Sara McCall previously expanded on these historical facts in her Breastfeeding USA article, "Nursing in Public: What U.S. Mothers Faced from Colonial Times Until Today." She writes:
Nursing in public seemed to be a non-issue in colonial America. Our foremothers were expected to maintain a busy household, which included feeding the baby, and breastfeeding in the market or other public areas was not a cause for uproar. At that time, breastfeeding was the only way to feed a baby, either by the natural mother or a wet-nurse. The Puritans believed breasts were created for the nourishment of children and strongly encouraged women to nurse their own babies.  Breastfeeding in public was commonplace for colonial women because they lived in a society that supported breastfeeding.
What happened to change American society's views on nursing in public? Society’s outlook on breastfeeding began to change as the modern feeding bottle and nipple were invented, and commercially-created infant formulas became more accepted in the early 20th century. [...]
Breastfeeding was dealt a double whammy in the early 20th century. As World War II raged on, women were needed to fill jobs left empty by men going off to war. Breast pumps were primitive in design, there were no laws that allowed women time to express milk while at work, and wet nursing went out of style. What was a mother to do? At this same time, large-scale manufacturing made infant formula easier for mothers to access.  Formula manufacturers cultivated relationships with physicians, which led to physicians promoting formula use as a safe and accepted way to feed baby. With so many factors suppressing breastfeeding, it isn't surprising that breastfeeding rates began to decline sharply after World War II.Johnson reflects on the reasons that today's mothers also do not want -- and do not need -- to cover while feeding their baby. She continues:
There are plenty of reasons a mom may not cover while breastfeeding. The baby could not allow it, and repeatedly remove the cover, or cry. It could be too hot, and a mother doesn't want her child to get too hot and sweaty. It is also really hard to cover while learning to nurse a new baby, and babies benifit from eye contact while breastfeeding. Believe it or not, covers actually draw more attention. Sometimes the mother simply doesn't wish to cover, and they legally don't have to.At the federal government level, Public Law 106-58, Section 647 protects breastfeeding mothers:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location. While laws vary by state, as of 2018, all U.S. states have laws that additionally protect a breastfeeding mother and her baby in public locations.
So nurse on, Momma! You have a right to do so, your baby and his/her needs come first, and you join the ranks of millions of mothers before you, and many more to come.
Thank you for nursing in public cards to share and encourage breastfeeding mothers you see are available at Etsy:
1. Mays, D A (2004). Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival, and Freedom in a New World. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
2. Weimer, J.P. (2001). The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Review and Analysis. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture.
3. United States Breastfeeding Committee. Existing Legislation. Retrieved Aug 5, 2018.
Watch Your Language: http://www.DrMomma.org/2010/04/watch-your-language.html
The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business: https://amzn.to/2KrHv2O
Breastfeeding in Public: A Christian Father Stands Up: http://www.DrMomma.org/2010/05/breastfeeding-in-public-christian.html
Breastfeeding is Offensive: http://www.DrMomma.org/2009/07/breastfeeding-is-offensive.html
Breastfeeding in Mongolia: http://www.DrMomma.org/2009/07/breastfeeding-in-land-of-genghis-khan.html
A historical look at breastfeeding mothers nursing in public
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Mary and Baby Jesus Painting
"Maybe I'm 'old fashioned' but I don't like to feed my baby with a blanket on their head."
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