State Supported Breastfeeding

As a new mom, I’ve become uber-aware of breastfeeding and related issues around this topic, including health benefits for Mom and Baby.  Research suggests breastfeeding:

  • Protects baby from some illnesses and developing allergies
  • May protect your child from obesity
  • May lower baby’s risk of SIDS
  • Can reduce Mom’s stress level and risk of postpartum depression
  • May reduce Mom’s risk of some types of cancer

In addition, research shows that breastfeeding is cost effective when it comes to healthcare costs and your wallet.  According to Reuters Health, the U.S. could save $13 billion/year in direct and in-direct medical costs if a higher percentage of new mothers’ breastfed for six months.  Also, breastfeeding can be a free or low-cost way to nourish babies while formula costs upwards of $200/month.

While these are strong arguments for breastfeeding, I’ve often wondered why this is such a “hot topic?”   What I’ve come to learn is that one of the challenges of breastfeeding is how it is or is not supported by state legislature. Given the well-documented benefits of breast feeding, it’s my thought that state laws should support Moms making this choice. 

Most states support breastfeeding, allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private place including stores, restaurants, parks, movie theaters

Breastfeeding symbol

Breastfeeding symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and anywhere that person has the right to be.   In addition to permitting breastfeeding in public spaces, many states require employers to support milk expression (pumping) for a year or more after giving birth.  Employers are required to allow nursing moms’ unpaid breaks to pump, and to try to identify a private place to do so – often stating a location that is not a bathroom.

Some states go beyond these regulations – extending the right to breast feed to women who are incarcerated, and permitting the child of a committed mother to return with the mother to the correctional facility until one year of age.

Other states simply allow women the right to nurse in public, stating that public nudity laws do not apply to a woman breastfeeding a child.  However, it’s clear that the support for – or the allowing of – breastfeeding varies widely from state to state.  All but one state has some law related to breastfeeding.

The intention of this blog post is to identify the discrepancies among state regulations – why do some states choose not to support the rights of breast feeding moms?   Especially given the benefits to women and their babies – which is passed on to states in the form of healthcare savings.

If you don’t already know your state’s laws on this issue, click here.  What measures could your state take to ensure that women are supported in their decision to breastfeed?

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In my role as Project Specialist, I manage numerous virtual trainings and in-person meetings with an excellent track record of organizing and executing seamless events. I am a Wide Angle Youth Media Board Member, a non-profit organization that provides Baltimore youth with media education to their own stories, and serve as the Business Advisory Committee Chair. Read more.