Breastfeeding:It's Every Woman's Right

     The American Academy of Pediatrics Work Group on Breastfeeding has stated that "human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants, including premature and sick newborns, with rare exceptions."  In addition the Group states that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months and ideally, breastfeeding should continue for the first 12 months of life.  For this to happen in the US, means there must be a drastic change in the attitudes of both government and business.  With clearly 50% of mothers returning to work within six weeks of giving birth- provisions have to be made which will make the continuation of breastfeeding possible even after they return to the workplace.
     Pediatricians, nationwide, are directed to encourage employers to provide facilities and time in the workplace for mothers to express breastmilk during their workday.  They also are directed to encourage routine insurance coverage for breastfeeding consultation services and supplies.  These changes probably won't occur without legislation that mandates change-or, at the least, removes the barriers that now exist.


Promote State Legislation

     If your state currently has laws that prevent or penalize mothers from breastfeeding in public areas, in the workplace, in government buildings or in other areas where mothers and infants would normally be, write to your state representatives.  Urge them to propose, support and /or enact legislation  that protects a mother's right to breastfeed wherever she feels it is necessary for her child.   Additionally, if your state has proposed legislation coming up for vote in future sessions, write to your congressional representatives to urge their support of such laws.   In fact, ask them to expand those bills to include a mother's right to breastfeed or express breastmilk at her workplace without reproach.

     If you are not sure whether there are any bills on the docket in your state capital, call the office of your local representatives and ask for information on pending legislation.  If there is none, discuss how important the right to breastfeed is to everyone; ask for advice on how a campaign could be initiated.   Sometimes, it only takes a suggestion to get the ball rolling!

Promote the Bills in Washington

     At the Federal level, legislation is currently proposed that would 1) reward employers who provide a secure, sanitary location and sufficient time for mothers to express breastmilk during the work day (HR1163); 2) protect a mother's right to breastfeed by requiring that women cannot be fired or discriminated against for expressing breastmilk or breastfeeding during their own lunch or break time (HR3861).  Both were referred back to various committees during the 106th Congress.  One additional bill was passed during this session:  The Right to Breastfeed Act (HR 1848), which ensures a woman's rights to breastfeed her child anywhere on Federal property where she and her child are authorized to be.  Clearly, there is much more that can be done but your efforts to encourage the support of your representatives can have an immense impact on the outcome on this type of legislation.

     Every mother has the responsibility to inform governments, politicians and businesses of the universal benefits of breastfeeding.  Benefits that go beyond just the mother and society at large.  These entities must recognize the importance of making breastfeeding an easy, convenient, natural, practical and protected option for every mother!

     If you wish to support any of the Federal bills or other relevant legislation, don't hesitate to write to your senators and representatives in your state, and in Washington, to urge their support on those that promote the right to breastfeed.   By doing so, your rights...and those of your daughter...ultimately will be assured.