Sunday, August 9, 2009
The Rights of Nursing Moms
Gotta love Maine. Oh, the lighthouses, rocky coast, and wilderness are fabulous (not to mention the lobster) but for nursing moms, Maine is a wonderful place to be! A new law, going into effect on September 12, requires employers to make "reasonable efforts" to provide clean, private spaces for working moms to pump and to allow them the time (paid or unpaid) to do so, as well as enforcing that nursing mothers will not be discriminated against in the workplace.
To raise awareness of the new law and of breastfeeding, the city of Portland rolled out life-sized cutouts of breastfeeding moms scattered across the city. As the Portland Press Herald reported, each image also bore a sign reading "When breastfeeding is accepted it won't be noticed."
Maine is certainly not the only state to defend breastfeeding moms. Forty-three US states currently have laws that support a woman's right to breastfeed on public property (these are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Federal legislation, signed into law by President Clinton in 1999 also allows nursing moms to feed their children on federal property. (Yes, the next time you visit a national park or monument, feed away!)
And yet, women continue to be asked to relocate to new locations, cover up, or stop feeding their babes by business owners and their staff. But change is only going to happen if we make it happen. As mothers, we can help educate people about the many benefits of breastfeeding for mom and for baby, as well as to raise awareness by bucking the culture and being open and honest about our breastfeeding. Simple tips on public breastfeeding can help new moms and give them the confidence they need. And the next time you see a nursing mama, give her an encouraging word or, better yet, join her if you're nursing as well!
Image: Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer, Portland Press Herald.