Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Mothers argue importance of breast-feeding

February 3, 2006


— Kansas mothers and health experts Thursday renewed their fight to give women the right to breast-feed in public.

"It is wrong that mothers, doing what is natural and best for their nursing infants, sometimes feel a lack of public support or even embarrassment and degradation in our great state," said Amy Swan, of Lawrence.

Swan and several other women recounted personal stories to a Senate committee of being insulted or verbally threatened when nursing their children in public places.

Agatha Nickerson, of Hutchinson, said she was nursing her son last year in a mall bathroom when a woman told her she was offended and would call the police and have her arrested.

"I am hoping to bring more attention to this cause so other mothers will not have to go through a similar situation," Nickerson said.

The Public Health and Welfare Committee took no action, but Chairman Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, a supporter of the bill, promised that the panel would work on the measure soon.

Most states have approved legislation that protects a mother's right to nurse her child any place she has a right to be.

But the measure was killed last year in Kansas when a majority of state senators said private businesses should be allowed to prohibit breast-feeding on their premises.

Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, who opposed the bill last year, said she could support it if there was a requirement that the woman "discreetly" nurse her child.

But advocates of breast-feeding said including the word "discreetly" was unnecessary and would open up the law to varied interpretations.

"I have yet to meet a mother who did not want to nurse discreetly while in public," said Brenda Bandy, professional liaison with La Leche League of Kansas.

Libby Rosen, a registered nurse and lactation consultant in Topeka, added that women nursing their babies show "less skin than a Victoria Secret's ad or what you will see during the Super Bowl."

But O'Connor disagreed, saying several years ago while at a restaurant, a woman at the next table who was nursing her child "whipped it out in front of everyone."

The bill before the committee would also exempt women who are breast-feeding from jury duty.

Advocates said the benefits of breast-feeding to a child's health and society in general were comprehensive. They say breast-fed babies are healthier and require less medical attention. Mothers save money from not having to pay for formula and the mother-child bond is produced by breast-feeding.

Even with the benefits, advocates said some women will not breast-feed or will stop breast-feeding sooner because of fear of societal disapproval.

In Kansas, the rate of breast-feeding is falling behind the rest of the nation.

At the time of discharge from the hospital after giving birth, 72.2 percent of Kansas mothers breast-feed compared with a national average of 70 percent. But after six months, 28.8 percent of Kansas mothers breast-feed compared with 33 percent for the rest of the nation.

Breast-feeding advocates said a supportive law would give women the confidence to breast-feed and increase the rate.


jranderson 12 years, 3 months ago

I am constantly astonished at the absurdity of even having to discuss this. I view it as oppression. With all we know about, not just the benefits of breastfeeding, but the difference support (both at home and in the community) makes in a women's nursing success, it just blows my mind people would even think twice about this.

DISCREET! Then let's start putting laws on the books controlling fashion.

SAHM2tylrnathan 12 years, 3 months ago

So a baby sucking on a bottle of reconstituted cow's milk or soy formula is adorable, but a baby nursing is obscene? WTF???? Kay O'Connor should be ashamed of herself! Heaven forbid that her delicate sensibilities should be offended because a baby needs to eat! Grow up lady! Maybe you could try averting your leering gaze long enough for the poor mom to get adjusted and covered back up. Somebody who criticizes public breastfeeding obviously never tried it--it's one of the most acrobatic feats I ever attempted. My younger son never would take a bottle (we went straight to sippy cups when he was old enough) so if I wanted to go out for more than two hours, nursing was my only option. I'm extremely modest and the last thing I wanted was for someone other than my baby to see my chest. Nursing moms are just looking for some time out of the house while still caring for their child, not for an opportunity to show off their tatas to the free world.

Libby Rosen and the staff at the Stormont Vail Breastfeeding Clinic are wonderful! They are the reason I was able to stick with and throroughly enjoy breastfeeding my first son after a horrible first few days and made nursing my second son second nature.

It's hard to believe we have to have a law to allow for the original source of human nutrition to be provided when it is needed away from home. Why else would the dispensers be so darn portable??

planetwax 12 years, 3 months ago

I am also constantly astonished by the absurdity of this topic. Women should breastfeed their children if they can, and that means anywhere they are. I also view this topic as a form of oppression.

I should also note that I have never breastfed a child, nor do I intend to. I adopted a 10.5 month old baby and she is quite healthy (gerber baby), despite having never breastfed. I sometimes resent the expressed idea that a child cannot be healthy if not breastfed. It simply isn't an option for every mother and baby.

Regardless, I route for the rights of all women and children.


Jamesaust 12 years, 3 months ago

"In Kansas, the rate of breast-feeding is falling behind the rest of the nation."

I honestly did not know that there was such a competition.

Which state leads the pack?

