Recently an article went viral detailing how a New York policeman argued with a woman breastfeeding her baby on a city bus bench. When she ignored him, and went to board the bus, he yanked her by the back of the shirt causing her to drop the baby, who later died. International Business Times pointed out the whole thing was a hoax, published on The National Report, a satire news website. However, the whole hoax of a policeman “killing” an infant highlights the issue of breastfeeding in public.
In the past, women have been harassed in Target, Applebee’s, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Hollister, even in church, for feeding their babies. In 2006, Emily Gillete was kicked off a flight by Freedom Airlines, attempting to nurse her baby. In Oahu, a woman was threatened to be put out of a homeless shelter for nursing her child. Even Facebook says breastfeeding photos are “inappropriate.”
Moms stood up for their rights and now in all 50 states it is legal to nurse in public. The hoax of the police killing the breastfeeding infant highlights how the whole issue of breastfeeding in public is far from solved. Mothers have been put out of courtrooms and government buildings, even when completely covered. In April of this year, Andrea Zeledon-Mussio was contemplating suing the police for harassment. She was in her own vehicle nursing her baby, when she felt she was about to be arrested for breastfeeding.
On June 24, a mother attempting to take her two-week old and three-year old on a city bus was repeatedly harassed by the driver as well as the dispatcher and police boarding the bus. She knew her rights and stood up for herself. She said, “As a mother, I have the right to feed my child without being harassed.”
On July 1 of this year, police escorted the family of a UN employee, Tom Neijens, out of a country club in White Plains, NY. His wife, Rosaline Remans, had begun to nurse her daughter at the table, and was asked by a staff member to “continue in the bathroom.” When the police made them leave, they said it was because they feared they could be terrorists, because of Neijen’s black backpack and explained “In Sri Lanka, babies are used by terrorists.”
On July 11 of this year in California, a breastfeeding mom was kicked out of a Brad Paisley concert. Officials claim they were concerned that the child could be crushed or the noise could hurt the baby’s hearing. The mother argued the four-month-old was asleep and had been to concerts before. Other concert-goers told everything was fine, until complaints of breastfeeding surfaced.
In Utah, on August 10, the organizers of the Heber Valley Farmer’s Market complained about a booth by the Utah Breastfeeding Coalition which allowed moms to take a break and nurse. They called the police on them. Meghan Reed, the president of the coalition, pointed out “It is World Breastfeeding Week. To be harassed while providing breastfeeding support during that week is just kind of ironic.”
Part of the Healthy People 2020 initiative states that the national goal is to increase breastfeeding moms to 81.9 percent by 2020. The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide a reasonable break time for employees to express milk for their child for one year, whenever they need to express. If the company has at least 50 employees, they are required to also provide a place for breastfeeding mothers and that is not the bathroom.
Breastfeeding is natural. It is easier, cheaper, and provides a host of benefits to mother, child and society are well documented. Breastfeeding operates on a supply and demand basis. The hoax of police “killing” the infant of a mom breastfeeding merely highlights the broader issue of the skewed public views on breastfeeding. As one mom stated, “Why have we made the act of feeding a child something obscene instead of something necessary?” Theresa Landau, of the New York City Leadership Council, says, “Society should applaud mothers who are nursing their babies, any place, any time.”
By Laurie Stilwell