Thursday, December 01, 2005

Breastfeeding at the Williamson Rec Center

As a father of breastfed children, I've been somewhat taken aback by the stories about the Williamson Rec Center's issue with the breastfeeding mother (11/29/05 - "Lawyer: Rec center OK to ask mother to move"; 11/27/05 - "Bathroom place for breast-feeding, rec center officials say") and the subsequent discussions related to it. The story states that "Tennessee has no law that would prohibit or permit public breast-feeding," yet the lawyers feel that "officials at the Williamson County Recreation Center in Franklin were within the law"? What law? As pointed out in the article, "federal law states that women may breast-feed at any location in a federally-owned building or on federal property as long as the woman and her child are authorized to be there." The state has no law prohibiting breastfeeding in public places, so it can't be that. As Ms. Lilly points out in the Tennessean article, "if there is not a law that clarifies the issue, it is generally accepted that a woman has a right to breast-feed a child where she is."

Here's the facts as I know them. The AAP says:

  • "Human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants"
  • "Newborns should be nursed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, or rooting. Crying is a late indicator of hunger."
  • "Newborns should be nursed approximately 8 to 12 times every 24 hours until satiety"
  • "Pacifiers should be avoided whenever possible and, if used at all, only after breastfeeding is well established." (note that artificial nipples on bottles are very similar to pacifiers)
  • Pediatricians should "promote breastfeeding as a normal part of daily life, and encourage family and societal support for breastfeeding."
  • "Although economic, cultural, and political pressures often confound decisions about infant feeding, the AAP firmly adheres to the position that breastfeeding ensures the best possible health as well as the best developmental and psychosocial outcomes for the infant. Enthusiastic support and involvement of pediatricians in the promotion and practice of breastfeeding is essential to the achievement of optimal infant and child health, growth, and development."

(Source: AAP website)

So, this natural function that the AAP says "ensures the best possible health ... developmental and psychosocial outcomes" for children is still shunned in society (at least by some).

I'm reading on Franklin Circus that this woman was a "spoiled kid" who is rude, inconsiderate, and only thinking about herself. That she should either schedule the baby on a four hour schedule and only go out in those time periods, or she should stay at home all day. That her rights are much less important than everyone else's right to not see her nurse and, in fact, by using the rec facility with her child in tow, she is demanding that "the rest of the world should bow to her." That what she was doing can be equated to smoking, indecent exposure, public sex acts, and "crack" exposure. That she should sit on a toilet or a wooden bench in a locker room to nurse. That she should not nurse her baby in a NURSERY of all places!

I have yet to see anyone dispute this woman's claim that she was nursing the infant "tastefully" or that she was being "modest": i.e., she certainly wasn't running around the rec-center topless screaming "LOOK AT ME!", and likely she never exposed herself at all. I'd venture to guess that this woman was less exposed than a woman in a swimsuit in the pool or in a sports bra on the treadmill. Having been around a great many breast-feeding women, I can tell you that the vast majority of these women are modest and would prefer not to expose themselves, and thus take precautions to avoid that from happening. In fact, I'll bet that the majority of the time, people don't even realize that a woman is breastfeeding. I know that this is the case with my wife.

This reaction is similar to the woman who recently had the same experience at the Huntsville Earlyworks children's museum, and I have to say that it is rather disappointing. Children should have a right to eat. Women should have a right to go out in public, and also have the right nurse the baby on demand when the situation presents itself. People complain when an infant is crying in a public place, yet they don't want the mother to pacify the child's needs.


Update (12/5/05): Letters to the Editor in the Tennessean mostly back up my stance on this, with (of course) the random inconsiderate, "rude", and "offensive" commentaries, along with one that compared breastfeeding to "defecation" (geesh!). People really need to grow up...


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