Your Breastfeeding Rights in California

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In March 2013, Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC and owner of the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, 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 and is managed by its founding members, Robin Kaplan, Amy Watson, Katie Jo Keppinger, and Shanna LeCount  (in addition to numerous local volunteers). 

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 online resource for community members to prevent and ameliorate nursing in public discrimination, as well as serve as 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.

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.

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 (Coming Soon)

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

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! 

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.  

Law Cards 

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

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.