PHOENIX – Darby Cline sat on pastel-blue and white blankets spread on the lawn of the Arizona Capitol, bouncing her 4-month-old, Zaliyah Jewell-Borquez, and stretching the infant’s legs. She breastfed her daughter openly, chatting with another woman who sat close by with her child.
That’s how it should be done, Cline said.
“Apparently, it’s a problem for a lot of people for us to feed our children in public, and I think it’s ridiculous. I feel like it’s been sexualized is probably a lot of the problem,” she said.
Cline was one of more than 20 people who showed up Thursday for the fifth Nationwide Nurse-In to support laws protecting breastfeeding. Advocates say mothers are still harassed or receive “dirty looks” for breastfeeding in public.
Since 2006, mothers are “entitled” to breastfeed in any public place under Arizona law. In addition, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers of 50 or more workers to provide nursing mothers “reasonable break time” and a “private” place that is “shielded from view” – but not a restroom – to pump breast milk. That law has been effective since March 2010.
In recent weeks, the awareness on the topic has grown after a mother said she was asked to move to a separate room while breastfeeding at Kiva Elementary School in Scottsdale.
Michelle Hottya, the organizer of the event and a lactation consultant, said even though babies thrive when they’re nurtured with their mom’s milk, mothers still face discrimination when they try to breastfeed in public or pump at work.
Breastfeeding laws aren’t just for moms and babies, Hottya said, they’re also for businesses and organizations, which benefit from families being healthy and active.
“Knowing that you can breastfeed your baby anywhere and feel comfortable doing that is good for business,” she said.
State Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, who attended the event, said she breastfed her child in the state House of Representatives building. She said the only changing stations on Capitol grounds are in the museum, which she said was wrong.
Jermaine this session introduced House Bill 2426, which would have offered six weeks of paid family leave. The bill was assigned to committee but was not given a hearing.
“Our state claims to have family values. Let’s actually support families,” she said. “Let’s support children. Let’s support them in their most vulnerable young stages and help them grow.”
Theresa Phillips, the mother who was asked to breastfeed in a more private area at Kiva Elementary, also attended the Nurse-In.
As for Cline, she said other moms and some men have given her “high-fives” when she nurses in a store. She hasn’t faced any negative response to her breastfeeding her baby in public.
“I’m feeding my child so if you want to take it like that, then that’s your problem,” Cline said.
– Video by Nicole Hernandez/Cronkite News