August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month! The purpose of this breastfeeding campaign, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.
National Breastfeeding Awareness Month – Supporting Healthy Babies
At TorkLaw, we support and promote health, safety, and wellness in all forms – and breastfeeding is one of the best ways to start a child’s life off in a healthy way.
We also recognize that society doesn’t always make it easy on moms in general. The decision to breastfeed is personal, and many women cannot or choose not to breastfeed their infants — and that’s fine. Infant formulas are a healthy option, and no mom should be criticized for making that choice.
But moms who do breastfeed should be fully supported – and sadly, they often aren’t. Breastfeeding moms face many challenges, including lack of help with lactation problems; employment challenges; and backwards attitudes toward breastfeeding.
This National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we’re trying to change that.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the World Health Organization all recommend breastfeeding babies exclusively for the first six months.
A growing body of research shows that human milk strengthens a baby’s immune system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding also lowers the risk of many serious conditions. These include asthma, ear infections, eczema, obesity, gastrointestinal infections, respiratory infections, and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding may also prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) for preterm infants.
Breastfeeding also has health benefits for mothers. It may help to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. It may also help in losing pregnancy weight.
America’s Breastfeeding Report Card
According to the CDC’s 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card, over 83 percent of American moms have breastfed their babies, which is a strong indication that most mothers who are able to breastfeed definitely want to. 57 percent are still breastfeeding at 6 months, and these numbers have been increasing over the past few years.
However, less than half American mothers are still breastfeeding exclusively at 3 months. This data seems to suggest that breastfeeding mothers in the U.S. are not receiving the support they need.
Support for Breastfeeding Moms
Many women may not be aware of the breastfeeding support available to them.
Currently, the Affordable Care Act requires your health insurance plan to provide breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment. This includes the full cost of a breast pump, and a lactation consultant. If you are not receiving that support, contact your insurance company and request it.
The Affordable Care Act also amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide reasonable break time to pump breast milk for a full year after your baby’s birth. They also must provide a private place that is NOT a bathroom, where coworkers or the public cannot walk in on you while you’re pumping. By law, your employer must provide those accommodations, unless they have fewer than 50 employees.
Public Perception of Breastfeeding
Another area where breastfeeding mothers are challenged is in public —and in public perception.
According to the CDC’s 2018 report card, 68 percent of Americans believe women should have the right to breastfeed in public places. Just over 10 percent of the public disagree.
Whatever they believe, the fact is that in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, it is 100% legal for women to breastfeed their children in any public or private location. It is illegal in most states to ask a nursing mother to leave the premises, go to a private room, “cover up,” or stop nursing, anyplace where the mother and child would otherwise have a right to be.No matter how you may feel about it, it's important to remember that a mother's right to breastfeed is legally protected —your “comfort” in public spaces is not. Click To Tweet
While attitudes are changing, many people still do not realize that breastfeeding moms have a right to feed their babies in public. National Breastfeeding Awareness Month is one way to shift that.
10 Ridiculous Places Moms Were Shamed for Breastfeeding
We’ve seen many videos and first-hand reports on social media of ridiculous reactions to mothers feeding their children in public. It seems that many business owners, security guards, police officers, and others in authority are not aware of the laws on breastfeeding. And some of the locations shaming moms for breastfeeding are more ridiculous than others.
Where Else Is She Supposed to Go?
Are They Not Aware of What They Do for a Living?
8. Family court
Maybe They’re Not Clear on the Purpose of Breasts…
If This Happens to You
If you’re breastfeeding your baby and approached by someone who hassles you about nursing in public, what should you do?
First, know your rights. Be confident that the law protects your right to feed your baby any place you need to.
Second, be aware that you are not in any way required to respond to anyone who criticizes you for breastfeeding. However, if you feel you are in danger, move away from the harasser and look for people who can support you like these folks at a Target store.
Finally, be supportive of other mothers. Every mother has a different style, and no baby is the same. Some are fine with a cover over their head. Some babies aren’t. It’s not a competition – instead of criticizing a woman for “being immodest,” understand that she is just trying to feed a baby who would otherwise be very unhappy.
National Breastfeeding Awareness Month – Public Support for BreastfeedingIf you are a member of the public, and seeing a woman breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, there is a very good solution. Don't look at her. Click To Tweet
But if you are among the majority of Americans who believe women have the right to breastfeed in public, when you see a breastfeeding mother, offer a quick smile or thumbs up, but be aware that staring might make her uncomfortable. And, if someone else is giving her a hard time, step in and say something. She will be grateful for your support.
If you are a business owner, manager, or in some other position of authority, know and understand that nursing mothers always have the right to breastfeed their children wherever they choose, as long as it’s a place they otherwise would be allowed.
Be sure to educate your staff that the appropriate response to a breastfeeding mother is to leave her alone. If a staff member behaves inappropriately toward a breastfeeding mother, apologize to her, and give that staff member the training they need.
If your business is found to have harassed or discriminated against a breastfeeding mother, you may be at risk of a lawsuit.
TorkLaw supports National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and a mother’s legal right to feed her baby in the way she chooses.