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Health & Baby

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A Mom's Right: Breastfeeding in Public

Breastfeeding in public is legal, but common sense and a little discretion go a long way.

Federal Law

Soon the rights of breastfeeding women across the United States may get an even bigger boost thanks to The Breastfeeding Promotion Act, a bill introduced in May 2005 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)

"Moms contact me all the time frustrated because they would like to breastfeed but face some really tough obstacles both at work and in public settings, " says Maloney, whose record on health issues concerning women and children clearly make her a new mom's best ally.

Among the challenges her legislation addresses: The right to a clean, safe area of a workplace where a woman can express her milk -- or feed her baby -- and tax incentives for businesses that establish private lactation areas in the workplace.

"I have heard many horror stories of women who were fired for trying to figure out a way to express milk at work. My bill clarifies the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to protect breastfeeding under federal civil rights law, ensuring that women cannot be fired or discriminated against in the workplace for expressing (pumping) milk or breastfeeding during breaks or lunch time," says Maloney.

The legislation also calls for new standardized safety guidelines for breast pumps. Plus, it offers companies important tax incentives for creating environments that areconducive to breastfeeding.

"One way employers can make the workplace a better place: support working women who breastfeed. Employers should not stand in the way of a woman doing the most natural thing on earth -- breastfeeding her child," says Maloney.

Handling Awkward Moments While Breastfeeding in Public

Experts say new moms can help encourage a more liberal and accepting attitude about breastfeeding in public by using common sense and modest discretion when feeding their hungry babies.

In fact, lactation counselors say that with just a little bit of practice at home in front of the mirror, any nursing mom can learn to breastfeed so modestly the public will scarcely notice -- let alone object.

"When I first started breastfeeding I used to sit in front of a full length mirror and try out different positions and different ways of placing my clothing to see which looked the most discreet. Then I would do it in front of my husband and ask him if anything was unnecessarily exposed," says Pat Sterner, IBCLC, a lactation counselor at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. "In a very short time I felt very confidant about nursing in public."

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