“I never planned to breastfeed this long,” is usually the words that most women say when they find themselves in situations nursing toddlers. “It just happened this way. She never weaned and we both continued nursing. It is beneficial and helps her when she is sick or upset,” says another mother who has been nursing her child for over three years.
Many women are secretly nursing their toddlers in what is considered closet-nursing because as a society women in America are shunned and become outcasts for nursing older children. Some opponents to breastfeeding believe that nursing toddlers and older children is obscene and sexual, I have even read remarks and stories in the news where CPS has intervened removing the child from the homes of extended nursing mothers. La Leche League International has published articles revolving around the law and breastfeeding, and how many mothers tiptoe around what some social services agents consider extended breastfeeding obscene and sexual abuse.
Extended breastfeeding, however, is far from obscene or sexual. First, let me state my credentials as a breastfeeding mother: When I was 16 I got pregnant. I had a son and I nursed him until he was 4 years old. In 2006 I got pregnant and I haven’t stopped nursing despite having another baby in 2009. I am an experienced breastfeeding mother who tandem nurses two toddlers. If you are not aware of it the WHO, (World Health Organization), has advised women to nurse their young for at least two years, and then as long as both child and mother mutually agree upon. Nursing has no set limitation on how long it should occur. There are numerous benefits to mom and child when nursing.
My son, born in 2006, has asthma. When he is sick or not well nursing helps him. Nursing helps also curb the length of time he is ill. His teeth are straight, he is a good kid, independent and highly intelligent. His sister has never needed an antibiotic and has only been sick two times with a mild cold. For children breastfeeding isn’t just comfort, it is still a valid source of nutrition and immune boosters. For me it is a break from damaging estrogen that my body suppresses and helps reduce my risk of cancers. Breastfeeding helps with natural child spacing in some women, women like myself who have not menstruated in nineteen or so months because we breastfeed. When I put my children to my breasts I feel nothing sexual, and nothing devious. I feel a calm, I feel beautiful, I feel like I am doing the best for my children — and I am.
Who has the right to stop a woman from breastfeeding? We give women the right to choose abortions, we give women the right to vote, but we don’t give women the right to nurse their child in public? Forest Park, Ga., where this law was enacted in May has many women buzzing on the internet. Most of these women writing on the Care 2 Petition Site forum believe that this law specifically is helping booster the formula industry and could lead to other towns imposing bans on nursing in public. The federal law that allows for breastfeeding only does so on federal government ground, and doesn’t protect a woman and her child otherwise.
The city manager of Forest Park, John Parker, has said in interviews , “It sets up a process whereby we can try to control nudity throughout the entire city.” However over 1,000 women have signed petitions on sites like Care 2 Petitions, and have voiced outrage and disgust over this ban. Mother’s signing the petition around the nation are fearing that because of this action that nursing older infants and toddlers will essentially be looked at as wrong, and misguides the public on extended breastfeeding as a criminal act.
Prior to the ordinance the only indecency laws targeted the adult entertainment business. Breastfeeding was never a conflicted target or criminalized in public. Parker believes that the new law is considered to be a proactive step. Mothers around the nation and world are reacting with nurse-ins. As many as 200 or more women plan on nursing in against the law that has sparked international outrage on Monday. All the attention seemingly has Forest Park reconsidering the ban with Parker stating, “We are now crafting an amendment to this ordinance to try to nullify some of these conflicts.” However opponents to the ordinance are still carrying through their demonstration. This battle will continue and in the coming days will nursing a toddler be considered a criminal act in the public eyes of Forest Park, Georgia? Will other cities in America adopt the ordinance or learn from it? Only time will tell.
Elizabeth N. Baldwin, ESQ., “Extended Breastfeeding and the Law,” La Leche League International.
“Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding” , World Health Organization
“Repeal Restrictions on Breastfeeding” , Care2 Petition Site.
“Forest Park Restricts Public Breastfeeding” , WSBTV News in Atlanta
Paul Crawley, “Breastfeeding Brouhaha in Forest Park” , WATL News in Atlanta