When prompted by the Breastfeeding Blog Hop’s theme for this week to write about the laws that protect me as a breastfeeding mother, I suddenly feel vulnerable and defenseless. You see, the manager who asked that I stop breastfeeding in the Pottery Barn store in my home state of Virginia was actually within the law. In terms of where a mother is protected by Virginia law to breastfeed, there is only one very limited category of places: on property owned, leased, or managed by the state. How many Virginia moms do you think want to or even plan their outings with a breastfeeding pit-stop at a state building or park, just to feel covered by the law?
While esteemed as the birthplace of many Revolutionaries who helped shaped the foundation of freedom for this country, Virginia is far from being a leader of lactation-friendly legislation. It is one of only five states in the United States that does not have a law that specifically allows women to breastfeed in any public or private location. That is one of only five out of fifty. Yes, that means it’s in the lowest 10% of states for being breastfeeding-in-public-friendly.
It’s true, there are worse states out there that don’t even exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws and, to be fair, Virginia does have a couple other breastfeeding-friendly laws, such as one exempting breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. But, truly, the Old Dominion is not making it easy for mamas to comfortably go about their daily business in public while caring for their babes. And this, in a country that ranked last out of 36 industrialized countries for breastfeeding support in the Save the Children’s May 2012 report on global motherhood.
How does your state stack up? Check out this site to find out and then print out some cards from here (one of many such sources of license-to-breastfeed-type cards) to carry with you, just in case you should find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to defend your right – protected or not by the current law in your state – to breastfeed your baby wherever he or she may be hungry and need to be fed. And enjoy reading up on the other breastfeeding protections your state may uphold.
Hopefully, you will be pleased like Melissa at Sisters N Cloth to find a slew of supportive laws that leave you feeling like the mall or any other place you have a right to be is a breastfeeding-friendly place to be with your sweet little one. And if you’re not or see other areas of lactation legislation that are lacking, contact your state and federal legislators to request change. Let’s hear you mamas and everyone standing up for babies rights shout out: “Enough with living behind the times!”
Read other bloggers’ thoughts on this week’s Breastfeeding Blog Hop topic, “Do you know the laws that protect you as a breastfeeding mother?”, at the hosts’ sites: Sisters N Cloth and Life as Wife, Mummy, and Nurse. I’d post the linky, but WordPress.com doesn’t allow it.