How to Support Your Breastfeeding Customers

You want to be supportive, and you don’t want conflict. Here’s how to ensure that.
breastfeeding
Making breastfeeding customers comfortable – both physically and emotionally – is key if you’re a small business owner. (Photo: Lopolo/Shutterstock)

In most cases, breastfeeding in public is a totally benign, uneventful situation.

Then there are the outliers, like the recent case of a Connecticut mother who went to a well-known department store with her infant daughter and began breastfeeding in the store’s café area. As the mother breastfed, another customer began berating her for doing so in public.

To avoid and alleviate these types of situations, there are two basic things small business owners should know to make sure customers who breastfeed feel comfortable, supported and – perhaps most important — more likely to return for another visit.

First, small business owners need to know how to diffuse conflicts calmly and peacefully. If one customer is yelling at another customer, seek out the aggressor and ask to speak with them privately or at a safe distance away from the other party.

It is, of course, legal to breastfeed in public in every state except Idaho. In fact, some states have separate anti-discrimination acts that explicitly classify breastfeeding as a civil right.

Knowing a mother’s legal rights and explaining those rights to the aggressor should go a long way towards diffusing the situation.

Set up a nursing room, if you can.

The second thing for small business owners to know is that they should set up a private nursing room if they want to appear particularly welcoming to breastfeeding mothers. After all, just because it’s legal to breastfeed in public doesn’t mean every mother wants to do so.

Breastfeeding customers unquestionably look for places to shop and dine that are nursing-friendly. This idea prompted several well-known brands to set up dedicated nursing rooms in their stores. There’s even an app called Moms Pump Here for women to scout out businesses that have nursing rooms.

“It doesn’t really take much effort to have a little cubby spot with a soft seat and a table,” said Monique Prince, a social worker and parenting coach in New Hampshire.

On the employee side, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 2010 to require employers to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.

But, as Prince pointed out, creating a breastfeeding-friendly atmosphere isn’t just about complying with the law or shielding moms from unwanted attention; it’s about letting people live their lives.

“If every mom breastfed her child for as long as the child needed, the world would be a much better place, because it’s a natural need of every child,” she said.

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