Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tennessee State Breastfeeding Laws May Soon Change

In July 2010 I wrote a letter to every Senator/Representative in Tennessee. I implored them to change the law protecting breastfeeding mothers in Tennessee. Why? Several reasons for the change in the law, but why did I write the letter? First of all, after participating in the Carnival of NIP at, I began to realize that legally I wasn't protected to nurse my 3 year old in public in TN.

I complained, of course, to my husband. He complained about several work related things to me, and frankly, we were just complaining too much. I was tired of complaining. If I was going to complain, at least I wanted to be able to say I did something about which I was complaining. Being a breastfeeding advocate, of course my first step was in that direction. Did I think anything would be accomplished? No, of course I didn't. Honestly, with the state of TN, I fully anticipated nothing to change and if anything I would be told how "abusive" I was just by breastfeeding my 3 year old.

Yes, that's a true story. A school-teacher (though not in TN, but in WV) was brass enough to accuse me of sexually abusing my child by breastfeeding. This shattered me, of course, being a child molestation survivor. I experienced emotions that I cannot begin to describe. I would never harm my children. Breastfeeding my children is the furthest thing from abusing them. I was saddened to know that this elementary grade teacher was not only the most influential figure in 20-30 children's lives everyday but possibly, in the poverty stricken  area she teaches, the only educated adult figure in some of their lives.

Again, instead of complaining, I wanted to do something. But what? What could someone as insignificant as I am do to change something so huge? Surely someone with no Master's Degree, someone of a meager upbringing, someone of so little, could not accomplish something so big.

So I did what I do best. I wrote a letter. I worked on that letter for a while and as I clicked the send button, I knew I would not receive a warm response, I just knew it. The first response I received nearly knocked my socks off. Here's what Sen. Faulk had to say:

Thank you, Lisa, for your informative e-mail. As I recall the discussion on this bill, there was no discussion of a longer period of time, shorter period of time, or any time constraint whatsoever.

By sending a copy of this e-mal to my administrative assistant, Deana Guenther, I am asking her to forward your e-mail to the State Commissioner of Health for comment.

Once I've heard from the Commissioner, I'm certainly willing to consider an amendment to this law to extend the period of time breastfeeding is protected.

Mike Faulk 

I was giddy with receiving, not only a response, but a positive one! Then the other shoe dropped and I received a response from Rep. Ramsey that wasn't positive or negative, but wish washy. Another reply, this time from Rep. Ben West, but alas, he says he's retiring and unable to further *my* ideas. 

Months go by and I hear nothing. Nada. Zip. In the meantime, I am directed to another TN mother who is campaigning for the same thing I am and we join forces; shes' in the capital and more in-the-know about the legal proceedings and the progress behind the scenes.

She finds out that Sen. Faulk has drawn up a bill. That bill soon has a companion bill in the House. I am more than happy, I am downright ecstatic to hear this news. Sen. Faulk is kind enough to contact me to let me know that he has had an overwhelmingly positive response to the bill and he believes the bill will indeed pass. He also mentions that he will be bringing the bill before the Senate-General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee and that the proceeding can be viewed online. I wait, on pins and needles.

SB0083 was heard before the General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee. While the companion bill in the House passed quite easily and relatively fast, the Senate Bill provoked much discussion.

You can view the video here
It gets very interesting when Senators Stacey Campfield, Ophelia Ford and Randy McNally begin discussing breastfeeding older children.

Senator Campfield suggests we cap the age at 3 years as no one really wants to be disturbed (as Sen. Ford says) by breastfeeding an older child. I was very happy with Sen. Faulk's response.

Anyone who has any qualms about how much skin a breastfeeding mother shows, can see that even breastfeeding a 36 lb almost 3 year old can be discreet. If I were sitting next to you, breastfeeding him, you would never know, unless, of course, you stared.
In June of last year when I first contacted the entire House and Senate, I was quite disappointed with the responses. Sen. Faulk went above and beyond in his duties and I am proud to say that he will have mine and many fellowing breastfeeding mothers continued support. This bill will save money, save lives and cost virtually nothing. As you can see in my photo, breastfeeding an almost 3 year old is not "gross" or "disturbing". There's absolutely nothing sexual about it and has nothing to do with "my" enjoyment. I'm assuming that anyone who believes that has no children or has never attempted to breastfeed. Breastfeeding, at times, can be equivalent of holding a kitten to my chest and proceeding to allow it to claw me continuously. Sound fun? Not really. When toddler-hood strikes, the twiddling that comes natural to most children can be hair raising. Having my own Cirque du Soleil show each night while attached to a body part is not my idea of "fun" or "sexual". Breastfeeding my children gives me enjoyment in only the aspect that I know I am giving them nourishment and protection that they cannot receive anywhere else. Formula cannot and will never compare to the live antibodies naturally present in a mother's milk. My children will have a dramatically lower risk of childhood obesity, my daughters and myself have reduced our risk of female cancers    

In the end, it does pass on to the General Senate with 7-1 Stacey Campfield abstaining. 

It passes through the Senate with 32 ayes and none against. The House bill is on the calendar for March 31st, so if you haven't written your Representative, NOW is the time to do so! 


Alexa said...

You are awesome! As a TN mother breastfeeding a 3yr old as well I think this is extremely important. Who all do I need to write to?

Lisa said...

Thank you Alexa! You can find your Rep. here: