Monday, April 29, 2013

Breastfeeding Advocacy in Texas

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a nurse-in that took place at Ft. Worth Magaizne after an advice columnist called breastfeeding in public "ick".   One of the women following the nurse-in contacted me about some Texas bills on the table. Rather than me tell you about them, I asked if she would write us a post, keeping us all in the loop.

I mentioned in my post that I feel that nursing in public is harder now than it was when I was breastfeeding just a few years ago.  It is important that we all do what we can to promote the normalization of breastfeeding so new mothers don't have to fight to feed their babies in public.  

Thank you Krisdee Donmoyer for writing this post to help us understand the laws and our real rights.  



"I am a stay-at-home mom with three sons, ages 10 months to 7.5 years.  I've felt strongly about breastfeeding since before my first son was born, but when I was told to move to a private room 8 months ago while discreetly nursing my baby in the empty lobby of our school, advocacy became my calling.  I went through proper channels at my school district (Austin Independent School District) for two months, asking for a mother & baby-friendly breastfeeding policy, & when they put the opposite in writing, I went public, asking for letters to the district through the Facebook page & blog I started, Keep Austin Nursing in Public.  I'm now the Outreach Coordinator for Central Texas Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, as well, and I have been very involved in a grassroots effort to garner support for the breastfeeding bills in the House this session.

There are laws that aim to help mothers meet their breastfeeding goals, but existing laws leave room for improvement.  Currently there are two bills in the Texas House Calendars Committee which would strengthen breastfeeding legislation.  And Texans can help make this happen, in as much or as little time as they have to spend supporting them.  

Passed in 1995, Texas Health & Safety Code 165.002 states that a woman has the right to breastfeed her baby anywhere she is authorized to be.  Most women who breastfeed can do so in public without ever being harassed.  But it does happen, and that knowledge and the fear of it happening serves as a barrier to breastfeeding for many women.  In fact, 40% of women cite worrying about nursing in public as their greatest barrier to breastfeeding.   2012 Lansinoh Breastfeeding Study for more on this study.   House Bill 1706  would go a long way to abate the fear of nursing in public.

In its present form, the law can be circumvented by revoking a mother's authority to be in a place of public accommodation.  Moms may think that it's already illegal to infringe on their rights, but as terrific as it is, 165.002 simply states that we have a right.  HB 1706 closes that loophole, making it illegal to toss a mother out, or even to interfere with or restrict breastfeeding.

It also provides for education that the law exists, via the Comptroller's office.  If you're a breastfeeding advocate, it may be hard to imagine that not everyone knows there is a law about nursing in public, but many people have no idea.  So this aspect of HB 1706 is huge.

Still, knowing a law is on the books doesn't mean all people will follow it.  Moms who have faced discrimination since 1995 have told their harassers that they're protected by law, but that hasn't always stopped the discrimination.  In large part, that's because they're not truly protected.  HB 1706 will change that by giving our right-to-breastfeed law an enforcement provision - a consequence for flouting the law.  If a mother's right is violated, she will have the right to sue for damages not to exceed $500 plus reasonable attorney fees.  Realizing that they could have a lawsuit on their hands if they ignore the law, business owners are more likely not only to follow it, but to train their employees so that they will follow it as well.  Far from resulting in rampant lawsuits (which are likely to be cost prohibitive for families, and may not interest the majority of lawyers), the mere possibility of a lawsuit will decrease harassment incidents, paving the way for increased breastfeeding rates.

The other bill, HB 741, supports mothers in the work place.  Though about 80% of Texas mothers initiate breastfeeding, by six months, only 13.7% are still breastfeeding exclusively, despite the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization to breastfeed exclusively for the full first six months.  Breastfeeding rates begin to drop off around the time that mothers return to work, and are trying to balance the demands of their job with the need to express milk with a breast pump on the same supply and demand schedule as their baby.  The need for time and a place to pump led to the Fair Labor Standards Act requiring reasonable accommodations for hourly employees. However, salaried employees are exempt.  HB 741 extends those accommodations to salaried public employees, including teachers.  

Both of these bills are vital to changing the culture in our state to one that is more supportive of breastfeeding.  A more supportive culture will lead to improved breastfeeding rates, which will significantly improve the economy as well as public health.  So we are all stakeholders in this.

At the moment, the bills are in the Calendars Committee.  If they are set for a date on the House floor as soon as possible, there will be time for them to be voted on by the 150 House Representatives, and if they pass them, they'll go to the 31 Texas Senators for another vote.

It's easy to support the bills, to be a part of this historic legislation.  You can spend just five minutes sending a sample email you personalize a bit to legislators whose email addresses are all in one place for you at TXBFLeg.com.  It doesn't take long at all to call legislators, and a phone call also makes a great impact.

