Recently my wife gave birth to our first child and we’ve just starting to take him out to restaurants with us. The other night while we were busy eating pizza and drinking beer, my wife wondered, “What about our baby? What are the state rules for breastfeeding in restaurants?” Well, here are the rules …

Can a mom breastfeed her child in a restaurant?

Yes. A mother may breastfeed her child in any public place, including restaurants open to the public. (See CA Civil Code §43.3)

Does the breastfeeding baby need to be covered up?

California law does not specifically require it. Whether moms should cover up is debated within the parenting community. Many believe it’s a personal choice, some consider it a matter of courtesy, others consider it a feminist issue, and some even think of it as a political act. Restaurant owners and staff should be aware of, and sensitive to, this personal choice of the mother.

What about employees? Do restaurants need to accommodate employees for breastfeeding or pumping breast milk?

Yes. Every employer must provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child.

(See CA Labor Code Chapter 3.8 §§1030-1033)

What space does the restaurant need to provide for employee pumping or breastfeeding?

The restaurant needs to make a reasonable effort to provide the employee with the use of a room or other location to express milk in private. This does NOT include a bathroom. Expressing breast milk is essentially preparing food for a baby. It should be common sense (especially for a restaurant) that preparing food in the bathroom is not a reasonable accommodation.

(See CA Labor Code Chapter 3.8 §1031)

What if the restaurant discriminates against a mother for breastfeeding or pumping?

Be careful, because if a restaurant discriminates against a mother who is breastfeeding or possibly even pumping breast milk, this could be considered unlawful sexual discrimination.

(See CA Government Code §12926)