A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared an experience with us on Facebook. She had attended an informational meeting at a public elementary school here in South Carolina with her baby. While she was breastfeeding her baby at the back of the room under a cover (!!!), she and another breastfeeding lady were asked to move. The ladies moved to a lounge in the school and continued feeding their babies, when a male school sheriff walked by and said, referring to the breastfeeding: “I’m next!”
Since this entire event makes me very upset, I won’t go into detail about my personal opinion of the people my friend had to deal with. Let’s just say that if it had been me, the school sheriff would be lucky to still have a job after I was done with my complaints.
However, I would rather focus on the issue of breastfeeding discrimination in general. I don’t think people are aware of how much damage situations like these in which the breastfeeding mother is subjected to discriminatory behavior against her can cause. If women must experience such embarrassing scenarios, they will become more reluctant to nurse in public. If they become uncomfortable nursing in public, it will be harder for them to breastfeed successfully. If women don’t nurse in public anymore, people will start to think of breastfeeding in a negative light (indecent, abnormal, etc.) The more people have a negative association with breastfeeding, the fewer mothers will be able to breastfeed their babies successfully. Taking breastfeeding out of the public eye will also take it out of the public’s mind and heart, which could have dire consequences.
Standing up against breastfeeding discrimination is crucial for all of us! Be knowledgeable of the breastfeeding laws in place in your state. In South Carolina, legislation protects the nursing woman as follows:S.C. Code Ann. §63-5-40 reads:
(A) A woman may breastfeed her child in any location where the mother and her child are authorized to be.
(B) Breastfeeding a child in a location where the mother is authorized to be is not considered indecent exposure.
Don’t leave it up to the breastfeeding mother to defend herself! Speak up for her. Tell the person who is harassing the mother that this is not acceptable and educate him/her on the laws in place.
Most importantly, if you are a nursing mother yourself, please breastfeed in public. Show people that there is nothing wrong or indecent about feeding your child the way it was intended. Bring breastfeeding back into people’s minds so that they view it as something normal again.
If the breastfeeding mother is not protected by the laws in your state, let your representatives know that legislation must be passed in order to ensure that babies can be fed in the best possible way. Georgia, for example, does not currently have such laws in place. There is a group who is now fighting for mothers to be shielded by the law. If you would like to find out more, visit their Facebook page and join the statewide nurse-in on 03/05/2012.
Some of you may be wondering why you should care how other people’s babies are fed. Besides the many benefits that most people are aware of, it cannot be ignored that a recent study found that as many as 900 babies’ lives could be saved every year if 90% of women breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life. It’s up to us to make women more comfortable breastfeeding their babies when they are not at home- let’s make it happen! I simple smile can work wonders…