New Miss. law affirms rights of breast-feeding mothers
Thursday, April 6, 2006 1:15 PM CDT
JACKSON (AP) - Getty Israel knows firsthand the benefits of breast-feeding: It's one of the ways she provided nutrition to her son when he was a baby.
She hopes a new Mississippi law will help raise awareness of the health benefits of nursing, while also giving support to moms as they try to care for their infants and toddlers.
"We still have a lot of work to do," said Israel, a Jackson State University student who helped lead lobbying efforts to push the bill through the Legislature this year.
Gov. Haley Barbour signed the bill this week, and it became law immediately.
"It's one thing to sign the bill. It's another thing to really promote breast-feeding," Israel said Wednesday.
The new law places requirements on child-care facilities, mandating that each of them provide a place, other than a toilet, for mothers to either breast-feed their babies or pump milk. The law says the designated area must have a comfortable chair, an electrical outlet and access to running water.
Day-care centers also must have a refrigerator where the pumped milk may be stored, and they must teach workers how to properly handle it.
The new law also says that the act of breast-feeding in public may not be considered indecent exposure or disorderly conduct. It gives an excuse from jury duty for any mother who is nursing a child under a year old. It says employers may not ban a woman from using her lunch break or other normal break times to pump milk that she can give to her baby later.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site says premature babies fare better with mother's milk than with formula. The site calls breast milk "the most complete form of nutrition for infants."
"A mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development," the HHS site says. "Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula."
Israel, who has studied laws in other states, said Mississippi's is "probably one of the most progressive breast-feeding related bills passed in the nation."
"I'm very proud of the legislators," she said.
Alabama lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow a woman to breast feed "in any location where she is authorized to be." The sponsor, Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said she was inspired to file it after a nursing mother was asked to leave a museum in Huntsville.