Breastfeeding in Public: A Mother's Rights (cont.)

"At La Leche we have small cards printed up that women can hand out to anyone who questions her right to breastfeed in public. The cards state that it is a woman's legal right," says Carol Huotari, IBCLC, a certified lactation counselor and manager of the Breastfeeding Information Center at La Leche League International in Schaumberg, Ill.

Next: Federal Law in the Works

Federal Law

 

Soon the rights of breastfeeding women across the United States may get an even bigger boost thanks to The Breastfeeding Promotion Act, a bill introduced in May 2005 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

 

"Moms contact me all the time frustrated because they would like to breastfeed but face some really tough obstacles both at work and in public settings, " says Maloney, whose record on health issues concerning women and children clearly make her a new mom's best ally.

 

Among the challenges her legislation addresses: The right to a clean, safe area of a workplace where a woman can express her milk -- or feed her baby -- and tax incentives for businesses that establish private lactation areas in the workplace.

 

"I have heard many horror stories of women who were fired for trying to figure out a way to express milk at work. My bill clarifies the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to protect breastfeeding under federal civil rights law, ensuring that women cannot be fired or discriminated against in the workplace for expressing (pumping) milk or breastfeeding during breaks or lunch time," says Maloney.

 

The legislation also calls for new standardized safety guidelines for breast pumps. Plus, it offers companies important tax incentives for creating environments that are conducive to breastfeeding.

 

"One way employers can make the workplace a better place: support working women who breastfeed. Employers should not stand in the way of a woman doing the most natural thing on earth -- breastfeeding her child," says Maloney.

Next: Handling Awkward Moments in Public

Handling Awkward Moments While Breastfeeding in Public

 

Experts say new moms can help encourage a more liberal and accepting attitude about breastfeeding in public by using common sense and modest discretion when feeding their hungry babies.

 

In fact, lactation counselors say that with just a little bit of practice at home in front of the mirror, any nursing mom can learn to breastfeed so modestly the public will scarcely notice -- let alone object.

 

"When I first started breastfeeding I used to sit in front of a full length mirror and try out different positions and different ways of placing my clothing to see which looked the most discreet. Then I would do it in front of my husband and ask him if anything was unnecessarily exposed," says Pat Sterner, IBCLC, a lactation counselor at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. "In a very short time I felt very confidant about nursing in public."

 

Using a little bit of common sense helps as well, along with a little discretion about where and how you nurse in public.

 

"If you are in a restaurant, for example, you don't have to face the entire room and pull out your breast. You can turn your back to the room and nestle your baby close to you," Huotari tells WebMD. "If you have a shawl or sweater to drape around your shoulders, it is very hard to see if you are feeding, or simply cuddling your baby."

 

If you are approached about breastfeeding in public, Huotari suggests you politely but firmly let people know it is your right.

 

Published Sept. 29, 2003.

Medically updated May 2005.

 

SOURCES: Myrtle Hodge, RN, IBCLC, lactation counselor, Maimonides Medical Center, New York. Carol Huotari, IBCLC, certified lactation counselor and manager of the Breastfeeding Information Center, La Leche League International, Schaumberg, Ill. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. Pat Sterna, IBCLC, lactation counselor, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York. Baldwin, E. and Friedman, K. A Current Summary of Breastfeeding Legislation in the U.S., La Leche League International. American Academy of Pediatrics.

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