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West Virginia Journalist Speaks Out Against Breastfeeding Bill

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Apparently the West Virginia Breastfeeding Legislation has caught the eye of the political editor at the West Virginia State Journal.

Here's what he writes:

I was somewhat disappointed to see that last year's grand champion of unnecessary bills -- the one that would have forced merchants to let women breastfeed anywhere in their establishments -- has returned but in somewhat diminished form.

A gaggle of state senators is calling not for breastfeeding on demand on private property but for some more constitutional steps, such as a program encouraging employers to encourage breastfeeding at the workplace and automatic excuses from jury duty for breastfeeding mothers. It omits breastfeeding from public indecency laws.

Much better.

But in the House of Delegates, the war for the right to nurse in other people's establishments rages on. After all of the outraged "lactavists" we heard from last year, I would have been disappointed if they would have given up in both houses.

Want to share your thoughts? Chris Stirewalt can be reached at (304) 720-6553 or by e-mail at cstirewalt@statejournal.com.

Here's the letter that I just sent...

Mr Stirewalt,

Having just read your article about the "waste of time" bills being pushed through the West Virginia Congress this year, I couldn't help but share my own comments.

Exclusively breastfeeding a child for the first six months of its' life and continuing to nurse to a year and beyond has been proven to lower the risk of obesity and to improve long-term health (thus extending life expectancy and lowering health care costs). Since survey after survey shows that fear of breastfeeding in public (and facing the embarrassment and shame of being pointed out and asked to leave) is a primary reason that many mothers quit breastfeed (or never start at all), bills that protect the rights of nursing mothers are essential to increasing the rates of breastfed children.

As such, I would consider the proposed breastfeeding legislation to be a great way to address three (obesity, life expectancy and uninsured citizens) of the five issues named by you in your column. Perhaps you need to work on item number three on your list (education) so that you might be better informed about the potential impact of these types of bills.

Some day the public may get beyond themselves and realize that the issue here isn't about a mother's right to nurse in public, it's about a child's right to eat. Last time I checked adults (and non-nursing children) were allowed to enjoy their meals without being asked to place a blanket over their head or to retire to the nearest public restroom.

Then again, maybe we are moving in the direction where we should be allowed to banish anyone that offends us. I suppose if mixed race couples bother me, I should be allowed to ask them to leave my property and to call the police if they refuse. Or perhaps I dislike people that are overweight. May I kick them out of my restaurant as well? What about Republicans? Democrats? Can I tell someone to leave because their beliefs offend me?

Perhaps if Americans would grow up and learn to look the other way if they're offended by a child eating then we wouldn't have to waste the government's time with issues like these. "

Jennifer Laycock

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  1. Blogger heidi | 11:15 AM |  

    Jennifer, Thanks so much for publicizing this article. Several other nursing WV moms and I are going to be writing him as well. I'll share your response with them:)

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:16 AM |  

    to you jennifer and other lactivists - couldn't you simply pump the milk and reserve it for use in public - wouldn't this solution address your issues and the issues posed by those members of society who do not agree with your right to bare/bear breasts

  3. Blogger Jennifer | 6:36 PM |  

    Anonymous, there are several reasons...

    1) Because there is nothing wrong with feeding a child in the manner it was designed to be fed. Would you ask a bottle feeding mother to hide her bottle? A child eating is not offensive.

    2) Because you have the ability to look away.

    3) Because not all women are physically able to pump. Some can pump for an hour and not get more than a drop.

    4) A good breast pump costs upwards of $200. Bottles add to that. It's a financial burden than some families can't bear.

    In other words, the only "issues" it addresses are those of the individuals that are offended by a child eating.

    I'm sorry but my child's right to eat outweighs your right to not be offended.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:57 AM |  

    1) it would seem that you have assumed i am offended. i neither said nor implied that i am offended.
    2) again it would seem that you have assumed i am offended, and you have directed your disdain at me by writing that "you have the ability to look away". why?
    3) graciously, i accept and thank you for the information provided, as i was not aware of this
    4) $200 does not seem (to me) a financial burden to families financially able to adequately provide for a child
    in closing -
    1) i deduce that the breastfeeding controversy is not about children eating, but rather exposed breasts
    2) children can be fed without sharing the very personal nurturing and bonding experience with strangers
    3) please accept my apologies for not placing bare/bear in quotations as, it is a cliché and not intended to express my emotions toward the subject.
    4) you do seem to be emotional about your right to breastfeed your child in the presence of others. can you share any findings about the impact of emotions (positive or negative) on a breastfed child.

  5. Blogger Jennifer | 4:56 PM |  

    I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough, I was answering your questions in general terms. As such, the "you" was a collective, societal you, not necessarily a "hey you, random anonymous person."

    Why do you find it to be an act of distain for me to say that someone should look away. Sounds to me like you are also reading inferences into my statement without knowing for certain if they were there. It's a simple and true statement. People have the ability to look away. They do this whenever they encounter anything else they dislike, why not if they dislike a breastfeeding child?

