Breast feeding in Public
Q: Does federal or state law protect a woman’s ability to breastfeeding in public?
A: Yes. Wisconsin law allows a mother to breastfeed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise allowed.36 Further, no person may prohibit a mother from breastfeeding her child, direct her to move to a different location to breastfeed her child, direct her to cover her child or breast while breast-feeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breastfeeding.37 This means women are allowed to breastfeed in restaurants, stores, parks, malls, and other public locations. Breastfeeding in public is not a violation of Wisconsin’s sexual gratification, indecent exposure, or obscenity laws.38
Q: Are there local ordinances that protect a woman’s ability to breastfeed in public?
A: Madison and Dane County both have local ordinances that permit a woman to breastfeed in public, and Madison’s breastfeeding ordinance provides additional protections.39 Madison’s ordinance protects the “expression” of breast milk in any public or private location where a woman (mother or surrogate) is otherwise permitted.40 Expressing breast milk includes pumping as well as breastfeeding. The one exception to a woman’s ability to express breast milk under Madison’s ordinance is that the owner of a private residence may prohibit a woman from breastfeeding or pumping within that private residence.41
. The campaign to provide formula to children began as part of a social movement to
liberate women from household responsibilities and to give them the opportunity to maintain
their place within the workforce, even after the birth of a child. Since its inception, however,
the movement away from breastfeeding has also allowed a redefinition of the use of the breast
from an object for feeding a baby to an object of sexual stimulation. Some authors argue that
this sexual objectification of the breast has inhibited women from breastfeeding. Whatever the
case, current attitudes toward the breast and its exposure in the public arena have definitely
colored the issues surrounding breastfeeding’ especially within an employment context. As a
result, the social norms regarding breastfeeding have been severely altered since the
introduction of formula. See Corey Silberstein Shdaimah, Why Breastfeeding is (Also) a Legal Issue,
10 HASTINGS WOMEN’S L.J. 409, 412-13 (1999).
8. See Heidi Littman et al., The Decision to Breastfeed: The Importance of Fathers’ Approval, 33
CLINICAL PEDIATRICS 214, 214 (Apr. 1994).
9. See id.
10. See U.S. BUREAU OF THE CENSUS, STATISTICAL ABSTRACT OF THE UNITED STATES: 1998
(118th ed. 1998).
11. See id.