Missoula gets approval for being more approving of breastfeeding

Did you catch this letter on today’s Opinion page?

In it, a registered nurse and mom of twins takes note of the growing acceptance of breastfeeding she’s seen in Missoula.

Tiffany Manthie includes some interesting info, such as, “According to the Centers for Disease Control website, so far in 2013, 37.2 percent of all children born in Montana were still breast-feeding at 12 months, compared to 30.6 percent in 2009.”

She also gives a shout-out to both big hospitals in Missoula, certified lactation consultant and Nursing Nook owner Jennifer Stires, WIC, the La Leche League and, finally, all of Missoula.

Even if Missoula and Montana are growing more comfortable with public breastfeeding, it’s worth repeating that nursing mothers are fully covered by Montana law (no pun intended). They have every right – and plenty of reason – to feed their babies this way.

The law has been in place since 1999, and in fact was sponsored by a Missoula mom and state legislator – Carol Williams. Yet as recently as four years ago Missoula got itself all in an uproar over a mom who was asked by a restaurant manager to cover herself while breastfeeding her infant son.

Manthie, in contrast, recently fed her twins at a restaurant without receiving even “one second glance.”

We’ve come a long way, baby, and I hope to see more signs that Missoulians are growing more understanding and supportive of breastfeeding.

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Breastfeeding in bathrooms a thing of the past?

A little-discussed nugget of law tucked into the federal health care reform act directs businesses that have more than 50 employees to give lactating mothers a private space in which to pump milk or breastfeed, as well as a “reasonable” amount of (unpaid) time to do so.

This Free Press article forwarded to me this morning discusses it in more detail, and got me reminiscing about all the gross places in which I struggled to pump milk for the short six weeks I breast-fed my newborn baby girl.

Bathrooms, mostly. I was struggling to wrap up my journalism degree at the time, and if the University of Montana had a dedicated lactation room, I was not aware of it. I was also working at the Kaimin, and have fond memories of sitting with my back against the door (because it didn’t lock) of the old editor’s office – a room so filthy I had to scrape what looked like crusty old macaroni and cheese off the windows just to get a little natural light – praying no one would barge in.

The article also got me looking around the Missoulian, pondering places I might pump if I were lactating now. Hmm. Looks like the bathroom again.

Which brings me to my favorite quote from the article. Here’s what Michigan Breastfeeding Network cochair and Children’s Hospital of Michigan pediatrican Rosemary Shy had to say about breastfeeding in bathrooms: “I want every employer who says (pump in a bathroom) to be forced to eat his lunch in the bathroom for a month.”

The law creates a lot of questions – how will this work for non-office staff? – and will no doubt lead to many more as the details are hashed out. But I think it’s a positive thing that the nation is acknowledging its lactating labor force at all, and I, for one, welcome the long overdue discussion.

– MM

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If you have questions about breastfeeding …

… check out this profile of the Nursing Nook, a one-stop shop for breastfeeding information and other helpful tools. It’s run by Missoula lactation expert Jennifer Stires, whom you might recall is also chair of the Missoula Breastfeeding Coalition.

Or, check out the Nursing Nook Web site, or drop by the place at 1900 S. Reserve St. – but be sure to time it just right, because the nook is only open Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

However, if you have a question that just can’t wait, give Stires a call at (406) 721-5440 or (406) 396-6092.

– Missoula Mom

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