Atlanta Suburb Bans Public Breastfeeding of Children Over Age 2
By Jacqueline Tourville
Breastfeeding your toddler? You might want to take a detour if you are headed to Atlanta. According to a recent City Council vote in the Atlanta suburb of Forest Park, GA, it’s now illegal for women to breastfeed a child older than two years old in public. Part of a revamped public indecency ordinance, the new law’s intent is to prevent “nudity in public,” according to city officials. Previously, the city only had a public indecency ordinance that covered adult entertainment businesses.
Part of a revamped public indecency ordinance, the new law’s intent is to prevent “nudity in public,” according to city officials.
But why equate strip clubs with nursing in public? “It sets up a process whereby we can try to control nudity throughout the entire city,” said City Manager John Parker, who labeled the move “a pro-active step” in an interview with the local ABC news affiliate.
The ordinance has breastfeeding women in the Atlanta metro region in an uproar. “To basically compare me to a stripper, I find very demeaning,” nursing mom Katherine Frederick told ABC. Other mothers are upset because not only does the law trample on their rights to practice child-led weaning, but it labels nursing a toddler in public as a lewd act–something that could lead to fines or jail time.
“This ordinance allows any lady that is breastfeeding a child up to 2 years old. After that of course, we might want to have a discussion with them, but it doesn’t affect that type of conduct at all,” Parker said in attempt to quell growing anger.
Frederick urges mothers to take a stand before the restrictions get worse. “I find that incredibly offensive and outrageous. It’s a very natural process. It’s how I feed my child,” Frederick said. “The limits are going to shrink, then it’s going to be after one, or after six months, then you can’t breast feed in public anymore.”
Breastfeeding an Older Baby
Georgia already has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the U.S. and by placing a ban on breastfeeding toddlers in public, the City Council of Forest Park seems to be sending the message that older babies just don’t need breast milk, critics say. Current recommendations from leading children’s health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommend that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire.
The World Health Organization takes an even stronger stand older babies continuing to breastfeed, recommending that, “exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.”
As the breastfeeding experts at La Leche League International point out, women tend to hear a lot about the health benefits of breast milk for infants, but when it comes to nursing older babies, information is not as readily available. What do you need to know? No matter what a child’s age, LLLI reminds moms that “all the benefits of human milk—including nutritional and health—continue for as long as your baby receives your milk.”