Confrontation 12 years, 3 months ago

I just can't understand how one woman can be so scared and offended by another woman's boob!!!

BabyJay13 12 years, 3 months ago

I just had a child 3 weeks ago, and I can't believe someone would have the nerve to walk up to me in a public place and tell me that I offended them because I was feeding my child. I am breastfeeding, but that is my choice, and the last time I checked this was a choice that I was allowed to make. It isn't like we are whipping out our boob to show the whole world it is a part of nature and the is why God gave females boobs was to feed our children. So don't tell me that I can't do it or that I offended you, turn your stare the other way.

Todd 12 years, 3 months ago

I've yet to hear of a case where a police report was filed against a women for breast feeding. That being the case it seems like there doesn't need to be a law protecting public breast feeding.

Another thing... it's doubtful that even if women just felt like whipping out there boobs from time to time in public that charges would ever be filed. (much less any conviction on the charges)

mefirst 12 years, 3 months ago

See what religious fanaticism leads to...the breast is impure. Be ashamed ladies, be very ashamed. You're ability to nourish your child is a threat to the purest among us...Ms. O'Conner and others. Let them continue to have their way, and see where they lead us!

Keep votin' 'em in people. You deserve what you get.

SAHM2tylrnathan 12 years, 3 months ago

Janet, you are so right that there is too much negativity about formula feeding. I personally think a woman ought to give breastfeeding a go if she can, but most of my generation was formula fed and turned out fine. There are lots of reasons some women can't, and when it comes right down to it, it's still a free country. I'm a risk-avoidant personality, so if breastfeeding might give my kids a health edge, I decided it was worth a go. And the lazy side of me really enjoyed not having to wash bottles, mix formula and tote supplies with me! ;0p

Congrats on your little one--adoption is a fabulous thing!

Dayna Lee 12 years, 3 months ago

I did breast feed 2 children. I never "whipped" it out in public. I think some women get to up on their high horse about how "natural" it is and just can't grip the idea that we just don't want to see it. Going to the bathroom is natural too, but I don't want to see you do that either.

Jeanne Cunningham 12 years, 3 months ago

I'll bet some of those same people think it's OK to "whip out a cigarette" and light it up right there in the restaurant and puff their carcinogens right in others' faces.

But, feed your kid in public. That could really do some incredible harm to someone else!!!

mefirst 12 years, 3 months ago

Yes, going to the bathroom is natural but the purpose (and the process) of the activity is what differentiates it from the purpose of breast feeding. When you're urinating (or defecating), you're releasing smelly, nasty, toxins from your body. When you're breastfeeding, you're feeding a child. See the difference? It's a no brainer people.

Examine the reasons why you're so offended by the breast. You've been conditioned to be offended. My gosh, when Janet's boob fell out her out shirt during the Superbowl, you'd think the world was going to cave in. No wonder the rest of the world laughs at us...we're backward--and hypocritical. Take one glimpse at the Girls of KU calendar. Don't hear anyone griping about little surburban princessess bearing all for the State of Kansas, but all hell breaks loose when mama wants to feed her child.

It's ridiculous.

Godot 12 years, 3 months ago

"See what religious fanaticism leads to...the breast is impure. Be ashamed ladies, be very ashamed. You're ability to nourish your child is a threat to the purest among us...Ms. O'Conner and others. Let them continue to have their way, and see where they lead us!"

This isn't about religion, this is about being uptight and wanting to impose that closed world view on others. There are supporters of a woman's right to breast feed among very religious people, just as there are many secular people who oppose it, and vice-versa.

crohan1978 12 years, 3 months ago

GoDot, AMEN to you! I thought the same thing when I read that comment.

I do not believe religion has anything to do w/ this, just what people seem to be disturbed by.

I have liberal friends that find it offensive to see a women breastfeeding, and there are some on the other side too, it doesn't matter what religion or party affiliation they have

Genetic02 12 years, 3 months ago

If the need to breast feed arises, when a woman is out in public, then I have no problems with her taking care of her baby.

Is it possible that some women might take advantage of such a right and completely avoid special rooms set aside for breast feeding, opting instead to publically breast feed in situations where, perhaps, the surrounding individuals may not be as comfortable with it?....or even when her attire isn't very accomodating, in teams of breast feeding?

I read a post that said the decision to breast feed in public should be a common sense based decision. I agree. If there is no designated place to feed, then yes, do what has to be done. However, If there is a place where you women can go, to avoid the POSSIBILITY that someone is offended, then perhaps that is the most sensible option to choose.

mefirst 12 years, 3 months ago

You're right Godot, the politicians in Kansas aren't letting their religious views determine policy, they're just uptight and want to impose their world view (grounded in religion) onto others.

Yeah, it's just their personality. Their evangelical, suburban mega-church religion has nothing to do with their disdain for breast feeding.

