization after a nursing in public harassment incident?  Feel free to modify this template letter with the details of the incident and your request for resolution.  

Steps to Filing a Complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (Link to PDF)

Not able to have your harassment incident resolved peacefully?  If you live in California, you can file a complaint with the DFEH to open a formal investigation of your incident.  This is always the last step in our resolution process, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary.

California Laws that Protect and Enforce a Mother’s Right to Breastfeed in Public (Link to PDF)

Did you know that California is one of the only states that not only has a law that protects a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, but also an enforcement provision to uphold this law?  This document lists both of these civil codes, as well as offers steps to resolve a nursing in public harassment incident when it cannot be ameliorated peacefully in the moment.

Tips for Creating a Breastfeeding-Friendly Policy for your Businesses (Link to PDF)

Wondering how to create a breastfeeding-friendly policy for your business?  Wondering why this is so important in the first place?  This document helps you craft a breastfeeding-friend policy, which will empower your employees with the language they need to protect a mother's right to breastfeed in your establishment, as well as kindly deal with a bothered patron.  

Laws that Protect Your Right to Breastfeed in Public in California

California Civil Code 43.3 (1997)

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present. 

Unruh Civil Rights Act

Fact Sheet that describes the California Civil Code sections 51 through 51.3, which provide protection from discrimination by all business establishments in California, including housing and public accommodations.   Discrimination against a breastfeeding mother is considered sex discrimination under the Unruh Civil Rights Act and is protected and enforced by the law.  

Additional Resources

FOX News Segment about nursing in public rights, featuring Robin Kaplan

DIY Breastfeeding YouTube Channel

DIY Breastfeeding is the San Diego Breastfeeding Center's YouTube channel.  You can find videos ranging from babywearing while breastfeeding to pumping to multiple latching positions. Each 3-5 minute video walks you through easy steps to overcome mini breastfeeding challenges.  The Babywearing While Breastfeeding playlist is continually updated to provide you with simple tips to master these skills and nurse in public easily!

Boob Group Podcast episode: Ways to Combat Nursing in Public Harassment

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The Boob Group is a free, weekly podcast the discusses various breastfeeding topics in a judgment-free atmosphere.  In this episode, Michelle Hickman, aka Target Mom, discusses Ways to Combat Nursing in Public Harassment.  Despite federal and state laws protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, many women still face harassment and ridicule when feeding their babies outside the home. What are some of the ways women are harassed? What should you do if asked to cover up? What resources are available for women who’s rights have been violated? 

Becoming a Badass Public Breastfeeder

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It is possible to breastfeed comfortably in public. Abby has spoken with hundreds of women to address real concerns that affect a mom’s ability to breastfeed her baby on demand. Becoming a Badass Public Breastfeeder provides you with information, resources, advice and encouragement in an easy and free e-course. Thousands of people have gained the confidence to brave the outside world with nursling in tow. Now it's your turn to gain the confidence to breastfeed your baby while still living a full life as the productive member of society that you are! Abby was also on The Boob Group podcast, discussing How to Become a Badass Public Breastfeeder.

Family Friendly Business Initiative

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As one mother put it, “I appreciate and favor businesses where I know, if my baby is hungry, I can comfortably meet his needs.” The goal of the Family Friendly Business Initiative is to make it easier for mothers to nurse their little ones when they are out shopping or dining.  Also, they want to give businesses that support nursing/pumping mothers the recognition that they deserve! 

To become a Family Friendly Business, businesses must provide a welcoming attitude to nursing mothers and their babies and a comfortable, clean place (other than a restroom) for a mother to breastfeed her baby--a dressing room or a quiet corner is just fine.

Businesses can contact Family Friendly Business for educational materials for their staff including a sample breastfeeding policy.

Best for Babes NIP Hotline

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The Best for Babes NIP hotline is the place where all nursing in public harassment incidents are being recorded and documented.  If you have been discriminated against for nursing in public, in addition to using our resources to remedy the situation, please report the incident to the Best for Babes NIP hotline.  The only way all state and federal breastfeeding laws will include an enforcement provision is if legislators are faced with a need.  Collecting your stories will present the need!  Best for Babes also has a fantastic article “What to do if Harassed While Nursing in Public.”  It provides a fantastic step-by-step support for sticking up for yourself and your baby. 

Breastfeeding Law

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The Breastfeeding Law website is a comprehensive online resource that lists every state and federal law that protects your right to breastfeed.  Covers both workplace accommodation laws (breastfeeding/pumping in the workplace) and breastfeeding in public laws.  Information also includes whether the state has an enforcement provision to uphold the laws.  Maintained by Jake Marcus, JD.  

California Law Cards 

Here’s a downloadable California Breastfeeding Law Card that you can print and share whenever and wherever you rights are being questioned. 

4 Reasons Women Should Never Breastfeed In Public

Kristina Kuzmic will make you cry laughing with this incredibly humorous, snarky, sarcastic, yet accurate video.  Watch this when you need a bit of a laugh, send to a critic who comments on your Facebook photo after it gets reported for nudity/pornography, or share with new mamas as encouragement to breastfeed in public.

If You Don't Support Breastfeeding in Public, You Don't Support Breastfeeding

Katharine McKinney does a great job putting it simply, “if you don’t support breastfeeding in public, you don’t support breastfeeding.” If you hear or read a “but” after “I support breastfeeding … ”, it usually means there are conditions that do not fully support breastfeeding. She says, “Breastfeeding whenever, wherever a child is hungry is an integral component of breastfeeding success.” Her article gives concise reasons and rebuttals for the most common examples people give for why a woman shouldn’t breastfeed in public. Check these out before you nurse in public to help form a response in the event that you’re ever confronted or read this after you’ve had a negative experience so you know what you can say if there is ever a “next time,” which we hope there won’t be.

The Problem With 'Discreet' Breastfeeding

Louise, aka Mama Bean, opens her article with the definition of “discreet” and it’s mindblowing. “What is so embarrassing about seeing a child enjoying a drink of milk? What is so obtrusive, exactly, about the breast?” Her quote makes one sit back and really question where the embarrassment and obtrusiveness has stemmed from. Here at the San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force, we aim to empower mothers to breastfeed their babies, whenever and wherever their babies are hungry. We aim to increase awareness of breastfeeding, thereby increasing the awareness of the need to nurse our babies in public. Louise sums that up wonderfully in her closing sentence: “If only this milk storm of ours could spread empowerment to mothers everywhere... if only it could blow away the cobwebs and breastfeeding myths and shower us with support and guidance. Because I have two breasts. Two magical, completely normal, indiscreet breasts.” You, mama, have two magical, completely normal, indiscreet breasts. Rock them with pride.

 

 

The San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force would like to thank Catie Stephens, owner of Vuefinder Photography, for taking these beautiful photos of our moms nursing in public.  We would also like to extend a HUGE thank you to So Childish Boutique, Progress, and Station Tavern for allowing us to photograph in their spaces and for ALWAYS supporting breastfeeding in public!

Disclaimer – Nothing on this site should be interpreted as legal advice.  We are not attorneys.  We are breastfeeding advocates.  The purpose is to educate our community about the laws that protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, as well as provide supporting documents for mothers when a nursing in public harassment incident must be remedied.