In Forest Park, GA it was illegal to breastfeed a child over the age of two in public. According to WMAQ-TV, an Atlanta NBC affiliate, in May 2011, the Forest Park city council “passed a public indecency ordinance designed to protect citizens from lewd acts in public places. The ordinance included one sentence that exempts women who are breastfeeding infants 'under the age of two'. " It is also illegal in DeKalb County and Duluth, GA as well as a myriad of cities and municipalities throughout the country.
When the Forest Park ordinance was passed, outrage was heavy and the reaction was swift from the local community. Mothers held a “nurse-in” on May 21, 2011 on the grounds of the Forest Park City Hall to demonstrate their anger. Dawn Covin, a certified Lactation Educator and political blogger was at the nurse-in. In an interview for this article, she said, “I attended the nurse-in in Forest Park because I have nursed a child over two and it literally brought tears to my eyes to think that a city would actually make it illegal. It is obvious that Forest Park is not familiar with the World Health Organizations recommendation of breastfeeding for two years or beyond. To put breastfeeding in public in the same category as public nudity is totally absurd.”
It seems the US government agrees with her. On August 6, 2011, the US Breastfeeding Committee declared the month of August to be National Breastfeeding Month. In the declaration, the committee proclaimed their reason for the designation is “to improve the Nation’s health by working collaboratively to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.” They list several reasons why a national breastfeeding month is important including the following:
1. Breastfeeding is the norm for babies and young children
2. Breastfeeding is a proven primary prevention strategy, protecting both infants and mothers from some chronic and acute diseases and conditions and building a foundation for life-long health and wellness
3. Breastfeeding builds a strong lifelong emotional connection between the mother and infant
4. Breastfeeding provides a safe, reliable and renewable food source, especially critical during natural disaster and emergency situations
5. All major medical authorities recommend mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue breastfeeding for at least the first year of a child’s life, yet breastfeeding rates continue to fall short of the nation’s objectives
In addition to the National Breastfeeding Month declaration, there has been other vocal government support of breastfeeding. ON January 20, 2011, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin issued "The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding", calling on everyone from health care providers and insurance companies, to employers, policymakers, and the community at large to support mothers in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals.
The support of the national government withstanding, many mothers feel their decision to breastfeed is looked down upon by local communities and the people around them. Ms. Covin believes strongly in a woman’s right to breastfeed her child whenever and wherever she desires. In the interview for this article she emphasizes the point that by saying “women should be allowed to breastfeed their babies anywhere because we need to normalize this superior feeding choice, and provide supportive environments for women to provide their babies not only food but nurturing comfort and emotional security.”
In Forest Park, Georgia the “nurse-in” mothers eventually achieved victory as reported by WGCL-TV. One month after their protest, the Forest Park City Council voted four to one to exempt all breastfeeding mothers from the indecency ordinance. Perhaps the openness many breastfeeding mothers seek is coming.
US Breastfeeding Committee Declaration of National Breastfeeding Month
US Surgeon General Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/breastfeeding/calltoactiontosupportbreastfeeding.pdf
WMAQ-TV, Breastfeeding mothers stage “nurse in” http://www.11alive.com/news/article/191748/3/Moms-protest-breastfeeding-limits-with-nurse-in
WGCL-TV, Forest Park, GA city council overturns breastfeeding ban http://www.cbsatlanta.com/story/14850308/breastfeeding-mothers-ictorious-in-forest-park
Edited by Jody Smith