26 May 2011

Breastfeeding in Georgia

I'm sure most people have heard of the inane public indecency ordinance in one Georgia town making it illegal to breastfeed a child over the age of 2 in public.  As you can guess, I'm firmly opposed to such a law, on numerous grounds.  For starters, it's appalling to include breastfeeding in a public indecency ordinance.  I realise they're exempting breastfeeding women from public indecency, provided the child is under the age of 2.  The implication of this, though, is that breastfeeding a child who is even one day over the age of 2 is indecent.  Breastfeeding a child is not indecent, whatever the age of the child!  The World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding for 2 years or beyond.  Breastfeeding past infancy still has great benefits for the child and the mother.

I do know that it's uncommon to see children past the age of 1 breastfeed in public in some parts of the US.  However, this does not mean that children over the age of 1 or 2 shouldn't breastfeed in public, nor does it make it indecent.  As I noted in a previous post, if we want more women to see breastfeeding past infancy as an option, then we need for it to be seen.  I am not saying that in an exhibitionist way, but in the sense that the things we see in our everyday lives shape our perceptions of what is accepted or not.  I don't know breastfeeding mothers who want to be exhibited in that way (on a side note, this is actually why I'm not entirely sure about nurse-ins, because, while I understand the reasoning and sympathise with it, it could make it look like we are exhibitionists, which could harm our cause).

I also wonder if this ordinance could serve to discourage women from breastfeeding in public at all, which could then lead to weaning earlier than they would like.  Would a mother need to carry proof of her child's age?  Or would she be more likely to avoid breastfeeding in public to avoid any potential hassle?  How would someone even know the child's age?  I have a friend whose children are petite; her 2-year-old is roughly the same size as Charlotte is at 14-months.  I'm also sure that there are children larger than Charlotte, since she isn't at the top of the growth charts.

Some Georgia mothers did stage a nurse-in in protest of this ordinance.  I found the city officials' reaction disheartening.  From Fox News:

City officials brushed off the protest, citing other cities with similar rules. 
"You need to check ordinances in other jurisdictions," John Parker, the city manager said. “You’ll find the same verbiage exists in those, too.”
The fact that other cities have similar ordinances does not make it right.  I'm reminded of a quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
"Right is right, even if no one is right. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is wrong."

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