Have more than five minutes?  Want to do more?  There's plenty to be done. Contact USBFLeg@gmail.com and join the grassroots movement to support legislation that will support breastfeeding moms and babies."


This is Donna again.  Side note I wanted to add about contacting your legislators.  There is also things going on at the state level with our Texas birth centers.  I was recently asked to go to Austin to meet with my state rep about this bill.  There were about 25 of us that went to this initial meeting. Before heading to the capital building, it was made very clear -- if you have to breastfeed your baby during your meeting, LEAVE the room.  Do you think these breastfeeding and birth advocates and professionals liked hearing that?  Of course not.  I understood it though.  We do not want to be seen as hippy radicals who are in-your-face, not if we are to make real impact.  Make no mistake, I wore my cowboy boots to the capital building and my hair was extra big that day.  :-)

So, when you contact your state rep, whether by phone or email, be respectful and professional.  That will be heard -- and listened to -- more than the anger that we sometimes feel over this issue.  Good luck!  I do believe that we have the power to make positive change for this next generation of breastfeeding mothers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Breastfeeding - The "ICK" Factor

I am conservative in nearly all areas of my life.  I am a generally a rule follower too.  Unless, of course, the "rules" are stupid, in which case I have no problem speaking up.  

This week in Ft. Worth has been eventful.  An advice columnist in Ft. Worth Magazine posted a nasty response to a question about breastfeeding etiquette in church.  You can read the (short) article here.   I admit, it was incredibly rude and stupid, but I found it as entertaining as I did offensive.  I might add that I was also offended by the "Also check to make sure your phone is on silent so that I am not subjected to whatever lame Country song you have downloaded for your ringtone" comment.  

As you can imagine, people were - rightfully so - up in arms.  It's amazing the article was published, but I suspect they all found it humorous and didn't think much of it.  The salt on the wound came when the writer and the magazine apparently refused to apologize, so the breastfeeding moms of Ft. Worth organized a Nurse-In with over 140 in attendance.  We have an amazing natural birth and breastfeeding community!


Back to the "ick" statement.  I've decided that the only thing that really changes people's minds about breastfeeding is either doing it themselves or being around it A LOT, like every day. Talking about nourishment, baby's right to eat, mom's right to breastfeed, etc. -- well, no one cares.  People just think it's gross.  I had a guy in class several years ago who was super freaked out about his wife breastfeeding in public.  Of course, she had the baby, he lived and breathed life with a breastfeeding baby...  yadda, yadda, yadda, he didn't want to sit in a restaurant by himself, she breastfeeds wherever, whenever.  It became normal because it was their life. He witnessed the normality of breastfeeding and changed his tune.

So why the "ick"?  It was a woman who wrote the article, not a man.  I guess I could see how men only want to see breasts as sexual.  It's kind of a bummer to see them in action feeding a baby.  I hear women use the argument "That's what they are for," but that's only half correct.  Breasts are sexual and that cannot be ignored.

Let's talk about sexy breasts for a minute.  We have become so accustomed to seeing breasts pushed up, exposed cleavage, plunging necklines, and seductive poses.  It's all about arousal.  Thumb through a National Geographic (remember snickering at those when you were in elementary school?) and seeing topless women in villages in Africa and there's nothing sexy about it.  It's all about how breasts are portrayed to make you think and feel. Normal women with normal breasts don't typically look like the women in the media.  Most women have normal, non-greased-up-and-shiny breasts.

My point here is that it's OK that breasts are sexual and are capable of feeding a baby.  They are dual purpose.  I have a friend that calls breasts and genitalia "life-giving parts" and explains to her kids that we cover those parts because they are sacred.  Follow me here.  I'm still on the "ick" factor... If someone has not breastfed a baby or been around breastfeeding A LOT, they really only see breasts as sexual.  Everyone knows that breasts produce milk (giving life), but many have never been exposed to breastfeeding. (Pun intended.)  Because it is so ingrained, I don't know that their minds can be changed without life experience.

If you have read my blog for a long time, you know how I feel about breastfeeding covers. These weren't around during my 7+ years of breastfeeding. I have never thought these would be good for breastfeeding. Turns out I was right.  Look what is happening in our culture. Things are worse for breastfeeding moms when they are out in public than ever before. There is now a very strong feeling by the general population that breastfeeding should be covered or hidden.  It is expected.  I honestly believe that the (stupid) "hooter hider" covers are  partially to blame.

