It's been making the rounds through facebook articles and excited statuses over the past month... Breastfeeding is now legal in all 50 states! People are celebrating. Excited. And they should be! It is wonderful that all 50 states now protect a mother's right to nurse in public. But it isn't good enough...
There are a few issues with the stories circulating. 1. Breastfeeding was never illegal anywhere in America. I keep seeing posts along the lines of "Breastfeeding is now legal in all 50 states, can you believe it wasn't legal?!" This is inflammatory and false and very frustrating. Breastfeeding has always been legal. We Americans do a lot of things wrong in regards to breastfeeding... but say it with me. Breastfeeding. Has. Always. Been. Legal. What was lacking was legal protection for breastfeeding mothers. In the state of Idaho, there was no statute stating specifically that mothers retain the right to nurse wherever they are allowed to otherwise be, without being charged for indecent exposure. I would actually pose the argument that the very fact that we have to advocate for these protections is wrong. There shouldn't have to be laws to protect breastfeeding mothers (similar to how I don't believe there is a specific statute that says "all Americans have the right to oxygen".. we just know it)... but alas... here we are in America, requiring laws to protect breastfeeding mothers... and thankfully, now all 50 states do this. But this brings us to problem number 2.
Fearlessly nursing my own Little Bear in the Philadelphia Visitor Center during Betty's "Normalize Breastfeeding Philadelphia photoshoot" ... While wearing the other little bear on my back. #mamastrong
2. These protective laws have no enforceable backup. The statutes protecting breastfeeding mothers in this country are nothing but lip service. A quick blurb in a state's statutes that makes it look like they support nursing mothers... but what happens to an establishment that calls the police on a breastfeeding mother? What happens to an establishment that discriminates against and harrasses a breastfeeding mother? Absolutely. Nothing. There are no fines or legal enforcements for anyone who violates a breastfeeding mother's God given and now state given rights... no consequences for harassing a mother feeding her baby. Nothing. No consequences for employers who don't treat nursing mothers with the rights they are afforded by law. I mean... it's really not that surprising... we live in a world where it's difficult to hold a rapist accountable, so why would we hold anyone accountable for discrimination against a nursing mother? (**Insert massive eye roll here**) When the cops are called on a breastfeeding mother, all she can do is hope that the police officer who shows up is aware of the protections for breastfeeding mothers, and stands up for her right... then go to the media.
Betty visits Washington, DC for her "Normalize Breastfeeding Photoshoot" Yes.. That's my awesome husband holding her up in front of Capital Hill... he was awesome enough to drive me around DC and assist me in my photoshoot despite being sick sick sick! Supportive husbands are the best!
So what am I over hear ranting about? What do I want to see? We've won a battle, we're nowhere near winning the war. We need to stay focused and keep working hard! 1. I want you to stop implying that breastfeeding was ever illegal. It wasn't. Implying so makes you look ignorant and does nothing to help our movement.
2. Since apparently we even need a statue to say we have the right to breathe through both our mouths and our noses (dripping with sarcasm).... I am absolutely thrilled, along with you, that all 50 states now protect mother's rights, it's a step in the right direction... but we need to demand more! We need to demand enforceable laws and protections for mothers! 3. I want to see you all continue to advocate to your local municipalities and authorities that breastfeeding still needs even more support from the government... no matter how pathetic that is, it's reality. 4. I want to see you working to support moms, normalize breastfeeding, and defend a mother who is being violated every day. Change the way society treats breastfeeding mothers. Let's keep up our hard work! 5. This one is a little repetitive.. but it's so important! Keep sharing pictures of breastfeeding. Keep sharing information on breastfeeding. Keep breastfeeding in public. Keep teaching your CHILDREN about breastfeeding. Keep making breastfeeding a normal thing in daily life that doesn't get considered weird or taboo. I want mothers to stop being afraid to feed their babies in public. I want women to stop being harassed for existing simply as women. I don't want legislation to be needed... but I need legislation that actually protects us. But really... above all what I want is a society that respect mothers and their babies, a society that just simply respects breastfeeding.... What about you? What do you think we need to shift this culture to accepting breastfeeding WITHOUT any limitations? __________________________