“Ma’am, you need to cover up. For you not to realize that is absolutely ridiculous. Step outside and cover up right now. Stand up and go now…I’m fine with [you] having a child if you don’t have other arrangements made that’s certainly going to happen. But to nurse the child in the courtroom is absolutely inappropriate. Step outside and button up.”
Judge Peter Knight of North Carolina was displeased when Stephanie Rhodus fed her baby in the courtroom. Rhodus adapted quickly, but this interaction is a reminder of how important it is to know your rights as a breastfeeding mom. While a judge presides over their courtroom and has final say, I would venture a guess that Judge Knight needed to brush up on his understanding of the law. According to the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition, North Carolina law states that “a woman may breastfeed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.” This means that a breastfeeding mother is not in violation of indecent exposure laws. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-190.9 (1993). Public Law 106-58, Section 647 adds that “a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location.”
But too many side with Judge Knight, and feel the sting of discomfort that an exposed, working breast in a courtroom may cause. This individuals are quick to suggest a nursing cover as a solution. To these individuals, all I can say is, how udderly impractical (pun intended).
I was able to wrangle my nursling under a nursing cover for about the first two weeks of her life. After that, all bets where off. Now, nursing a toddler is more often an act of acrobatic feat than it is a moment that can be contained and controlled. There is no way my kiddo is going to stay under cover. There’s no way I’m going to let that minor detail stop us from continuing our mutual nursing relationship.
But that shouldn’t suggest my nursing cover is useless. This light fabric that played an important role in those early days of juggling a tiny baby, sore breast, and nipple shield, still has a place in my life today. It just looks a little different now. So for all you nursing moms out there, don’t be afraid to stand up for your legal rights, and to start wearing nursing covers the correct way…