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!

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer, Portland Press Herald.


  1. I think they got the idea from this county in CA, which did the same thing.
    Love this hilarious idea!

  2. I took my son to a Thomas the Train event this past week. I was so proud to see that they had a nursing area set up for the moms. And when our local mall was renovated, they put in a family area for nursing. The change is coming! Slowly but surely here in Connecticut.

  3. It's heartening to see the tide moving in the right direction. I am, however, disappointed to see that an organization such as Holistic Moms Network is still shying away from honest language when it comes to breastfeeding. Rather than talking about the "benefits of breastfeeding" we should be talking about the risks of formula feeding. Breastfeeding is accepted, not only when it goes unnoticed, but when it becomes the baseline for our data. Not smoking doesn't benefit your health and the health of your children - it's the baseline, the norm. Instead smoking puts you and your children at risk. Breastfeeding vs. Formula is no different and until we start speaking of it in such a way, nothing will change.

  4. Jean, my experience is that specially designated breastfeeding areas don't necessarily improve the social climate for people who prefer NOT to use them - they tend to set up the expectation that those designated locations are the only place where breastfeeding IS allowed - seculuded and often very out of the way (especially if the mother has multiple children). I'm glad they're there for women who prefer to use them, personally I feel safer sitting out on a bench/chair in a public area where if someone harrasses me there's security people available to help. There was a mother in Austrailia sexually molested by a stranger in one of those nursing rooms a few years ago, and especially at my local mall that has one of those rooms it's WAY too easy for something like that to happen again, it's so seculuded down a LONG unmonitored hallway between two big department stores, and a good 20min walk from most parts of the mall instead - why should my child have to wait that long to be fed? Anywhere someone could give a baby a bottle, a baby should be allowed to eat regardless of method. Since breastfeeding reduces the risk of spills/contamination, it should even be allowed in some places where bottlefeeding wouldn't be (i.e. poolside).

  5. I'm not going to lie, as a non-mother, I still want mothers to have the right to breast feed. I think its good, I think its healthy, I think its a positive thing... HOWEVER, it makes me uncomfortable when done in (some) public (places). There needs to be more places where women can feel comfortable breast feeding in public. (For example, One of our local malls has a "family lounge". there are restroom facilities, but there are also privacy stalls if you do not wish to use to more public area with couches and chairs)
    I want you to have your rights and will always support it politically, but it does make me uncomfortable when SOME mothers (not all of you obviously, but I've had a few encounters) just bring their breasts out anywhere (in a store I use to work at, for example, and a movie theater and, most recently, in line at a supermarket).

    I'm just not sure how to reconcil (sp?) my discomfort with my political support for you all. There has to be a middle ground.

    Don't think I don't recognize that the discomfort is MY problem, but I really do feel that its NOT ALWAYS appropriate to breastfeed in public (again, the line at the supermarket?).


Thank you for sharing your comments with us! Please note that direct solicitations, links for marketing purposes, and other self-promotions in our comments will be removed. Thank you for your cooperation.