Breastfeeding: Whose Business Is It Anyway?

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Image Credit: Care2.com

Hilary Stamper has written an article on the Care2 website titled “Breast Is Best (As Long As You Don’t See  It!).” Apparently, in December 2008 Facebook censored all pictures of breastfeeding mothers (and even canceled the women’s accounts). The only reason for banning such pictures is because they’re thought of as sexual and like the sex act, too intimate for public consumption. But breastfeeding is not a sexual activity. It’s what the breast was made for.

There are at least seven states that do not protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public and only 28 states have exempted breastfeeding mothers from public indecency laws. (See how your state stacks up here.) On the other hand, the Momformation blog on Baby Center reports that Rhode Island’s recent legislation not only protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in public but permits a woman to allege a violation of her civil rights if she is prevented from doing so.

But all the laws in the world won’t protect women from society’s disapproval. Many, if not most, women are still made to feel that it is not proper to breastfeed in public unless it is done discreetly (meaning, absolutely no breast exposure). Some people get upset if they can hear the baby slurping under the covering. In 2005, Barbara Walters remarked on her talk show The View that she felt uncomfortable sitting next to a breastfeeding mother during a flight. In 2006, a young mother was kicked off a Freedom Airlines (irony, anyone?) flight for refusing a blanket to cover herself while she was breastfeeding. (Story here.) Another woman was asked to leave an Applebee’s restaurant because others complained about her breastfeeding. She actually handed the manager a copy of the Kentucky law which allows mothers to breastfeed in public, but he kicked her out anyway. (Read the mother’s account here.)

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health, Office of the Surgeon General, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are asking for the public’s input on a new HHS Call to Action on Breastfeeding. Go here for more information. There are a lot of issues surrounding the topic of breastfeeding, such as:

  1. Maternal and Infant Care Practices: Prenatal, Hospital, and Post-Delivery Care
  2. Access to Lactation Care and Support
  3. Health Professional Education, Publications, and Conferences
  4. Use of Banked Human Milk
  5. Worksite Lactation Support, Onsite Child Care, and Milk Expression
  6. Paid Maternity Leave
  7. Portrayal of Breastfeeding in Traditional Popular Media and New Electronic Media
  8. Support for Breastfeeding in Public Settings
  9. Peer Support and Education of Family Members and Friends
  10. Community Support for Breastfeeding in Complementary Programs (e.g., Early Head Start, Home Visitation, Parental Training)
  11. Research and Surveillance

Click on the topic(s) you’re interested in and make your comments.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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