Asserting the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child, the American Medical Association (AMA) this week urged states to pass legislation protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed in public. The AMA, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Surgeon General encourage breastfeeding during the first year of a child’s life. However, breastfeeding “mothers are often harassed or threatened with tickets,” that typically charges them for public indecency, according to pediatrician and AMA meeting attendee Joy Maxey. Consequently, many mothers forego breastfeeding and opt instead for the convenience of bottle-feeding.
While Oregon, Delaware, Florida, and California have enacted laws protecting the right to breastfeed in public, in Connecticut and New Jersey, those who try to obstruct the practice may also be fined, according to the AMA. In contrast, mothers who publicly breastfeed in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia remain unprotected and are frequently harassed and barred from stores. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has actively supported and promoted a woman’s right to breastfeed. The Right to Breastfeed Act (HR 1848), introduced by her and signed into law in under the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act (FY 2000, 2001, and 2002), protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in a federal building or on federal property, where they are authorized to be.