Topeka Amy Swan, a Lawrence mother, said Monday she was "thrilled and relieved" after Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed into law a bill that emphasizes a woman's right to breast-feed in public.
"It was a long road to get there, but I'm very happy with the results," said Swan, who started pushing for the legislation last year.
Sebelius said the measure was necessary.
"We all want children to have the opportunity to grow up happy and healthy," Sebelius said. "By reaffirming that mothers can breast-feed anywhere they have a right to be, we can help mothers and their babies."
In 2003, Swan was breast-feeding her then 6-month-old daughter in a health club when a man told her he didn't want his son exposed to the sight.
Women across the state had similar stories of being insulted, harassed and even threatened when they breast-fed their babies.
They demanded legislation that has been passed in one form or another in 38 states.
Last year, some lawmakers amended the bill so that women would have to "discreetly" breast-feed, but breast-feeding advocates said the additional word was open to various interpretations.
Discreetly was later removed from the legislation.
This year, the measure sailed through the Legislature.
"Everything just happened so quickly toward the end," Swan said.
She credited Sens. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, and Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, for shepherding the measure through the Senate.
"Sen. Wagle really did help us this year. After she kind of took this on as her baby, everyone seemed to be in our favor," she said. Barnett is chairman of the committee that recommended the bill be approved.
Swan also credited Reps. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, and Tom Holland, D-Baldwin.
"We will hopefully be able to avoid some of the situations that were discussed by proponents of the bill who were unfairly asked to leave establishments because of breast-feeding," Davis said.
Advocates extolled the benefits of breast-feeding, saying 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 made stronger by breast-feeding.
But they noted some women would not breast-feed or would stop breast-feeding sooner than they should because of fear of societal disapproval.
In Kansas, the rate of breast-feeding has fallen behind the rest of the nation.
Swan said she hoped the new law will reverse that trend.
"Letting women know for sure that it is OK will make women more comfortable and keep breast-feeding," she said.
House Bill 2284, also states it is Kansas public policy for a mother's choice to breast-feed to be supported and encouraged. In addition, it provides that the mother would be excused from jury service until she is no longer breast-feeding.
The law will take effect in several weeks once it is published in the Kansas Register.