Currently, Tennessee state law protects mothers breastfeeding in public as long as the baby is 12 months old or younger. There is a new bill proposed by Sen Mike Faulk of Kingsport, SB 83, that would amend current laws by removing the "12 months or younger" stipulation.
For the first time in my life, I wrote my State Senator asking him to support this bill.
Breastfeeding mothers feel so much pressure to wean our children as soon as they turn one. Some of the pressure is well-meaning, from uninformed or uneducated people who just don't know any different. Much of the pressure is from people who are "uncomfortable" with the idea of a woman feeding her baby in the way we were created. Some are offended by the sight of a little mouth on a breast.
These same people are okay with advertisements like this or this , but heaven forbid a small (if any) bit of breast tissue be seen while a baby is nursing from it - that would be obscene!
Did you know the United States is the most breastfeeding-unfriendly country in the world? No other nations push their mothers to stop at a year old. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding along with solid foods "up to two years of age and beyond."
From the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Studies on infants provide evidence that breastfeeding can decrease the incidence or severity of conditions such as diarrhea, ear infections and bacterial meningitis. Some studies also suggest that breastfeeding may offer protection against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, obesity and asthma among others.
Research indicates that breastfeeding can reduce a mother's risk of several medical conditions, including ovarian and breast cancer, and possibly a decreased risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis in the postmenopausal period. Increased breastfeeding also has the potential for decreasing annual health costs in the U.S. by $3.6 billion.
Those are not the only reasons why breastfeeding should be protected. From the World Health Organization:
Breast milk is also an important source of energy and nutrients in children 6 to 23 months of age. It can provide one half or more of a child's energy needs between 6 and 12 months of age, and one third of energy needs between 12 and 24 months. Breast milk is also a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness and reduces mortality among children who are malnourished.
Adults who were breastfed as babies often have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, as well as lower rates of overweight, obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Did you see the last sentence? Lower rates of obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Tennessee has the fifth-highest rate of adult obesity in the nation, and the fourth-highest rate of overweight youths. Fourteen percent of children ages 2-5 are overweight. Scary, right? I'm not saying breastfeeding would cure the problem - overall diet is a big factor as well. But I am sure protected extended breastfeeding would lead to a decrease in the problem. And yes, it is a problem.
So please, write your State Senator and ask him or her to vote in favor of Senate Bill 83! If you do not know who your Senator is, you can find out here by entering your street address and town. All contact information is provided.
I did it, will you?