Monday, March 4, 2024

Here’s how the localities deal with breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding is not considered indecent exposure under Virginia law (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Pixabay)
Breastfeeding is not considered indecent exposure under Virginia law (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Pixabay)

Gov. Ralph Northam recognized August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month in Virginia. But is the declaration necessary for those who breastfeed in public and how do the localities handle this issue?

Breastfeeding is the act of a mother giving her child nutrition in the form of breast milk and according to the Virginia Department of Health, it is the only food that infants need for the first six months of their life.

In Hampton and Newport News, there is no city code addressing breastfeeding in public.

“The City of Hampton has no specific policy, but we adhere to all federal and state laws regarding the rights of breast-feeding mothers,” Robin McCormick, spokeswoman for Hampton, wrote in an email.

But what about the other localities on the Peninsula?

Williamsburg, James City County and York County do not have a policy regarding breastfeeding in their codes either.

“James City County does not have any policy or regulation that addresses breastfeeding in public places,” wrote Renee Dallman, spokeswoman for James City County. “The County would not prevent a mother from nursing her child in a public meeting or on County-owned property.”

Why don’t the localities have an ordinance regarding breastfeeding? It’s already in the state code.

Per Virginia law, a woman has the “right to breastfeed” on any property controlled by the state including owned and leased buildings.

So what does that mean for women who are breastfeeding?

Women who are breastfeeding their child are allowed to breastfeed in public places like city hall and other government buildings which means they are not barred from breastfeeding, say during a city council meeting.

So while an exposed breast or a mother breastfeeding her child in public may make others uncomfortable, women who do breastfeed are covered by multiple state codes and cannot be charged with indecent exposure, a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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