What to Do if You See a Mum Breastfeeding in Public (and Why Calling the Police is NOT on the List)

Dear people, do you know when it’s the RIGHT time to call the police?

Let us discuss a few examples.

Knife wielding maniac in your vicinity? Dial 000. Strange noises coming from downstairs in the middle of the night? Grab that baseball bat and call the cops. Heck, I’d even include ‘sighting of shifty looking wild animal in surburbia’ as cause to involve the boys (and gals) in blue.

You know what DOESN’T need police involvement? A woman breastfeeding. For most rational people, a mother feeding her kid a meal that just happens to be made in her milk ducts, is no biggie.

Well, you’d THINK that anyway.

Put yo’ boobs away

Yet the headlines keep springing forth, much like a let-down from an ignored nipple, “Mother shamed for breastfeeding in restaurant,” is a usual suspect, closely followed by “Mother told to cover up while feeding her baby.” Then just this week you get THIS doozy from the U S of A. “Town worker calls cops on woman breastfeeding daughter.” Again. Yes, really.

“Only in ‘merica,” we may say, but that’s not entirely true. While calling the cops seems to be a US-centric trend, there are plenty of Aussie women who’ve encountered discrimination from various people in positions of power while feeding their babies. And honestly? It’s gotta stop.

Opinion: WHY Are we Calling the Police on Breastfeeding Mums?
This is me, feeding my child in public. Without a cover. Fortunately the police were not called.

Michelle’s story: No boobs on the beach

US mother-of-three Michelle Ayala was enjoying a day at Franklin Ponds beach in New Jersey, when her two-year-old, Daisy, decided she’d quite like a drink. Michelle thought nothing of giving her daughter a quick breastfeed. Until New Jersey borough employee Donna Vreeland approached and told Michelle to ‘do it somewhere else’. Because NO ONE has ever seen a boob at the beach before.

Michelle, who was well aware that breastfeeding is protected by law in New Jersey, told the boob patrol that that wouldn’t be happening.

“I told her that legally, I can nurse wherever I am, so I am going to stay here.” Michelle

Not satisfied with the response, Ms Vreeland called the police. Because attending to a woman feeding her baby is a phenomenal use of public resources.

911, what’s your emergency?

According to a Franklin police spokesman, a call was received about a woman who was breastfeeding her baby and who refused to cover up. Officer Nick Della Fera responded — and sided with Michelle.

Alas, the saga didn’t end there. Instead, Franklin Borough Administrator Alison McHose (must have been a slow day in the office) got involved. She confronted Michelle about her “indecent act”, saying she supported breastfeeding, but only when covered up. That’s like being a vegetarian who eats meat, right?

Michelle stood her ground yet again, telling the council bureaucrat that they were being a tad silly.

“I just think it’s a normal, natural thing, nursing a child, whether she’s one or two or newborn, and I don’t think it’s offensive.”

Hear, hear!

As Michelle rightly points out, the same amount of breast is exposed while breastfeeding as it is in a halter top. Not that it should matter. Because breastfeeding anytime, anywhere is protected by the law. And while spending time by the water where most people are, well, semi naked? You’d think it would be a no-brainer!

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A worrying trend

Michelle isn’t the only woman to have a run in with the boob squad in recent weeks. Melanie Dudley was told to ‘cover up’ while feeding her baby at a Mexican restaurant earlier this month (and did so in the best way possible). And last month Minnesota mum, Stephanie Ellingson-Buchanan had the police called on her for breastfeeding at a public pool. It seems people still have an issue with something that is not only completely non-sexual, but PROTECTED BY THE LAW.

Opinion: WHY Are we Calling the Police on Breastfeeding Mums?

Whether it’s police officers in the US or closer to home, we can bet that their resources are stretched. Like the rest of our emergency services, they are dealing with highly stressful situations which demand time and attention that’s often in short supply. Know what doesn’t need to be added to that pile of call outs? Attending a public swimming pool/lake/restaurant/park to check on a woman using her boobs to feed her baby.

What to do if you spot a breastfeeder in the wild (BITW)

While most people know exactly what to do when encountering a breastfeeding mother, for those who are concerned, I’ve pulled together a handy guide to approaching this potentially dangerous force.

  1. Remind yourself that you have both eyes and a neck that can be turned from side to side. Use this functionality to face the other direction, away from the BITW.
  2. Continue with your shopping/coffee drinking/swimming/chatting while reminding yourself that someone else’s breasts have nothing to do with you and will not impact your personal activities in any way.
  3. Should drastic action be required, use your legs and remove yourself from the scene.
  4. Do not call the police/centre management/a lifeguard/shop owner. Because they have better things to do and you my friend, can avoid being a douche and leave them the hell alone.

Here’s some more good advice for women thinking about breastfeeding in public. Warning. The following video may trigger laughter.

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New breastfeeding mum and wondering what to expect? Then this handy breastfeeding guide is for you.

Avatar of Naomi Foxall

Naomi is 3/4 latte drinking, peanut butter obsessed former magazine girl who now does stuff with words for a living while juggling 2.5 kids, 2 cats, 1 rabbit, husband and an unhealthy obsession with slow cooking.

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