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Bill supports breastfeeding moms

A new bill making its way through the Legislature would add enforcement provisions to a law already in place concerning a mother’s right to breastfeed her baby in any location. If passed, the bill would be effective July 1 and would threaten any company, agency or person with fines up to $250 for not allowing a mother to breastfeed her child.

“Women shouldn’t feel intimidated for breastfeeding their baby,” said state Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, who filed Senate Bill 2070.

Frazier’s bill reads: “Any corporation, manager, agency or person who violates the provision of Mississippi Code shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $25 or no more than $250 for each offense.”

In 2006, Legislature passed a bill to decriminalize breastfeeding in public. Before that bill, breastfeeding in public was a misdemeanor under state law — punishable by up to six months in jail or a $500 fine.

Frazier reportedly said at the time that public indecency laws should not apply to breastfeeding women.

As the law stands now, there is no course of action if a mother’s right to breastfeed in any location is infringed upon. Lactation Counselor at King’s Daughters Medical Center, Lou Ann Wall, said she thinks this bill could help shift public perception about breastfeeding.

“If the community would support moms that breastfed and respect her when she’s in Wal-Mart and has to step aside or she’s in line and the baby starts wailing and she has to feed him, if mom can be modest doing it you should respect her.”

Wall said she supports using a covering or blanket when breastfeeding in public. She said she doesn’t believe in exposing an entire breast in order to feed baby, but a mother not exposing herself and being modest and/or discreet should not be punished by those who fail to understand breastfeeding.

“Unfortunately, society has accepted that the best way to feed their baby is formula, and because you can do that everywhere,” Wall said. “We have been shown that breasts are sexual things, and it’s OK to show your breasts hanging out of swimsuit or a dress — it’s just a sexual object and not a way to feed baby. When really, breasts are a source of nourishment, not a source of sexuality.”

Wall said if people could understand the benefits, breastfeeding in public wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

“That’s only natural — that’s the way God made us,” Wall said. “I don’t know what we can do, but I think it will come. More people are breastfeeding now. Just in this last couple of months I’ve seen more people are breastfeeding and are sticking with it. I think we’re gonna see more of it out in town.”

Wall said the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the benefit of formula, which is just that it’s easy.

“There are tremendous benefits that formula doesn’t have. It lowers the baby’s risk of leukemia and other cancers, diabetes and obesity. It boosts their immune system, and it’s more easily digested, so they spit up less, protects them from stomach problems — formula doesn’t do any of that,” she said.

Wall explained that unfortunately, formula companies have been successful in convincing mothers that formula is equal to breast milk, when in truth there is no comparison. In addition to a better understanding of the benefits and educating the public, family practices are key to helping shift public perception.

“If more people are doing it and they’re seeing it in their families, they’ll start respecting it more,” Wall said. “Used to, that’s what everybody did, and then the formula companies when they started to pick up, they made people feel that it was better and that you were poor if you didn’t feed your baby formula. It turned into a social status thing, and it’s still kind of like that — they advertise it’s the most like breast milk, and it’s really not. There’s really no substitute for it.”

Wall shared a story of two new parents she saw recently. The husband’s response to whether his wife would breastfeed was “No you’re not doing that,” as if he was uncomfortable or even “grossed out” by the idea. She said once she explained the benefits, and they understood more about breastfeeding, his stance changed to “Yes, you are definitely doing that.” Wall said when faced with a disturbed daddy, sharing the numbers can help.

Families who breastfeed rather than buy formula can save $2,000 a year. The other important number is IQ, which will be higher in a breastfed baby. Wall said when dads hear IQ will be higher, they typically change their tune.

Wall also warned that formula companies aren’t forthcoming with instructions for proper use of formula.

“We don’t teach proper formula practices either, and the formula companies don’t put it on the label because they don’t want people to know,” she said. “The formula companies don’t tell parents they should boil the water before they put the powder in it and then wait until it’s the right temperature. The water needs to be boiling to kill bacteria that formula has in it, but nobody wants to boil water and wait every time.

“With breastfeeding, the milk is always available, there’s no washing bottles, no fixing formula, no packing it in the diaper bag,” Wall said.

“The benefits are great for the mom too. It lowers the risk of postpartum depression; you burn an extra 500 calories a day; it decreases ovarian and breast cancer risk. If a mother has high blood pressure during pregnancy it helps lower that too.”

KDMC offers one-on-one instructional time for expectant mothers through its Mommy University program, where moms can talk with specialists about what to expect in many areas of bringing baby into the world.