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New Laws Protect Right to Breast Feed in Public

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Newsweek has a great story about the challenges moms face when it comes to breastfeeding. The piece says that some state legislatures are slowly but surely doing their part to encourage moms to breastfeed. Here’s a bit from the article:
Much of the problem seems to be that Americans associate breasts with sex, not milk, and as a result, feel squeamish about public nursing. (While two out of three Americans think breast-feeding is the best way to feed a baby, a quarter say they feel uncomfortable seeing women do it.) In a study for the U.S. government, 48 percent of women said they would feel uncomfortable nursing their own babies in a park, store or mall. “We define breast-feeding as good, and we define breast-feeding as disgusting. We have this split personality about it,” says Jacqueline Wolf, associate professor of the history of medicine at Ohio University. Even MySpace has recently removed photographs of mothers nursing their babies.
Out of concern that not enough women are breast-feeding, a growing number of states are passing protective laws and policies. Today 38 states give women the explicit right to nurse in public, and 23 states exempt it from public-indecency laws. Twelve states have laws addressing women’s right to use a pump to express milk at work. And the governors of New Mexico and Oregon recently signed similar legislation, which gives moms (unpaid) lactation breaks and a clean and private area to pump (not just a bathroom stall). Federal legislation may be on the way. In May, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney re-introduced her Breastfeeding Promotion Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breast-feeding and to provide a tax incentive to businesses that establish lactation areas.

My favorite part of this Newsweek piece? It opens with a description of the photos of actress Maggie Gyllenhaal breastfeeding in public. Then at the end of the story, the reporter injects a slight bit of editorial comment. Here it is:
A few weeks ago, the actress Maggie Gyllenhaal visited a public park in New York—and breast-fed her 8-month-old daughter, Ramona. Kudos, right? After all, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms nurse for at least a year. Nope. Gawker.com posted a picture of a partially exposed breast and called it a “momtroversy.” The photo is now on a “nude” Web site….
…After all, “into the 18th century, women who breast-fed were painted,” says pediatrician Naomi Baumslag, author of “Milk, Money and Madness.” “They were considered beautiful.” Maybe Maggie Gyllenhaal should head back to that park.



2 Responses to “New Laws Protect Right to Breast Feed in Public”

The first time I breastfed in public, I hid in a bathroom stall. I was so uncomfortable and embarrassed that I felt I had to hide while feeding my baby. When I got out a woman chastised me and said I should sit out in the mall and be proud. Another woman said she understood how I felt and did the same thing the first few times she breastfed in public. Now that I am more comfortable, I have breastfed out in the open (with a cape) and haven’t gotten any slack at all about it. Since I’m in the south, I think that’s a great sign for breastfeeding acceptance.

Once I got comfortable nursing, it didn’t bother me doing it public and I REFUSED to do it in a bathroom.
Personally, I would welcome a nation-wide law. We traveled so much during the 1st year or so of my son’s life (by the time he was 15 months old, we’d gone on 10 airplane trips). I simply couldn’t keep track of each state law. I can report that I’ve never, ever had an issue with public nursing, so that’s a positive thing, right?

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