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Not Milk?

Posted 4/4/2001

How very sad for Maryland that some small-minded males in the House of Delegates are so encumbered by their illogical perceptions of breast-feeding (Mobtown Beat, March 21). To think that they are threatened by the sight of a nursing infant at its mother's breast makes me question their ability to adequately assess any bill regarding maternal/child welfare. It seems that they would rather have these mothers banished to a public rest room in order to provide basic nutrition to their babies. I wonder how many members of the House of Delegates have their lunch in a rest room. Perhaps the breast-feeding mothers of Marylanders should push to enact a law stating that all state legislators must have their meals in the State House rest room while in session. I'll bet they'll pass a public breast-feeding law after that--if only to protect their eyes from the ghastly sight of an infant at breast in the State House! Voters, take note!

Shirley M. Picard
North Smithfield, R.I.

Many thanks to Michael Corbin for his article on the Maryland General Assembly's appalling rejection of the legislation to protect breast-feeding mothers and babies. It has certainly given my friends and I a wake-up call on the need to advocate for our rights as mothers doing the best we can for our children. We can't wait to go down to Annapolis next session to "whip it out" in support of healthy babies and sane public policy. Too bad Corbin didn't give us the names of the other dirty-minded jackasses he quoted. Also thanks for the beautiful photo accompanying the piece

Kathryn Rutter

The recent subcommittee decision not to recommend House Bill 641 supporting a mother's "right to breast-feed" is beyond infuriating; it is absolutely incomprehensible. Our state legislature sends a public-health message that is contrary to national public-health policies. Breast-feeding has well-documented, measurable health benefits for mothers and babies. These mothers have chosen to feed their babies in the recommended manner.

Our schizophrenic culture (and state legislature) continues to support the idea of breast-feeding, but not the actual practice. The message sent is that breast-feeding is nice and, yes, good for the babies. But breast-feeding a baby in public is somehow an act of exhibition, with an element of inappropriate sexuality, perhaps suggestive of "womanly" issues akin to yeast infections or menstrual cramps (already publicly discussed in advertisements).

Del. Robert Baldwin commented, "We can't have them just whipping it out." This implies a fear that support for this bill would empower breast-feeding mothers everywhere--mammaries openly dangling and flapping, brazenly feeding their children, arrogantly challenging anyone to interfere. The truth is that breast-feeding is typically done discreetly, as breast-feeding women have no more desire to have an intimate part of their body publicly viewed than Del. Baldwin would want to whip his out.

This bill was written because a harried, shopping mother of two, with a toddler and a hungry baby, was trying to make the best of a situation and breast-feed her baby in a Toys R Us (a child-friendly corporation?) on a bench in the store. She was then directed by a manager to breast-feed her baby in the public rest room, with no place to sit (except the toilet seats) and no place for her toddler. This bill would prevent future misinformed individuals from being in a position to judge what is appropriate infant feeding. Babies get hungry at inopportune times and they need to be fed.

What is it about breast-feeding that raises such hackles--that makes America squirm so? Is it so difficult to desexualize breasts? Must we turn away in a flushed heat, with an "I would never" or a "Did you see that?" Let us dispense with our pseudo-priggishness and giggling. Let's grow up, America.

Breast-feeding is the norm in most other societies. It is embarrassing to think visitors at a future Olympics (if we are successful in our bid) would be asked to go to a public rest room to nurse. The most recent Olympic games were held in a country where more than 90 percent of mothers breast-feed their babies, as opposed to only 50 percent to 60 percent in the United States. In Australia, breast-feeding is perceived as normal; its practice does not need to be legislated. And infant mortality is lower.

By supporting this bill, one supports the choice to breast-feed, and to hopefully ease the societal "roadblocks" that discourage mothers from making this choice. It would improve the very health of Maryland children. Let's dispense with the adolescent comments in our own House of Delegates then and get on with it!

Dr. Catherine M. Partyka

I want to express my appreciation for the photo that accompanies the breast-feeding story on your Web site. I hope it was included in your print version as well. That photo does more to negate Del. Robert Baldwin's foolish attitudes than any six pages of written argument.

I am so angry at the Maryland legislature I could just spit. By the way, does anybody know what the response of Toys R Us has been? I predict a flood of angry letters and maybe a boycott.

Daasie Ramcharan
Wichita, Kan.

I wanted to praise Michael Corbin, the author of the article "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore." While I am saddened by the ignorance and inappropriate attitudes of the legislators who managed to keep the bill that would allow a woman to nurse "in any public or private location in which the mother and child are authorized to be" from passing, I was encouraged by the helpful information presented concerning breast-feeding. Michael Corbin's article manages to portray breast-feeding in a positive manner and gives me hope that people will be outraged at the decision made and take action to have it overturned.

Breast-feeding is not a lifestyle choice but a significant health and medical choice for both the mother and the baby. More than half of the country has enacted legislation to protect a woman's right to breast-feed. I hope that the people of Maryland will wake up and follow suit with the people of Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin, who have chosen to protect this most important and significant choice.

Susan Pszenitzki
Redding, Conn.

I am outraged by the comments made by the obviously uninformed legislators at the hearing regarding the breast-feeding bill. I am a 35-year-old mother of a 5-month-old baby boy. I describe myself as socially conservative and modest. Breast-feeding my child is a decision I made based on the many benefits, with which I won't bore you. Prior to my child's birth, I had seen other mothers in public places nursing their children and questioned the necessity of feeding in public. However, now that I have a child myself, I understand the importance of feeding my child as needed.

It has taken time and practice for me to feel comfortable feeding my child in public, but I have not been able to find many clean places to breast-feed my child away from home. Nordstrom is one of the only stores locally that I have found that provides a clean, comfortable place to nurse. Otherwise, I must sit in my car, or in a dirty bathroom, or wait until I get home. I do pump milk for use when I just can't feed my child; however, a lactating mother's body works like a clock and she must either pump at each feeding interval or feed her child.

As for the members of the House Environmental Matters Subcommittee, perhaps if they took a few moments to educate themselves, they too could see the benefits of encouraging breast-feeding. First, it's free. I have provided the best nutrition possible for my child for the past five months and it has not cost me or the "system" one red cent. The average formula costs about $1,000 per year. See any benefit there?

Second, it's nutritionally perfect. Children fed exclusively breast milk are found to be less likely to develop sicknesses such as diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, and wheezing during the first six months of life. This is known as passive immunity. The antibodies provided in breast milk will help protect babies from common ailments like colds, flu, sore throats, ear infections, and more serious illnesses like cancer and juvenile diabetes. In addition, studies suggest that nursing reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Again, see any benefit there?

And third, breast-feeding saves our natural resources and does not pollute.

The only negative I can see with breast-feeding is that a few people seem to "fear" exposure of a woman's breast. Is it really that scary? Perhaps the committee members should focus their efforts on developing clean, safe places for mothers to nurse their babies instead of focusing on the fear of exposure. As for Del. Robert Baldwin, I assure him that I do not just "whip out" my breast. It appears Del. Baldwin was not breast-fed by his mother, since breast-fed babies tend to grow up with self-confidence and trust, but I'd like to remind him that women were given breasts for feeding children. Why not use them that way?

Sharon Hollander

Calling Arthur Miller
I have observed that we repeat the witch trials over and over in this country, and Sandy Asirvatham has focused in on something that has amazed me for years (Underwhelmed, March 21 ). In the '80s we had satanic rituals, but how about the so-called child-care abuse witch trials in which the adults running schools or child-care facilities were virtually burned at the stake in community after community by zealous modern-day Puritans, with all the politics and grabs for power thrown in?

People were sentenced by hysterical juries and clapped in jail after being accused of child molestation and satanic ceremonies. The trials spread from state to state, and the accusations became more and more incredible. Even after the children who made the original accusations later confessed to having been coached, or grew older and realized the seriousness of what they had done, it made no difference; people are still in jail for the original unproven offenses.

Some states cannot bring themselves to admit fault and have chosen to commute some sentences. But the adults who still professed their innocence remain in jail; only those who "confessed" under duress were released. Now there was a witch trial! Don't think it can happen again? Don't bet on it--the subject will be different but the substance will be the same.

Joseph Schvimmer

Death Wishes
Wasn't Wiley Hall III complaining just a few weeks ago about the state lottery being an unfair, regressive tax because it taxes the weak (Urban Rhythms, Feb. 14)? Now he does a complete about-face and advocates taxing the dead (Urban Rhythms, Feb. 21)--you can't get more disadvantaged than that.

Inheritance tax doesn't only affect the extremely wealthy. It causes families to lose homes, farms, and small businesses. It taxes wealth that has already been taxed to increase the coffers of an inefficient government that thinks it is better able to dole out wealth created by others. What hypocrisy.

Complain about the tax and you're labeled selfish because others are considered more deserving, and, hey, you probably earned it dishonestly anyway. How dare greedy dead people choose their children over their government?

David Plunkert

A recent letter takes Wiley Hall III to task for his Feb. 21 Urban Rhythms about the death tax (The Mail, March 7). The letter states, "Let the rich and wealthy keep, spend, and use their money as they like--they earned it."

What bull! