Public breastfeeding now a civil right in Seattle

Published: Friday, April 20 2012 4:45 p.m. MDT

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Despite a broad push across the country for breastfeeding rights, many women still feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, even if they do so covertly. Womenshealth.gov offers some suggestions as to how women can feel more comfortable.

The website, managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suggests mothers remember they are feeding their babies and not being inappropriate. It also suggests bringing a blanket or similar cover like sling, after practicing a cover-up at home.

In Washington, one of the many states with breastfeeding laws, Seattle has added a new distinction to its law: Breastfeeding is now a protected civil right in the city. Additionally, officials in publicly accessible areas are not allowed to ask women to cover up or breastfeed in another area. Previously there was some ambiguity as to which areas were subject to the law, the Consumerist reports.

"[I]t's a health issue for our community," the measure's sponsor told King5 News, according to the Consumerist. "It's very clear the benefits of breastfeeding. What we want to do is move the needle in terms of community acceptance of breastfeeding by having our local civil office of rights enforcing the law."

Breastfeeding numbers

  • 45 states, the District of Columbia and Virgin Islands have laws allowing women to breastfeed in any area.
  • 28 states, the District of Columbia and Virgin Islands have laws exempting breastfeeding from being subject to public indecency laws.
  • 24 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have workplace-related breastfeeding laws.
  • 12 states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding women from jury duty.
  • 5 states and Puerto Rico have implemented or suggested public education campaigns to promote breastfeeding awareness.
Several states with unconventional breastfeeding laws:
  • In Virginia, women can breastfeed on any state-owned land or property.
  • Puerto Rico has mandated separate breastfeeding and diaper changing areas — in addition to bathrooms — in public areas such as malls and airports.
  • Purchases in Maryland related to breastfeeding in any way are exempted from sales and use tax.
  • California, New York and Texas have laws related to how human milk can be obtained, used and distributed.
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