Lawmakers to Moms: 2 is Too Old to Nurse in Public

In an attempt to tame its apparently rampant public nudity problem, lawmakers in Forest Park, Georgia have raised the ire of breastfeeding mamas everywhere by introducing a new ordinance that makes it unlawful for women to publicly breastfeed children older than 2 years. And you know what that means: Nurse-in!

According to local news reports, more than 200 breastfeeding supporters spent the morning at City Hall in a protest largely organized through social media. Plans are in the works to protest again on June 6, when lawmakers meet for a final vote on the ordinance.

A read of the ordinance suggests that lawmakers meant to be well-intentioned, even if ultimately misguided: The breastfeeding clause is outlined as an exception to the public nudity ordinance, officially permitting mamas to nurse the under-2 set. So at least there’s that.

But the powers that be in Forest Park are behind the times. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended since 2005 that “breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.” And the World Health Organization sets 2 years and beyond as a recommended age for nursing a child.

As a practical matter, setting age 2 as the breastfeeding limit will affect a miniscule number of women: According to a study from Cambridge Health Alliance, only 22 percent of U.S. mothers are still breastfeeding at one year. The stats don’t even extend to age 2.

So in setting age 2 as the limit for legal public breastfeeding, Forest Park didn’t do itself any favors. How about simply setting the exclusion to protect a woman breastfeeding a child? That would bring Forest Park into the modern era of lawmaking that has more than half the nation exempting breastfeeding from indecency laws -- and into compliance with Georgia’s own state law about breastfeeding in general, which says, simply: “A mother may breast-feed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.”

As it should be.

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