Sure, far be it from a religious right winger to impose his/her religious world view on anyone. Heaven knows, it never happens in Kansas.

And, far be it from a religious right winger to oppose women's rights, whatever form they take.

I agree wholeheartedly.

robinrander 12 years, 3 months ago

"I'll bet some of those same people think it's OK to "whip out a cigarette" and light it up right there in the restaurant and puff their carcinogens right in others' faces.

But, feed your kid in public. That could really do some incredible harm to someone else!!!"

Very good point chic. If all the pervs of the world could keep their gaze above the neck (Yes, Sen. O'Connor, I'm talking to you) then they wouldn't have to see anyone "whip" anything out. On the other hand, I find it somewhat more difficult to avert my lungs in a restaurant.

My sister is an avid supporter of breastfeeding and all 3 of her children have been breastfed in a variety of settings. Never, not even in the privacy of her own home, have I ever witnessed her "whip" anything out. Even if she did, I doubt anyone would be in danger of losing an eye. It's a nipple people. Deal with it.

The more I hear about people opposed to nursing in public, the more convinced I am that I will nurse my own children once I get around to having some. I might even whip it out at the local Pizza Hut sometime. Just for kicks, you know.

What we need is a mother who is willing to force this issue. Perhaps a nurse-in? Is our society really willing to imprison a mother for the crime of feeding her baby?

I'll even volunteer to babysit for the protesting mothers while they're in the clinker.

Todd 12 years, 3 months ago

Breastfeeding rocks already but churning out another useless law isn't going to change anything. If you want to "raise awareness" get it added to health classes, speak at local churches, or do some ad campain.

mefirst 12 years, 3 months ago

And to those who don't think this is about religion, I ask that you examine how we came to view the mammory gland as a sexual organ that is shameful. It's all grounded in religion. That's what you get when you live in a country founded by and run by religious whackos!

dex 12 years, 3 months ago

finally, a healthy alternative to soda pop vending machines in the schools!

SAHM2tylrnathan 12 years, 3 months ago

Multi, you made my next point already! Bathrooms are not for eating in. Mom's hand has to be on that breast, on baby's face--it is nuts to ask someone to feed a child in that nasty environment. EEEEEWWWWW! Not to mention that public toilets don't usually have a solid lid to sit on! Now if there is a separate sitting area, like they used to have in the 4th floor women's room at the Union, totally acceptable, if not preferable for me!

I would have always preferred to have a clean and secluded place to nurse rather than risk exposing myself. But at the Tulsa State Fair I was pretty much surrounded by farm animals and corn dogs and had to make do with a sizeable blanket and my husband serving as a human shield!

EvaTrujillo 12 years, 3 months ago

Infants need to be fed alot, like every one to four hours. This means a parent who is out-n-about will need to feed the infant. Sigh.
I wish lawmakers didn't have to waste $ on this issue. But when you have owners of health clubs that do not defend a mother nursing a child in the NURSERY, then we really have a problem (oh the irony, an owner of a HEALTH club). Breast-feed babies should not be discriminated against anymore and clearly we need a law to allow these babies to thrive.

Susan Mangan 12 years, 3 months ago

Todd - It was about 7 or 8 years ago (I can't remember the exact date...I've lived here too long that a woman was ticketed for breastfeeding in public at Clinton Lake. It happens, although rarely.

This isn't about religion or politics. To be quite honest, I am extremely conservative, politically, but I am astounded that people have a problem with breastfeeding in public. I am a Christian (although not a "fundamentalist) and I have very "traditional" values. But, for goodness sake, breastfeeding is the feeding of a child!

As conservative as I am, it would probably shock a lot of people to know that, in my opinion, not only should breastfeeding in public be explicitly legal, but going topless should be, as well. The simple fact that breasts are considered a sexual object makes it illegal for women to bare their breasts, when men can do it just "because". Believe me, I would rather see a woman breastfeeding than some men's breasts that I've been flashed. That's one heck of a double-standard and, clearly, sexist. On those 100+ degree summer days, it reminds me just how unfair it is that my breasts are illegal to expose, just because some man (or woman, I suppose) might like it.

I didn't get to breastfeed...I tried and I wanted to, but I had a life-threatening medical condition that resulted in me having to take medicines that are dangerous for a breastfeeding infant. The cost and hassle of bottle-feeding were extreme and I would have loved to have avoided both, but my life was more important.

In my opinion, if you have a problem with public breastfeeding, or if it "offends" you to see it...DON'T WATCH! It's not a peep-show for some perverts, it's someone feeding their baby. Get over it.

gccs14r 12 years, 3 months ago

As recently as 60 years ago, a wet nurse was a godsend to a new mother who couldn't lactate. Breast heeding should never be considered shameful.

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