    While $200 may not seem like a financial burden to you, it is to many families. Being able to have and care for your children does not mean that you must have expendable income laying around just to make other people happy. I know plenty of families that take excellent care of their children, provide for their needs and yet, cannot afford to drop $200 on something that they don't need just to make someone else happy. Sorry, I don't buy the idea that if you can't shell out $200 on a breast pump you have no business having kids.

    You can make the breastfeeding controvery about whatever you'd like to make it about. The fact remains that we're not talking about something sexual, indescent, private or otherwise indicitive of a public judgement. We're talking about a child eating when and where they are hungry. It's as simple as that. Just because some people choose to make it about another issue doesn't change the fact that it's a child that needs to eat.

    Could you please explain to me WHY it's a bad thing to feed and bond with my child in a public space? Is it because breastfeeding is intrinsincially wrong? Is it because it involves breasts? It it because you might catch a glimpse of breast if you look hard enough? Or is it simply because some people are uncomfortable with the idea of a nursing child? I'm not being sarcastic here, I'm sincerely asking why you think it's a bad thing for me to feed my child whenever and wherever he's hungry.

    As for the emotional comment, you seem to read a lot of things into my posts, perhaps based on your experiences with other nursing moms. There was nothing "emotional" about my above post, it was simply the sharing of facts and information. Peopel CAN look away, breast pumps ARE expensive and my right to feed my child is not trumped by someone's supposed right to not be offended.

    So let me ask, do you think that all behavior deemed offensive by anyone should be banned from public? What if I don't like gays, do I get to tell them that they have to leave the mall because they were holding hands? What about african americans? Can I kick them out of my office because they bother me? How about men, what if I have a problem with men? Can I tell them to go home because their very presence offends me? Seems kind of silly to think that one person's insecurities or personal preferences should preclude an entire group of people from venturing out into the public arena. Very silly indeed.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:53 PM |  

    I agree completely. If I don't want breastfeeding mothers in my store, I shouldn't have to tolerate it. In fact, I'd welcome you to NOT shop at my store. My father has owned his store for over 30 years, and more than once he has sent a lazy entitlemoo packing. One woman tried to get all lactivist on him and only wound up humiliating herself when the police(whom she INSISTED that my brother call while my father was arguing with her) told her that while she had the right to breastfeed where she was otherwise legally allowed to be, he had to right to REVOKE her right to be there. Pump, bring a blanket, or here's a thought - trying feeding your child BEFORE you take him or her out in public.

  7. Blogger Jennifer | 7:12 PM |  


    I'd welcome you to "man up" or "woman up" and let us know who you are and the name of your business.

    Breastfeeding moms are more than happy to spread the word about which establishments we should avoid.


  8. Blogger sajmom | 8:17 AM |  

    I'd just like to point out also, that sometimes you don't know in advance that you'll be going out somewhere. You would need to pump in advance-and that would be a huge problem for people like me who aren't able to pump out much milk. Feeding the baby at the breast works just fine but pumping-it can take forever to get a tiny amount of milk out. The amount of milk you make has nothing to do with how much milk you can pump. There are a lot of people who aren't aware of that. As pumping is an ordeal for me it would be crazy to regularly pump milk just in case my baby might get hungry somewhere outside the home. And $200 would be a financial burden for me, I always used a free manual pump given by the hospital. (Also-anonymous-breastfed babies eat more frequently that formula fed ones-therefore you can feed the child before you go out and they might still want to eat again before you come home. Even for a short trip.)

  9. Blogger Sage | 6:22 PM |  

    As an aspiring lactivist, I must first compliment "anonymous" for having the gumption to stand up for his/her beliefs. Wrong as they are, without them we would not have the opportunity to educate the people out there that do not have strong feelings on either side.

    That being said, it is a shame that business owners continue to see breastfeeding as offensive. They, as leaders in our consumer-driven world, are well placed to be leaders in changing the mind-set of the general public. (We listen to them about what products to buy, its only a short step to accepting what ideas to buy into as well.)
    I have found that talking to business owners that I choose to spend my dollars with is easy while I am still pregnant. Each time the conversation comes up about how I feel and what I'm having, I answer happily and direct the conversation toward how much I enjoy shopping in their stores, and would love to continue to do so after the baby is born.... only I don't see that they have a "Breastfeeding is welcome here" sticker... and I'm afraid I may have to begin patronizing elsewhere. Many of them are quite alarmed that I would assume they would not want me around, and several have taken the initiative to post signs and inform their employees of the "policy" regarding allowance of nursing mothers.

    Usually, I stick to stores I like to shop in, and avoid chain-businesses in general. If I must go somewhere that may have policy that "those who complain are catered to" I try to be the one to complain first...

    I am sure I have taken enough of your time, though I thought it might be worth it to share what has worked for me.


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