Family

We just found out the right to breastfeed in public has not been a given in some parts of America - whaaaaat?

Astounding!

By Karyn Henger

This morning we opened our news feeds to discover that women in all 50 states in the United States have only just been given the right to breastfeed in public.

Whaaaaat? So before now American women could have been arrested for nourishing their babies?

According to a report from The Insider, the American states of Idaho and Utah have been the last to catch up with the rest of the country and pass laws legalising public breastfeeding.

The bills were passed in March but only recently came into effect.

Wow, when I think of all the places I've breastfed my babies - malls, church halls, parks, beaches, playgrounds, wedding venues. In New Zealand we breastfeed in Parliament!

But just to double check what the lay of the land actually is here in New Zealand I looked up the Human Rights Commission website. It stated, "Although there is no particular law on the right to breastfeed, the right is given meaning in a variety of ways through measures to respect, protect and promote the right to breastfeed.

"The promotion of breastfeeding through education, advocacy, and policy development is important to ensuring that the right has meaning in everyday life."

It goes on to explain that it has worked with Business New Zealand, the Employment Relations Service, the EEO Trust and the Council of Trade Unions to release guidelines for employers to prevent pregnancy discrimination. The Commission has also produced a pamphlet on a woman's right to breastfeed at work and in public.

So we're all good, though that's not to say women in New Zealand haven't been discriminated against for breastfeeding in public. Unfortunately we still hear stories about breastfeeding mothers being asked to leave cafés. Work places still vary in terms of how supportive they are of breastfeeding mothers, including how well they provide for them to be able to express milk or feed their baby at work.

So what about other countries? We were shocked to learn that breastfeeding in public in the UK has only been legal since 2010. And in Australia, women couldn't legally breastfeed in public until 1984. Wowsers.

This story is actually full of twists and turns, though, because we were also surprised to learn that the Idaho personality that pushed for breastfeeding in public to be legalised was a man.

Yes, the passing of the bill came down to the perseverence of republican Paul Amador, a dad of one who married the love of his life, Julie, 13 years ago after meeting her at university. He has a long list of credentials and works as a university administrator, supporting students and developing educational programmes.

He told the House, "Personally, I find it disappointing that we're in 2018 and we still haven't passed this law in Idaho. I think we can take a proactive stance here through legislation to promote the natural bond and health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. I also believe the health and nutritional choices of our families are best left as decisions for our families, not our government."

We couldn't agree more.

Despite the law changing, we wonder if women in these US states will still be made to feel ostracised by members of the public for breastfeeding in public. Attitudes don't change just because laws do.

In recent years a growing number of celebrities have made efforts to 'normalise' breastfeeding by posting images of themselves feeding their babies on social media.

And the World Health Organisation is proactive in promoting breastfeeding globally.

Next week (August 1-7) we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, and New Zealand will be participating with The Big Latch On, by hosting events all around the country on August 3 where women gather to breastfeed together.

The more breastfeeding in public is normalised, the better off we'll be - because how can it be wrong or illegal to feed your baby?