woman breastfeeding
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
January 14, 2024 ·  3 min read

Police Called on Breastfeeding Mom at the Beach & the Officer Totally Had Her Back

In all 50 states, it is perfectly legal to breastfeed in public places. Restaurants, shopping malls, parks, beaches – you name it, it is not illegal for a mother to feed her child there. Despite this, some people still try to shame moms for asserting this right. This is just what happened to a New Jersey mom while having a beach day with her kids. It ended with the police getting involved.

Breastfeeding Mom Shamed At The Beach By Recreation Officer

Michelle Ayala went to the beach with her kids, her friends, and their kids for a much-anticipated beach day. They were at the Franklin Pond Beach in Sussex County when her two-year-old daughter was hungry and asked to breastfeed. Ayala, who also had two older sons, was well aware of her breastfeeding rights. (1)

Not long after she began feeding her daughter, however, a park official approached her. The woman asked her to please go somewhere else to feed her child. She said she might offend the other beach visitors.

“She said, ‘I see what you’re doing there. Do you think you can do that somewhere else?’” Ayala said. “And before she finished, I said ‘I’m allowed to nurse wherever I am.” said Ayala.

The Police Got Involved

When Ayala refused to leave or cover up, the park officer got upset and threatened to call the police. Knowing the laws and her rights, she told the woman to go right ahead. When the officer arrived on the scene, he sided with the breastfeeding mom, not the officer.

“He said, ‘I support you completely, thank you for your time, your patience’” Ayala said.

It did not end there, however. When her daughter requested to breastfeed again later, the park employee approached her yet again asking her to cover up more. According to the municipal attorney, the employee was responding to a complaint from someone else on the beach. (2)

“I think that a situation like this is a good reminder to all about the rights of a breastfeeding mother. I was glad that the Franklin police handled it well, reinforcing the breastfeeding mother’s right to breastfeed where she needs to,” said municipal attorney John Ursin.

Concern For Other Breastfeeding Moms

The incident definitely shook Ayala up somewhat, however, she still felt strongly about asserting her rights as a mother. She couldn’t just leave to breastfeed when she had her other kids with her, nor should she have to. She also didn’t want to put a blanket over her daughter in the 92-degree heat. Her concern is that a new mom, or one who wasn’t as strong-willed as she, would be scared off from breastfeeding anywhere but at home.

“There are nursing mothers out there who are brand new,” she explained. “And if somebody that important came up in a suit, nice wedges and confronted that mom, she would never nurse again. Or she would just stay in the house with the kids.”

Breastfeeding Rights

Everyone, especially breastfeeding moms, should be aware of the laws surrounding public breastfeeding in the United States. It is legal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands for mothers to feed their children in any public or private space. Other laws surrounding breastfeeding include (3):

  • Thirty-one states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.
  • Thirty-two states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace.
  • Twenty states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow jury service to be postponed.
  • Six states and Puerto Rico have implemented or encouraged the development of a breastfeeding awareness education campaign. 

Be sure to know your rights, so if you find yourself in this situation, you can assert yourself as strongly as Ayala did.