Virginia: Behind the Times

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.

Chatting with a breastfeeding-friendly security officer at the National Gallery of Art in DC, across the Potomac River from Virginia .

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.

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3 thoughts on “Virginia: Behind the Times

  1. I am so sad to hear that Virginia has such poor laws 😦 I really expected to find something equally discouraging in Mississippi. But I’m glad you are sharing the other side of the issue, because as I said in my post, I hear people frequently state that breastfeeding in public is protected by the law… And apparently that isn’t true everywhere, and those mothers need to be informed as well so they know the best way to react if they are ever approached about nursing in public.

    I think all mothers could be in inspired by the polite yet brave way you addressed what happened to you, and I love the fact that you have used your experience to educate other mommas! I look forward to a day where all mothers can breastfeed in public with full confidence that their right to care for their baby is protected by the law. Thank you for the reminder that we still have work to do in that area!

    Thank you for joining us again at the Breastfeeding Blog Hop! ~Melissa

    • Melissa, Your excellent post got me thinking about how much room there is for Virginia to improve. Thanks for getting us all thinking about these important topics! And thank you for your encouraging comments. I look forward to celebrating with you and the other Blog Hoppers that day when the world will be truly breastfeeding friendly for all mamas and babes! – Emily

  2. Thank you so much for the link to those License to Breastfeed cards, those are pretty cool!
    I am sorry to hear that Virginia is so behind the times, hopefully with brave and caring mothers such as yourself we’ll soon see a change in the tide.

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