"Breast is best!" and "Breastfeeding is a community affair!" read signs held by women outside City Hall on Friday. Lawmakers, advocates and mothers alike stood together to launch the "Breastfeeding Subway Caravan"—a ride on the A train to Bedford-Stuyvesant—and promote the rights of mothers to breastfeed.
This week, to mark Global Breastfeeding Week, New York City launched public breastfeeding units—"lactation pods" with a bench, changing table and electrical outlet (for pumping)—across all five boroughs. "Breastfeeding provides wholesome nutrition for babies, enhances the mother-child bond, and fosters proven health benefits for both parent and infant," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio.
"Children who are breastfed have lower risk for SIDS and type 2 diabetes, and their mothers have decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. These mobile lactation suites are just another example of our commitment to equipping moms across New York City with the tools they need to breastfeed their children."
The City Hall event, organized by State Senator Liz Krueger and NYC Breastfeeding Leadership Council, honored State Senator Kemp Hannon and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages for their work to ensure Medicaid coverage for donor breast milk.
Organizers also noted, "New York State Civil Rights Law § 79-e, one of the first laws of its kind in the nation, protects women's right to breastfeed anywhere they have the legal right to be. Unfortunately, there are still some who are unaware of this protection or who choose not to abide by it." The Breastfeeding Leadership Council seeks to draw attention to the fact that too many women are still being questioned, stigmatized, and harassed for breastfeeding in public."
The group headed from lower Manhattan to Restoration Plaza in Bed-Stuy to attend a fair sponsored by the Brooklyn Alliance for Breastfeeding Empowerment (BABE). Mothers breastfed their children on the train; one told the Daily News, "Sometimes it’s a little bit awkward when you get the stares. But I know it’s the best for my son when he was younger. So I just did it."
"When we gather like this, we amplify the importance of supporting breastfeeding mothers at home, in public, in hospitals, and in the workplace whether they breastfeed for three days, three months, or three years," mother and breastfeeding advocate Kiki Valentine told us. "This creates healthier communities here in New York City while encouraging other states, like Idaho which has zero laws in place to protect nursing mothers, to step up and normalize what is the most natural function of the female human breast."