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Are Breastfeeding Bans Just a Way To Keep Women In The Home?

Are Breastfeeding Bans Just a Way To Keep Women In The Home?

One metro area in Atlanta, Georgia has decided that they are no longer OK with mothers feeding their children in public — at least, not if she’s giving them the breast.

Via, a new law that was just passed in Forest Park has redefined public indecency to cover women who breastfeed any child that is 2 years old or older, with the City Manager stating, “It sets up a process whereby we can try to control nudity throughout the entire city.”

To be fair, only about six percent of the U.S. population breastfeeds past two years old, even though the World Health Organization recommends it to age two and beyond.  But the ban represents a disturbing opening for pushing women out of public life simply by taking something she does naturally and calling it “indecent.”

How exactly is the “2 years and up” rule to be enforced?  If a mother wants to bring her 22 month old daughter out to the park, and the child gets hungry, does she need to be sure she has her birth certificate on hand to prove she is not breaking a law?  Is there an opening for citizen’s arrest or complaints?  What if a person thinks breastfeeding a one year old is lewd?  Or even an infant?

The City Manager says it is a step to controlling “nudity” though the whole city.  It is, in fact a step to establish control, but what type of control is the city after?  The rule is simply a step in ensuring that women who are caring for children feel pressure to be at home, and out of the public eye.

Once it has been established for ages two and up, how long will it take for such a ban on public feeding to expand until eventually all nursing mothers are forced to stay in their houses.

In the name of “public decency,” of course.


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Photo by Ken Hammond ([1]) (USDA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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5:16PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Like the essay mentioned, I have no idea how you would be able to enforce this without harassment. How can you tell if a kid is 22 months or 2 years old? I do believe it's the classic "I'm not touching you" while someone sticks their finger two inches from your face. It's probably designed just so women don't feel harassed in public and don't breastfeed there at all, regardless of age. I believe it would lead to legalized profiling. Either get honest and ban it completely so at least activists won't be confronted with "but we do allow it, don't be so sensitive....", or just get with it and see it for what it is, childcare.

9:08PM PDT on Jul 9, 2013

@ Valentina R.

Theres nothing indecent about a mother breast feeding her child/children whether it be in private OR in public...
It IS indecent to suggest that theres anything dirty about it.

2:52PM PDT on Oct 26, 2012

The "public decency" sarcastically mentioned by Robin Marty is something most public breasfeeding mothers don't have.

9:33PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

When my daughter was 4days old she was put back in the hospital with Jaundice. They tried to force me to supplement with formula but she absolutely hated it. I ended up having to pump, but even then she didn't really like the bottle. Every time I have tried to give her a bottle since then, she has screamed her head off. I have wasted three or four bottles of breast milk (each 5-6oz) trying to get her to accept them, so that I could go out for more than 3hours. It has failed.
So to the person that said women should just pump and give the baby a bottle in public, that does not always work. I cover up; meaning I reveal less of my breast than 90% of every other woman who walks by me. Make them cover up, and I'll think about not breast feeding in public.

6:43PM PST on Feb 9, 2012

I breastfed my daughter till she was almost four. I worked full time and she was in daycare full time. I didn't nurse at all during the day. She basically ate and drank what all the other kids at daycare did right from the time she started at 12 months old, She only nursed to connect with me in the evening, for comfort when upset, and at bedtime. If I wasn't home she didn't nurse. I was sad when we finished nursing. In so many other countries they nurse for as long as they want because it is so natural to do so. We make everything so proper and sterile. I would like to see a law put into place banning swearing. I find that truly offensive.

6:43AM PST on Feb 4, 2012


2:39AM PST on Jan 20, 2012

And to brian again You feel it is forcing our beliefs and behaviors on others? Isn't that what you are trying to do? Are your beliefs more valid than mine? You are trying to impose your beliefs on us. Which is ridiculous. We have the moral high ground here. Every child has a basic human right to breast milk. As for bottles, in the first place not all mothers can express, second, not all mothers give bottles, EVER. My children never had one. Went directly to cup. And third bottles can be bad for babies mouths and instill bad habits that can lead to premature weaning. So no bottles and not a good compromise.

2:36AM PST on Jan 20, 2012

Sounds like the MO of republicans. They WANT women to stay home, make lots of babies, and serve their men.

2:27AM PST on Jan 20, 2012

We should respect people who object to certain behaviors? Since when has a mother needed permission to feed her child? There was a time when most people objected to a bi racial couple being out in public. Should we accept that? There are people who object to women being in public alone, or not wearing completely covering clothes and facial veils. Do we accept that? Feeding our children is a basic human right. Mothers work hard to make it work and are doing the absolute best thing you can do for your child by breast feeding. Only bigoted narrow minded people could object to a mother freely meeting her babies most basic biological needs. Where is the logic in this. Why should we be forced to hide it? I personally have extreme objections to a mother bottle feeding in public. It is a bad example to our young women to be exposed to this. They need to be taught that breast is best and should see examples of this frequently in public life. They shouldn't feel that it will be something to hide and that people will not approve. That only puts up roadblocks and can make her uncomfortable with the idea. Fear of that disapproval can cause her to decide not to breast feed. Learning to breast feed can be hard enough. worry of condemnation can put stress on a new mother and cause difficulties with producing enough milk and inhibit letdown. Are we really such a dysfunctional society?

11:09PM PST on Jan 11, 2012

Thank you for article.

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