Saturday, February 7, 2015

Breastfeeding in Virginia

So as one of three remaining states in the Union that does not outright protect the rights of breastfeeding mothers, the legislature of the Virginia Commonwealth took to voting yesterday to change state law to benefit lunch time.  As it currently stands, it is perfectly legal for mothers to breastfeed their infants on state-owned property in Virginia, but if she is breastfeeding - covered or otherwise - on privately owned property it is legal for the proprietor, employees, volunteers or whomever of that establishment to demand the mother stop nourishing her child or face enforceable eviction.   But the vote is in and that archaic law has changed!

Having largely become an issue due to uncomfortable individuals accusing mothers of introducing "biohazardous" materials in public venues,  it has long befuddled me how something so natural and completely innocent could be misconstrued as dangerous, lewd or "disgusting."  A baby needs to eat just as the rest of us do and I don't see non-closed mouth chewers facing the same social commentary about their preferred eating method despite the truly displeasing sight their public mastication presents.  But while it may, to some degree, be justifiable to politely ask such individuals to shut their faces, the difference I see between their choice to share their meal with others and breastfeeding in the public sphere is that a mother doesn't choose when her child must feed or where God made her milk come from.  I cannot tell you how infinitely more convenient I would find it to nurse with a finger or something that would enable a wider wardrobe, free my mobility and save my favorite shirts from the accidental leak or lanolin stain.  But, as it is, the breast was made for the purpose of feeding and the fact that we have attached a sexualized stigma to it or socially distanced ourselves from the source of our food (hello, that nugget you're eating is actually chicken; yes, as in "cluck cluck") doesn't diminish the function or utility that God intended of it.  Breastfeeding is beautiful and not something to be regulated.

As I am heading in to have baby #3 in a few short days, this victory for breastfeeding mothers couldn't come at a more prefect time.  I plan to nurse this child just as I did with the first two and, while I prefer to cover and keep the breast-formed bond between me and baby private, I am so grateful that the state has taken the next step to protect a mother's rights to nourish her infant and in doing so combat the discrimination that was no less ignorant than past issues of class, religion, gender or race.  There is so much pressure to make this decision or that choice with regards to how we act and how we raise our children that this new law makes me, as a Mom, feel greatly more empowered to do what is right by my children without fearing that my actions will result in unnecessary drama or legal trouble simply by feeding outside the home.   I've known in my heart since the first day my oldest was born that breastfeeding was right for me and right for our family, but having someone beyond my husband and my intimate friends accept and understand that was a reach -- until now.

So, thank you, Virginia, for the birth day gift you've given me and my new son.  You can bet we'll celebrate your twenty-first century solution the next time errands and snack time just happen to overlap.  

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