Friday, May 21, 2010

Tampa, FL School Tells Mom Breastfeeding is Inappropriate

Tampa Public School thinks that Breastfeeding is "Inappropriate"
A Tampa, FL mom was asked not to breastfeed in the lobby of a Hillsborough County Public School. 

While Melissa was waiting for her older daughter in the lobby of her elementary school, she breastfed her 2 year old daughter. She's breastfed her 2 year old daughter in public many times. This time, however, she was called to the principal's office, told her breastfeeding in the lobby was inappropriate, and offered a private location to nurse in. 

Melissa refused. She did not think it was right that the reason she had to move was simply because she was breastfeeding. She cited Florida law, which states:

Florida Statue 383.015  Breastfeeding.--The breastfeeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values, and in furtherance of this goal:
(1) A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding. 

Melissa decided to write a letter to the the principal, her supervisor, and eventually the school board. The school board's lawyer wrote back: "The Florida law does not, however, contain a right to breastfeed “wherever and whenever” a mother wishes."

Melissa is not arguing the point for attention or personal gain. She is a lactation consultant and childbirth educator who knows how difficult it is to receive support for breastfeeding. She writes in her blog, "If I were a first time mother new to breastfeeding, or even worse, struggling with breastfeeding, who knows how this would affected the nursing relationship with my child." She writes that she is, "doing this because I want to protect the right of women to breastfeed without harassment. I’m doing it to ensure that this does not happen to other women, and especially to my children when they are older."

She wrote all about her experience on her blog, and the local Fox News also covered the story.

"It’s clear from the responses... that they all equate breastfeeding to a sexual act. One mother said that if her daughter saw someone breastfeeding, she would want to be the one there to explain what was happening. But I’m wondering, what’s to explain? It’s breastfeeding, the mother is feeding her baby, it’s that simple. The fact that they feel it’s something that should be talked about at home suggests it is something dirty or sexual. Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s both have showed breastfeeding mothers on one or more episode, obviously the producers of these shows did not feel it was something that should only be discussed in private." 

Some took issue with the fact that she was feeding not a newborn, but a two-year-old. 

Comment on her blog:
"Its really creepy to see a woman with a toddler attached to her breast. Plus you were around young children who had quite possibly not seen that and it could have damaged them emotionally or mentally."

Comments on the Fox News article:
"DHR needs to investigate her. She has got to be getting something out of it herself, a two year old breast feeding. Maybe her baby daddy stop doing his job."
 "This lady needs to get a life the kids two years old and should not be breastfeeding She needs to see a doctor and then to but into the faces of small children is wrong"

This isn't a new subject, and my readers know how I feel about it. I'm a tolerant person, and I feel women should be able to do what they want with their bodies and parent how they wish to parent. The big issue here, is really that people see nursing a toddler as something sexual.

Many people argued that children, but especially young boys, should not be exposed to that because it is a sexual and inappropriate stimulus. Other commenter writers argued back "what about Victoria Secret ads?" and so forth. I believe its true that boys and men do see a breast, even breastfeeding, and sexual thoughts are triggered. I think this is a result of our society. Does this mean we have to hide all the breasts in order to keep these sexual thoughts, especially in young boys, at a minimum? No, that is not the answer.

A good solution to the problem would be for women to breastfeed in public and in front of young children more.  Children learn what is culturally appropriate by viewing. The more children, and especially boys, who see women using their breasts for what they are naturally intended for, the more children who will grow up to be respectful. They will be used to seeing breasts feeding babies and toddlers and not blink an eye. Its only when we make it a "private" act that it turns into the sexual; when we teach our children that doing something as natural as feeding our babies from our mammary glands is inappropriate. 

The preamble of the Florida breastfeeding statute states:

WHEREAS, the social constraints of modern society militate against the choice of breastfeeding and lead new mothers with demanding time schedules to opt for formula feeding for reasons such as embarrassment and the fear of social ostracism or criminal prosecution, and

WHEREAS, the promotion of family values and infant health demand putting an end to the vicious cycle of embarrassment and ignorance that constricts women and men alike on the subject of breastfeeding and represents hostility to mothers and babies in our culture based on archaic and outdated moral taboo, and

WHEREAS, any genuine promotion of family values should encourage public acceptance of this most basic act of nurture between mother and baby, and no mother should be made to feel incriminated or socially ostracized for breastfeeding her baby.

Click over to her blog to find out what the school board consensus was. 

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