Monday, February 7, 2011

Breastfeeding Laws Re-Re-Revisited: Ladies, New Permission Granted to Whip 'Em Out Longer

Posted By on Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 12:00 PM

BreastfeedingMadonna.jpg
  • Via Babble
If a new bill passes, nursing mothers will be able to continue breastfeeding their babies past 12 months in public. From the Tennessean:

The state breast-feeding law, enacted in 2006, set a 12-month age limit on the rights of mothers to nurse their children in public settings. State Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, has introduced a bill that would delete the age restriction in that law.

Nice idea! But unfortunately, it's about as adequate as a Victoria's Secret nursing bra. Look, all the laws in the world won't change the fact that Americans are weird about breastfeeding, ashamed of their bodies, ridiculously hypocritical about the ways in which women may present their bodies, and in general, still totally full of shit about promoting breastfeeding.

Remember when Facebook deleted messages of women breastfeeding from member pages because it was obscene?!? America, you're basically spending a billion dollars every second telling women through cultural messages that aging, natural, real-body stuff is grody to the max, and 10 cents on telling them breastfeeding is a good idea. And don't get me started on the people who say formula is just as good, because you can take your can of powder's proof of purchase and put it toward that 10-percent discount it buys you on your next C-section.

I kid! But in all seriousness, it's currently OK in Tennessee to breastfeed your baby in public if the baby is 12 months old. A day older? Technically, it's illegal. But why?

Beats me. My guess is the law, enacted in 2006, meant to give protections, and by doing so, it cited the American Academy of Pediatrics stance on how beneficial it is to breastfeed exclusively for six months and with additional nutrients for at least 12 months, and just kept the verbiage:

WHEREAS, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding
exclusively for the first six months of an infant's life and continuing with other forms of nutrition
for at least the first twelve (12) months of an infant's life and as long thereafter as is mutually
desired; and ...

Yes, it says "and as long thereafter." And yet the 12 months stuck.

But the real problem is this: Hardly any women are breastfeeding after 12 months anyway. Seventy to 75 percent of women start out breastfeeding right after the baby's born. Less than a quarter, however, are still breastfeeding six months later. Know why? Because it's unbelievably hard to get going for lots of women. No one supports it, and it takes enormous support to feed six to eight times a day and/or pump and store and transport milk every single day, multiple times a day. And you need even more calories to do it than when you're pregnant, while you're also getting an onslaught of coupons for formula. And everyone else in the universe seems to think it doesn't matter all that much.

Plus breastfeeding means the mother feeds all night long, leaving a willing father out of the feeding (and bonding) equation. Breastfed babies don't always take a bottle either. And if you want to solve this up-all-night problem by having your baby sleep in the bed with you at night, so feeding is easier? Call social services, because you may as well just give your baby a set of window-blind cords to play with.

This is to say nothing of what it means to whip your boob out in public (especially if it's a large boob) and be stared at or forced out of a public place. It's so great that your food supply is portable, enthusiastic websites promoting breastfeeding chirp. But try even feeding your baby in a car parking lot, on a plane or at an airport, and see how many people gawk, stare and slow down.

When it comes to breastfeeding, everyone everywhere seems to be looking at a postcard of a glowing mom leaning gracefully against a sunlit window with her baby warmly nestled on her breast. And if you have a job you need to go to, a career you don't want to sacrifice? If reality doesn't look like the postcard? Hand over the cow's milk — your family can't live on one income, anyway.

So while I applaud efforts to lift the age restriction on the books — babies don't magically wean on their first birthday — it would take a monumental effort to convince 75 percent of women and their employers, and their partners, and their old-fashioned grandparents, and their uncomfortable friends, and a very hostile public that breastfeeding in public at all is a good thing, much less for more than a year.

But the upshot is that the country would save 13 billion non-maternal-titty-promoting dollars if 90 percent of babies were breastfed for six months. You'll just have to convince them it's not weird, gross, shameful or hippy-dippy Euro-strange.

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