Women sported shirts with phrases like "I make milk" across their chests and carried signs with such messages as, "Don't be lactose intolerant, support breastfeeding." But perhaps the most poignant picketers at Tuesday's "nurse-in" near Atlanta were the babies. One little girl wore a poster saying, "I don't want to eat under a blanket." About 300 moms nursed their babies and toddlers out in the open, organizers say, in protest of a local law that limits public breast-feeding to children under 2.
"It was incredible and nice being around like-minded moms," says Shannon Helton, 25, a stay-at-home mom who breast-feeds her 16-month-old daughter. "We got to show people that we’re a group of normal, loving parents, and that this law’s unacceptable and it’s not going to be tolerated."
The controversy started last week when Forest Park, Ga., passed a public indecency ordinance that bans public nudity, making an exception for breast-feeding -- but only for those nursing babies under age 2. Women who dare to nurse older toddlers in public would presumably be just as guilty under the new law as those lifting their shirts for Mardi Gras beads.
It's unclear how the ordinance will be enforced. Will officers stop moms mid-feeding and ask to see a birth certificate? Umm…awkward!
The public debate -- while surely not what lawmakers in Forest Park had in mind -- taps into a real ambivalence about extended breast-feeding. Even among women who breast-feed infants with gusto, some feel squeamish about the notion of nursing older toddlers.
There's a simple solution, Helton says, and it's not government interference: "It’s between a parent and a child and it’s not harming anyone — if it bothers you, then look away."
Forest Park's city manager John Parker says the details of the public indecency law are now under review and will be discussed at the next city council meeting in June. Another nurse-in is already in the works for the meeting. (Just in case city officials didn’t get the message.)
What do you think about the Georgia ordinance and the protest against it?
Julie Weingarden Dubin is a Michigan-based freelance journalist and author with three rocking kids, a loving husband and a trashed minivan. She covers health, psychology, parenting, relationships and pop culture.