Editorial: There ought to be a law on breastfeeding

The Patriot Ledger

Why in our Legislature, where undoubtedly a good portion of its members were brought up on breast milk and many women lawmakers themselves nursed, is it so difficult to pass a bill protecting the natural right of women to feed their babies in public?

For several years now, the clock has run out on several bills that would protect nursing mothers in public areas as well as workplaces. We hope that is not the fate of a simple measure that the Senate just sent to the House this week by a 38-0 vote.

There are 36 states that specifically allow a mother to breast-feed her baby in public or private areas. Only three states, of which we are embarrassingly one, do not have any law at all that promotes or protects breast-feeding.

The bill enacted by the Senate is a watered-down version voted on by the public health committee to make it more palatable and easier to pass than a more comprehensive one offered by state Sen. Susan Fargo, the committee’s chair, and other like-minded members.

The new version says succinctly, “A mother may breast-feed her child in any public place, or establishment or place which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public; and where the mother and her child may otherwise be there lawfully.”

The bill also declares inadvertent exposure of a breast would not be considered lewd behavior. Like, it was before? To whom?

There are civil penalties for violation and a mother constrained from breast-feeding can make claim for up to $500 in damages.

Legislators should also take up Fargo’s initial measure that not only would make it illegal for a business to discriminate against a women who expresses milk during work breaks, but would reward those companies with a stamp of approval who promote breast-feeding by providing hygienic areas with clean water sources and a refrigerator for milk storage.

Studies upon studies have shown that breast-feeding reduces food allergies in children as well as dermatological problems and incidences of pneumonia, not to mention numerous health benefits for women who breast-feed.

There’s also a few millennia of experience that says it was no big thing until our culture began to sexualize the mammary gland.

We don’t know why it has not been taken up by the House, which doesn’t meet again in formal session until next week, but we ask how can anyone be against such a clear and simple right?