Breastfeeding in public
Breastfeeding in public is forbidden in some jurisdictions, not addressed by law in others, and a granted legal right in public and the workplace in yet others. Where it is a legal right, some mothers may nevertheless be reluctant to breastfeed, and some people may object to the practice.
- 1 Attitudes by country
- 2 Recent controversies
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Attitudes by country
Breastfeeding in public is a right for Australian women, protected nationally by the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. State legislation differs, but it remains illegal to discriminate against women breastfeeding in public as a protected attribute in five states and by proxy from other existing legislation in remaining states.
In Canada, Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives equal rights and freedoms to men and women, without explicitly mentioning breastfeeding. INFACT Canada (Infant Feeding Action Coalition) is a national non-governmental organization that aims to protect infant and young child health as well as maternal well-being through the promotion and support of breastfeeding and optimal infant feeding practices. It is an organization that provides support and education for Canadian mothers.
Outside of degrading or dehumanizing purposes, law regards the breasts of women in Canada as equal to the breasts of men in Canada. See Topfreedom in Canada.
A woman asked in 2009 at a shop by an employee to stop breastfeeding publicly, supported by a manager, later received an apology and acknowledgement of customers' right to breastfeed.
A worker at the YMCA in St.John told a breastfeeding mother to leave the premises. The mother was in a private change room which costs fee every month, feeding her 7-month-old daughter. YMCA CEO Jason Brown apologized, stating "This situation has caused us to reflect and review, and certainly we see no reason why there should be a restriction to women breastfeed their babies in the adult-only change room."
Inuit children have the lowest breastfeeding rates amongst other Aboriginal populations, as well as the Canadian average. According to a 2006 statistics report, 24% of Inuit children have never been breastfed. There have been health promotion programs created in order to increase the knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding amongst Inuit women.
Public breastfeeding is legal and widely accepted.
While public breastfeeding is widely accepted, especially since the Movement of 1968 when public "Nurse-Ins" (German: Still-Inns) were common, there is no legislation that specifically addresses breastfeeding in public.
Paragraph 2 Article 6 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany provides that "the care and upbringing of children as the natural right of parents" while paragraph 4 "entitles every mother to the protection and care of the community".
Later, acceptance for public breastfeeding appears to have decreased and, according to surveys, an increasing number of mothers try to avoid breastfeeding in public whenever possible. In a Bundestag session a breastfeeding member of the SPD party had to leave the floor after members of the Christian Democratic Union complained that they felt disturbed by her.
India has no legal statute dealing with breastfeeding. Prevalence and social acceptance vary from region to region.
Discreet breastfeeding in public is accepted in Malaysia.
Public breastfeeding is common and widely social accepted. There are no laws against public breastfeeding. Dutch law states that when an employee wishes to breastfeed her baby the employer is obligated to provide the first 9 months after the birth a suitable nursing room and allow for 25% of work time to be spend on feeding the baby or pumping while on pay. After the first nine months the employer is still required to assure conditions for breastfeeding are met (like timely breaks, nursing rooms, safe environment, etc.) but does not have to pay anymore for the time spend on breastfeeding or pumping.
Public breastfeeding is common and widely social accepted.
In the Philippines, breastfeeding is protected by various laws, such as the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 and the Milk Code of the Philippines (Executive Order 51). Mothers are allowed to breastfeed in public. Employers are required to allow lactating employees breaks to breastfeed or express breastmilk. Offices, public establishments such as malls and schools, and government institutions are required to establish lactation stations separate from the bathroom, where mothers can breastfeed their babies or express milk. The Milk Code prohibits the advertising of infant formula or bottle teats for infants under two years old.
Sierra Leone has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. During a goodwill trip to the country, actress Salma Hayek breastfed on camera a hungry week-old infant whose mother could not produce milk. She said she did it to reduce the stigma associated with breastfeeding and to encourage infant nutrition.