Back to the article this week, one of our Birth Boot Camp Instructors was interviewed on the radio this week, as she herself breastfeeds in church. Hear it here.  The interviewer made the comment at the end, "My mom didn't breastfeed me because she just likes me as a friend." That statement is ICK!  Janie (the interviewee) jumped on that right away and asked if he was implying that breastfeeding is sexual, to which he adamantly denied.  Whatever dude.  Whatever.

I know what you are thinking now - is Donna saying that we should be out there more than ever?  In your face?  Uh, no.  Do I think breastfeeding women should cover?  Uh, no.

I subscribe to the idea that people really do need to be around breastfeeding to become comfortable.  But it's not going to happen in their one encounter with you!  I propose that women simply modestly breastfeed wherever they might be.  Make eye contact.  Smile.  The argument from the "ickers" seems to be that breastfeeding women are "making a show" of it, which is ridiculous.  (Don't give them ammunition - don't make a show of it!)

I don't want to see any woman and baby banished from wherever they might find themselves - even church! - to a bathroom or their car.  A timely and a very awesome post by The Feminist Breeder  sums it up.  Next week, we will plan on diving into Breastfeeding Activism and the most effective way to go about this sensitive topic.  In the meantime, I'm headed off to a very awesome Birth Boot Camp Instructor training workshop this week.  Woo-hoo! Join us!

Monday, April 8, 2013

More No Poo! - The Curly Cut

Are you sick of this topic yet?!  OK, one more post.

I cheated on my hair dresser I've seen for 8 years and went for my curly cut with someone else.  (I'll get to that part of the story in a minute.)  Yes, she cut it dry and then washed it and styled it.  Now, you may know this, but I did not.  I discovered there really are No-Poo products made by Deva Curl. Like a great-smelling cleanser and conditioner and gels.  (I sell Scentsy and am obsessed with the way things smell.  This is huge.) I love them!  I must admit, however, I like the way my hair felt with the apple cider vinegar rinse - not quite so soft - and easier to hold, if that makes sense at all.  Yes, I like the curly cut and she showed me a few tricks to make it fuller at the root - using clips to dry it.  I never ever use a blow dryer except on my bangs, so this has been an adjustment for me.  If you are in Ft. Worth, I'd definitely recommend the Curly Cut at The Curly Tree.

The story that goes with the curly cut is quite humorous.

If you know me at all, you know how nervous I've been to cheat on my hair dresser.  I've seen the same woman for 8 years!  She's been with me through many Tim McGraw shows and appearances, 3 TV spots, and the regular every-6-weeks color appointments.  We know each other.  We do the same thing at nearly every appointment.  So to make an appointment with anyone else....  Well, it felt like total betrayal.

I had my curly cut on a Friday.  My color appointment was scheduled for Tuesday.  She always calls and reminds us of our appointments on Monday. When she called, she immediately went into this long story about a dream she had woke up to that morning about how I had gone somewhere else for a cut and color.  I cut my hair super short, like 2" - I looked like a boy - and did my hair this funky color.  In the dream I was begging her to fix it.  I told her I was trying to do what was popular by "peppering" my hair. (?????)  She was so upset and wondering what she had done to make me go somewhere else...

Silence...

So, I had to tell her I actually did go somewhere else for the curly cut.  More silence.  Oh my heck.  It was awful.  And awkward. The rest of the conversation was quite strained as she asked about the cut.  While I could be wrong, I sensed some defensiveness, too.

You better believe my hair looked AWESOME when I went in for my appointment the next morning.  Usually I show up in a baseball hat.  I wanted her to see that this was a good move for me and my hair.  She had had 24 hours to think about it and was not defensive, but complimentary. Actually, she went on and on about how great it looked.  Whew!

This is the same hair dresser that has hated the no-poo thing from day one. But over the last 15 months, she has admitted that my hair is healthier and doing great.  Despite that, she still does not fully support my no-poo lifestyle.  Until...  Her sales rep she buys products from was in her office collecting orders when I was putting my plop on my head.  She saw that I was using the Deva Curl gel and said she sells those products too.  She admitted that she uses No-Poo too.  All of sudden, I wasn't a freak in the eyes of my hair dresser!  I used to spend a lot of money with her on color shampoo and now she is back in business. It was all about the timing, I guess.

I could go on about the parallels between breaking up with your OB and the similarities to breaking up with your hair lady.  I know this cut is better, but it was very hard.  I like my hair lady, but I need something different now, now that I have more information about how to handle my curly hair. Information I didn't have before. Frankly, you can draw your own analogy here.  I'm too dang tired.

I have 2 hair ladies now.  One for color, one for the curly cut.  They both complimented the job the other is doing.  All is well.  The end.