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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Happy National Breastfeeding Month! It is Totally Legal to Breastfeed Anywhere in Ohio

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 11:29 AM

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  • Wikimedia Commons

In European countries, breastfeeding mothers are frequently shown baring the entire breast (and sometimes the entire chest) in order to feed their babies, and no one says a word. However, the Puritanical roots of North America has sexualized the breast so much, that people breastfeeding in public have often been made to feel humiliated, sometimes even threatened with violence.

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and while the completely ridiculous and unnecessary debate regarding public displays of breastfeeding wages on, it’s important to know the laws and rights when feeding your baby in public.

The production of breast milk is a function triggered by pregnancy and childbirth, but considering many mothers cannot breastfeed due to a multitude of reasons, we will take the suggestions of many pediatricians and avoid referring to it as "natural," as to not imply that any other child feeding decisions are "unnatural." (As a comparison, the word "natural" is also believed to be a leading cause as to why anti-vaxxers exist, equating "natural" to also mean "only acceptable option.")

If a parent is unable or chooses not to breastfeed, they're often shamed for their decision, while those that do choose to breastfeed in public are frequently told to cover up or go somewhere more private. Either way, someone is usually around to tell you you're wrong. It's a strange culture of "mommy-policing" we live in when total strangers feel entitled to offer unsolicited parental suggestions or criticisms. But it seems nothing comes under fire more than breastfeeding.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location, according to National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Ohio Revised Code from 2005 states that breastfeeding in places of public accommodation is allowed. “A mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location of a place of public accommodation wherein the mother otherwise is permitted.

Protections added to the Ohio Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) by a 2010 amendment to the law – known as the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” provision – states that employers must provide “reasonable” time for new mothers to express milk, based on their individual needs.

Employers are not required to pay employees during these breaks, although employers who already provide paid breaks must allow employees to use these breaks for pumping if they wish. If employers refuse to offer adequate break time, they may be liable.

Potential exemptions for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are eligible to apply on the grounds that compliance would cause an undue hardship, but gaining approval from the Department of Labor is extremely difficult.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also protects breastfeeding parents from this type of discrimination, or retaliation, if a complaint has been filed. Lactation is a pregnancy-related medical condition, so it falls under the same discrimination laws that protect pregnant employees, and discriminating against a someone because of their need to pump may also violate federal and state sex discrimination statutes.

Meaning, you are free to breastfeed your child openly and publicly in any location in Ohio and anyone that complains can kick rocks. You have the right to pump milk while at work, and your employer can be held liable if they refuse to allow you the opportunity.

Know your rights. Feed your babies.

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