The Public Breastfeeding Act since November 2010 safeguards the right to breastfeed in public, while lactation rooms are set up to deal with privacy and to provide access to hot water and power supplies, with fines against interfering with a mother's right to breastfeed. After evicting a breastfeeding mother from the National Palace Museum on 18 July 2012 and enraging many Taiwanese website users, the supposedly offending employee and her employer were both fined 6000 new Taiwan dollars (about 200 United States dollars), said the Department of Health, Taipei City Government (Chinese: 臺北市政府衛生局), but the Museum would appeal.
Breastfeeding in public (restaurants, cafes, libraries etc.) is protected under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 under the provision of goods, facilities and services section. If the child is under 6 months old, the mother has additional protection under a 2008 amendment to the act which protects maternity rights. This is superseded by the Equality Act 2010 which clarifies that a business must not discriminate against a woman who is breastfeeding a child of any age in a public place. Her companion(s) are also protected by this act.
A 2004 UK Department of Health survey found that 84% (about 5 out of 6 people) find breastfeeding in public acceptable if done discreetly; however, 67% (2 out of 3) of mothers were worried about general opinion being against public breastfeeding. To combat these fears in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation safeguarding the freedom of women to breastfeed in public in 2005. The legislation allows for fines of up to £2500 for preventing breastfeeding of a child up to the age of 2 years old in public places.,
In the United States, legislation regarding breastfeeding varies from state to state and a limited federal law only applies to federal government premises. A United States House of Representatives appropriations bill (HR 2490) contained an amendment specifically permitting breastfeeding was signed into law on September 29, 1999. It stipulated that no government funds may be used to enforce any prohibition on women breastfeeding their children in Federal buildings or on Federal property. Further, a Federal law also enacted in 1999 specifically provides that "a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a federal building or on federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location."
Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act and required employers to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to breastfeed her child if it is less than one year old. The employee must be allowed to breastfeed in a private place, other than a bathroom. The employer is not required to pay the employee during the break time. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to comply with the law if doing so would impose an undue hardship to the employer based on its size, finances, nature, or structure of its business.
A number of incidents of harassment of nursing mothers which gained media attention prompted a number of U.S. states to act. All 50 states have passed legislation that either explicitly allows women to breastfeed in public, or exempts them from prosecution for public indecency or indecent exposure for doing so.
Breastfeeding at Work
Although, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms women are protected against discrimination, Canada was one of the only countries that did not have paid breastfeeding breaks. Over 86% of mothers breastfeed, many of them are forced to stop due to work restrictions.
There have been incidents of owners of premises, or people present, objecting to or forbidding breastfeeding. In some cases the mothers have left; in others, where a law guaranteeing the right to breastfeed has been broken, there has been legal action. Sometimes a company has apologised after the fact. One woman not allowed to breastfeed despite showing the Kentucky, USA law that gave the right left, but later organized several "nurse-in" protests in front of the restaurant and other public places.
In June 2007, Brooke Ryan was dining in a booth at the rear of an Applebee's restaurant when she found it necessary to breastfeed her 7-month-old son. While she said she attempted to be discreet, another patron complained to the manager about indecent exposure. Both a waitress and the manager asked her to cover up. She handed him a copy of the Kentucky law that permitted public breastfeeding, but he would not relent. She ended up feeding her son in her car and later organized "nurse-out" protests in front of the restaurant and other public locations. Most U.S. states (40 as of January 2009) have laws clarifying a woman's right to breastfeed in public.
In 2008 a woman in New Orleans, USA put a tent over her truck at a street festival so she could nurse her daughter privately. She was cited by police for an "unauthorized booth" and removed from the street festival.
In 2014, newly elected Pope Francis drew world-wide commentary when he encouraged mothers to breastfeed in church if their babies were hungry. During a special papal baptism Pope Francis said that mothers "should not stand on ceremony" if their children were hungry. "If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice," he said, smiling. "Because they are the most important people here."
