By Cerise Bouchard
As the numerous health, economic and societal benefits of breastfeeding have received greater recognition, more families are choosing to breastfeed their babies.
Unfortunately, those moms and babies face too many barriers.
The Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (LINK) was established in 2011 to work on removing those barriers and to make breastfeeding easier for all Kentuckians.
This year, LINK is making strides in using legislation to make meaningful public policy changes to remove some of those barriers.
Senator Reginald Thomas (D- Lexington), sponsored Senate Concurrent Resolution 9 (SCR 9), which sailed through committee and both chambers with unanimous YES votes.
This means that over a 30-day period, every single Kentucky Senator and Representative present for a vote supported breastfeeding.
This resolution simply establishes the will of the legislature to recognize the benefits of and barriers to breastfeeding and calls on businesses and public health departments to support their breastfeeding employees and clients.
While these votes in support of breastfeeding are encouraging, our legislators need to continue to pass laws that meaningfully support breastfeeding.
Two such laws have been introduced this legislative session. Senate Bill 34 (SB 34), also sponsored by Senator Thomas, amends current Kentucky law that protects a woman and baby’s right to breastfeed in public by establishing a penalty fine for anyone who violates the law.
Currently, KRS 211.755 has no penalty for violation, and Kentucky mothers and babies continue to be harassed while breastfeeding.
House Bill 18 (HB18), sponsored by Representative Joni Jenkins (D- Louisville), places pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions such as lactation under civil rights protections.
HB 18 gives mothers specific recourse if their employer has discriminated against them.
This is especially important, as women are increasingly the main breadwinners in a household.
Unfriendly amendments to HB 18 threaten these important protections for Kentuckians.
Kentucky moms face mixed messages when shamed or told to leave an establishment or are refused accommodations when they return to work.
This happens despite the fact that every major medical organization and hospitals encourage breastfeeding, citing irrefutable health benefits to both mom and baby.
The Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky would love to hear from more Kentuckians about their struggles and successes with breastfeeding in public and treatment in the workplace related to pregnancy and expressing milk.
Please email your stories to breastfeedingLINK@gmail.com.
For information on current Kentucky and Federal laws protecting breastfeeding, visit www.BreastfeedKentucky.com.