Breastfeeding logoBreastfeeding in Public -- a Human Rights Issue

Breastfeeding Empowers WomenTo be empowered, women must have not only the ability to act, but also the right to do so. One of the obstacles to breastfeeding continues to be concern over whether or not it is acceptable to do so in public. Some women fear offending others if they breastfeed in public places. We believe that women have the right to breastfeed whenever and wherever they want. Communities need to be sensitized to the ways in which they can actively support breastfeeding.

What would you do if you, or someone you know, was asked to leave a public place because they were breastfeeding? What are your rights? At INFACT Canada we receive calls every month from women who find themselves in this situation. A public place can be defined as anywhere you go that does not require a personal invitation. If this happens to you there are several possible courses of action. You can:

  • Stand your ground and refuse to leave. Calmly but confidently state your right to feed your infant without discrimination. Unfortunately many new mothers feel intimidated in such situations, and it is often after they have had time to think about what has happened that they wish to respond in some way
  • Lodge a formal complaint with your provincial Human Rights Commission
  • Write to your local community newspapers about the incident
  • Let your local councilor, school trustee, MP and MPP know. Choose the government official connected with the actual place where the incident occurred, for example if you are asked to leave a school setting it would be best to go to the local school trustee with your complaint. If you are unsure start with local councilors and MPPs
  • Contact your local public health unit. They can provide you with suggestions on how to proceed and can probably put you in touch with local breastfeeding networks or coalitions
  • Let INFACT Canada know
  • Boycott the place where the incident occurred and encourage friends and family to do the same. It is a good idea to let the facility know what you are doing and why

Related links


British Columbia Human Rights Commission Policy and Procedure Manual

Breastfeeding Empowers Women

Provincial Human Rights Commissions

Breastfeeding in Public 

Women on the frontlines

Michelle Poirier versus the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs

ORDER: INFACT Canada’s “Baby’s right to eat” and “Breastfeeding Convict Baby” posters*


Article: Spring 2003 Newsletter:

Boobs or Bombs - Human Rights in Terrorist Times