Breastfeeding in Public: Lactation and the Law
Breastfeeding is a natural and the most efficient way of nursing infants. However, breastfeeding in public has been taken to negatively make it impossible for mothers to feed their babies comfortably in public. In the United States, breasts have been sexualized, and used in advertisements and at multiple restaurants. Furthermore, breastfeeding in public has been taken negatively, ascetic, inappropriate, and tawdry. There are unique benefits of breastfeeding to the baby (Humphries, 2011). These benefits include advanced cognitive development, low rates of childhood obesity, and small risks of asthma among others. Companies manufacturing formula milk have developed products that resemble all the nutrients found in the breast milk. However, breastfeeding cannot be compared to formula milk. If breastfeeding is supported, mothers will be comfortable nursing their babies in public, thus providing them with the best nourishment (Humphries, 2011).
Benefits of breastfeeding to mother and child
Breast milk protects the baby from long term illnesses. Breast milk is a source of antibodies that help its body to fight diseases (Humphries, 2011). In addition, breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months gives the child maximum protection. Some infections such as meningitis, ear infection, lower respiratory diseases and many others are lesser in children who are breastfed. Furthermore, if the baby gets such illnesses, they are less severe. The breast milk changes to create more protection with time, unlike the formula milk. The protection found in formula milk is not as sufficient as the one found in breast milk. When the mother’s body responds to pathogens, the immunity is also passed to the baby in the form of antibodies.
Breast milk also protects the child from allergies. When a baby is fed on formula, they are likely to get allergies from the formula milk can get contaminated during preparation. The contents of breast milk can also cause allergies to the child. Breast milk has the right composition appropriate for the child and therefore the child cannot develop allergies (Mulready-Ward & Hackett, 2014).
Breast milk also has benefits to the mother. For example, the motor burns several calories, helping reducing baby fat that was gained during the pregnancy. The mother and the baby can bond (Lippitt et al., 2014). During breastfeeding, prolactin is produced, and it helps the mother to relax and focus on the baby. Oxytocin is also produced during breastfeeding, and it generates a strong connection of love and care and attachment between the mother and the child. On the other side, formula feeding does not promote bonding since these hormones are not produced (Salcedo, 2014). The bonding that is promoted through breastfeeding is another reason as to why formula cannot be as beneficial as breastfeeding. Oxytocin also has more health benefits to the mother including helping the uterus to return to its regular size more quickly (Lippitt et al., 2014).
Breastfeeding also promotes higher cognitive development as compared to formula milk. Breast milk contains DHA that is an essential fatty acid that promotes cognitive development (ABC News, 2009). DHA has been added to formula milk currently, but its effects cannot be compared to that of breast milk. Research also indicates that the IQ scores and other intelligence tests were higher for those children who had prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding (Abc News, 2009).
Lactation is cheaper and more efficient than formula milk. Breast milk is produced in sufficient amounts for the baby (Salcedo, 2014). On the other side, formula milk needs the mother to spend so much money, and they still have to ensure that it is prepared in the right way to prevent contamination. The breastfed baby will also not need excessive medical attention since they grow up healthier than the babies fed on formula. The preparation of formula milk also takes longer while nursing is simpler and faster. With formula milk, there is also an increase in the chances of tainting during the cleaning of the feeding equipment. When a mother is breastfeeding, they will not need to carry a bag full of feeding equipment.
Through the production of Oxytocin, the mother relaxed, and this reduces the stress level, which sometimes results in postpartum depression (de Jager et al., 2014). Research indicated that mother who stopped breastfeeding early were at a greater risk of developing postpartum depression as compared to those who breastfed for longer (de Jager et al., 2014).
Therefore, nursing in public should be supported to help the mother to give their babies the best nourishment. Lactation in public has been taken negatively because of the social and cultural norms that term, it indecent (Anderson, 2013). The whole issue relates to sexuality and the perception attached to various body parts in relation to the larger society (Mulready-Ward & Hackett, 2014). In encouraging breastfeeding in public, it is important to understand that breasts are not only for sex purposes. In understanding this, it is possible to make people understand that nurturing young ones are another function of breasts (Jocelyn, 2014). Since sex is taken to be a taboo, breastfeeding is associated with indecency. However, when breasts are not associated with sex, then the negativity on breastfeeding can be reduced (Anderson, 2013).
Laws protecting breastfeeding
Laws have been created to ensure nursing mothers have the freedom to breastfeed their children. However, parents have been forced to feed their babies in dirty bathrooms or uncomfortable situations (Jake 2007). It is also hypocritical to see that feeding bottle’s top is expected to resemble a nipple, but it is acceptable and real breastfeeding unacceptable. The laws that have been formulated help in making breastfeeding acceptable and showing that it is not indecency.
In the U.S, there are states that have laws on breastfeeding while others do not. For example, Texas has a law allowing mothers to nurse their babies in the places they are while states such as Pennsylvania do not have any breastfeeding laws (Jake 2007). Two laws give limitations on how breastfeeding should be done in public. The state breastfeeding law says that a mother has a right to breastfeed her baby at any location in any place that she and her child have a right to be whether the breast is showing or not. In addition to this, a woman has a right to take legal action to anyone who interferes with her breastfeeding.
The other provision says that a woman has a right to breastfeed in public but does not give a way in which this law is enforced. The third provision indicates that breastfeeding does not qualify as indecent exposure (Jake 2007). The woman, therefore, cannot be charged with a sex crime if found breastfeeding. In addition, in states where no law to protecting breastfeeding women has been created, harassment and discrimination on the breastfeeding basis breaks the mother’s right. The harassment can also qualify as inflicting emotional distress. A nursing mother also has the right to report such a case to the owner of the enterprise where she is harassed for breastfeeding. She can also file charges in the states that have breastfeeding laws against anyone who interferes with their breastfeeding (Jake 2007).
Nursing is a natural way of taking care of young one and therefore it should be supported. It is clear that no other form of feeding that can be as beneficial to a child as lactation. Therefore mothers should be given their space and not harassed when lactating in public. There should also be a change of attitudes towards nursing in public. The change in beliefs will help the public to be supportive to lactating mothers.
Anderson, R. (2013). Breastfeeding in public: what is and what is not "appropriate". Retrieved from http://savageminds.org/2013/09/23/breastfeeding-in-public-what-is-and-what-is-not-appropriate/
de Jager, E., Broadbent, J., Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M., & Skouteris, H. (2014). The role of psychosocial factors in exclusive breastfeeding to six months postpartum. Midwifery, 30(6), 657-666.
Humphries, J. M. (2011). Breastfeeding Promotion. AJN The American Journal of Nursing,
Jake Marcus, J.D. (2007) Lactation and The Law. http://breastfeedinglaw.com/articles/lactation- and-the-law/
Jocelyn Hickenbotham. (2014). Interview with Jocelyn Hickenbotham (See other attachment)
Lippitt, M., Masterson, A. R., Sierra, A., Davis, A. B., & White, M. A. (2014). An Exploration of Social Desirability Bias in Measurement of Attitudes toward Breastfeeding in Public. Journal of Human Lactation, 0890334414529020.
Mulready-Ward, C., & Hackett, M. (2014). Perception and Attitudes Breastfeeding in Public in New York City. Journal of Human Lactation, 30(2), 195-200.
Salcedo, E. S. (2014). Breastfeeding in the Workplace: What's Wrong with the Right?. Available at SSRN.