Breastfeeding in public: What are you looking at? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Breastfeeding in public: What are you looking at?

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

What do you think when you see a woman breastfeeding her baby, uncovered, in public?  If you have the urge to tell her to go into a bathroom or cover up, you're violating state law.

FOX13 News brought some tiny cameras into the Memphis Public Library to see people's reactions to four women breastfeeding in public.

MORE:  Laws on breastfeeding in public
    
Only Zoraya Ruiz, nursing 20-month-old Cassandra, drew a comment as she was walking out the door. "He's like, 'you look natural and comfortable with her,'" says Ruiz. "And I said, 'yes, that's true.' It's really nice and makes you feel proud of what you're doing."

But Ruiz has gotten aggressive stares before, while breastfeeding in line for a ride at Disney World.

"If you feel uncomfortable, just don't look," says Ruiz.  "Nobody's putting pressure on you to look. Just think about it like that mother is feeding her baby.  Just like a mother feeding her baby with a bottle, same thing."

These women all have the right to be nursing in public.  In Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas there are laws protecting a woman's right to breastfeed her baby in public, anywhere she's entitled to be otherwise, whether on public or private property.  She is also exempt from any public nudity restrictions.

Laura Barrett keeps these laws on a laminated card in her wallet, in case she's ever approached while feeding 8-month-old William. "I think we forget this is actually why we have breasts," says Barrett.  "They're for feeding our babies and I think they've been very sexualized and that's fine.  But this is what they're for.  I think the more it's out there and the more people see it, the less it becomes an issue."

But still, even protected by state law, the most common complaint from nursing mothers is being asked to go into a bathroom.

"I have a hard enough time going into some bathrooms and using the bathroom," says Carolyn Dodson-King.  "I am not going to feed him in a bathroom and you're not going to ask them to go eat in a bathroom either."

Dodson-King says the majority of remarks and looks she's gotten have been from extended family members.  She nursed her two older kids for three and almost four years.
    
The World Health Organization recommends two years minimum as best for a baby.
    
But the CDC says only 27 percent of American women are still breastfeeding by the baby's first birthday.
    
Rachel Grose says maybe more women would breast feed if it was easier to nurse in public.  She says a woman isn't nursing in public because she wants to, but because she has to, her baby has to eat.

"I would love a modest place," says Grose.  "I think it would be amazing if public venues had rooms specifically for nursing moms and it would be a part of our society."

She plans to breastfeed son Jamison until he's two-years-old.

"I hope that men and women both think that you can talk about breastfeeding and breast pumping and breast milk like it's not gross, not inappropriate, and it's not a secret," says Grose.  "It's a food for your child and it should be looked at as a part of life."

Click here to comment on our Facebook: What do you think when you see a woman breastfeeding her baby, uncovered, in public?  If you have the urge to tell her to go into a bathroom or cover up, you're violating state law.

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