Babytalk magazine cover
In 2006, the editors of US Babytalk magazine received many complaints from readers after the cover of the August issue depicted a baby nursing at a bare breast. Even though the model's nipple was not shown, readers—many of them mothers—wrote that the image was "gross". In a follow-up poll, one-quarter of 4,000 readers who responded thought the cover was negative. Babytalk editor Susan Kane commented, "There's a huge puritanical streak in Americans." In a 2004 survey conducted by the American Dietetic Association, only 43% of the 3,719 respondents believed women ought to have the right to breast-feed in public.
Mother & Baby magazine
In June, 2010, a deputy editor for the leading UK parenting magazine Mother & Baby set off a storm of protest when she described breastfeeding as "creepy." Kathryn Blundell told readers that she bottlefed her child from birth because, "I wanted my body back [and] to give my boobs at least a chance to stay on my chest rather than dangling around my stomach." She upset readers when she wrote about her breasts, "They're part of my sexuality, too – not just breasts, but fun bags. And when you have that attitude (and I admit I made no attempt to change it), seeing your teeny, tiny, innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy." The anti-breastfeeding tone of her article prompted six complaints to the British Press Complaints Commission and set off considerable online debate. The magazine also received dozens of messages of support.
In 2005 US television presenter Barbara Walters remarked on her talk show The View that she felt uncomfortable sitting next to a breastfeeding mother during a flight. Her comments upset some viewers who began organizing protests over the internet. A group of about 200 mothers staged a public "nurse in" where they breastfed their babies outside ABC's headquarters in New York.
Target store protest
In December, 2011, Michelle Hickman was breastfeeding her infant at the back of a Target store in Houston, Texas. Although covered, she was asked by two employees to move to a fitting room. Hickman said one of the employees told her, "You can get a ticket and be reported for indecent exposure." She reported the harassment on Facebook, and in response a number of mothers organized public "nurse-ins" at Target stores across the United States in cities including Houston, Knoxville, and Decatur, Illinois. Trace Gallagher on FoxNews reported on the protest, and female host of America Live Megyn Kelly commented, “You know, I got a lot of thoughts on this, Trace.” She explained, “Let me just put it this way: I used to feel a lot differently before I had babies and you’re breastfeeding; they need to be fed and then sometimes they don’t like the cover. And before you know it, you're Megyn Kelly and you’re showing your breasts to a whole plane.”
Breastfeeding In Uniform
In May 2012, two Air Force National Guard service members stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington chose to participate in a staged breastfeeding awareness campaign, hosted by the Mom2Mom of Fairchild Breastfeeding Support Group by being photographed breastfeeding in their uniforms. There was talk of these women being a disgrace to the uniform, and it had been compared in the debate to defecating or urinating in uniform while in public. The photographs became an instant online frenzy and were spread world wide. Photographer Brynja Sigurdardottir, another military spouse, staged and photographed the photos in question. She removed the photos from her online website and Facebook fan page in order to calm the frenzy. The intention was to raise awareness and support for women who breastfeed, inside and outside of the military lifestyle. However, with the controversy of the photographs and online publication, the message was quickly lost among critics.
The military protects women in uniform by allowing them to defer deployments for 4 to 12 months after childbirth for breastfeeding purposes. Breastfeeding service members are provided regular breaks to breastfeed or pump while on duty, and are actually provided with a comfortable and private place to do so.
Facebook has come under fire for removing photos of mothers breastfeeding their children, citing offensive content in violation of the Facebook Terms of Service. Facebook claimed that these photos violated their decency code by showing an exposed breast, even when the baby covered the nipple. This action was described as hypocritical, since Facebook took several days to respond to calls to deactivate a paid advertisement for a dating service that used a photo of a topless model.
The breastfeeding photos controversy continued following public protests and the growth in the online membership in the Facebook group titled "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! (Official petition to Facebook)." In December 2011 Facebook removed photos of mothers breastfeeding and, after public criticism, restored them. The company said it had removed the photos because they violated the pornographic rules in the company's terms and conditions. During February, 2012, the company once again removed photos of mothers breastfeeding. Founders of a Facebook group "Respect the Breast" reported that "women say they are tired of people lashing out at what is natural and what they believe is healthy for their children."
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