There sure has been a lot of discussion about breastfeeding in Nebraska lately, and for that I’m glad. But I have to cringe every time it’s brought to my attention that Nebraska is one of only two states without legal protection for “the practice” of breast-feeding. To put it bluntly, as a pediatrician I find this quite embarrassing. Even more than embarrassing, I find it completely baffling. As much as I try to understand the opposition to LB 197 and the right to breast-feed in public, I simply can’t.
After all, you can’t convince me it’s based on concerns about over-exposed breasts. Not in this day in age. Not when Katy Perry flaunts her assets on Sesame Street, Lady Gaga’s outfits leave little to the imagination, and everything from billboards to Superbowl ads bombard us (and worse yet, our children) with nearly bare-all images of women’s breasts. Let me also point out that there’s a huge difference between the pervasive and highly sexualized imagery our society has discouragingly come to tolerate, and breast-feeding. Quite frankly, breast-feeding shouldn’t even be discussed in the same breath. Sure, it involves the breasts, but that’s as far as the connection goes.
I also think that anyone who opposes protecting the rights of women to breast-feed in public is missing the hugely important fact that promoting breast-feeding is one of the single best ways we know to improve the health and well-being of babies (and their mothers). It’s no coincidence that the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, recently launched a nationwide campaign to encourage breastfeeding by removing barriers that discourage it. I applaud well-respected pediatricians Dr. Laura Wilwerding (the American Academy of Pediatrics’ breast feeding coordinator for Nebraska) and Dr. Tom Tonniges (former Associate Director at the American Academy of Pediatrics and now Medical Director at Boys Town) for their recent and ongoing efforts to insure that Nebraskans don’t lose sight of just how important breastfeeding is.
I join them in closely watching what’s happening with LB 197 and hoping Nebraska will soon catch up with the rest of the country in better supporting every new mom’s noble efforts to successfully breast-feed her baby –in the hospital, at home, and yes…even in public.
On that note, I figured it would be most compelling to leave you with a few simple but powerful reminders of just why breast-feeding and LB 197 are so important.
- Breast milk contains infection-fighting antibodies that provide babies with protection against everything from diarrhea and the common cold to ear infections and pneumonia
- Breastfed babies are less likely to have asthma
- Babies who are breastfed for at least six months are less likely to become obese
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Moms who breastfeed not only return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster, but experience less postpartum bleeding and are at reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Obstacles such as lack of support, instruction, and accommodation to breastfeed at work and in public all contribute to the fact that while 75% of moms in the U.S. start breastfeeding, only 43% are still doing so at the end of six months (and only 13% exclusively, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics).
Originally posted on Omaha World Herald’s Live Well Nebraska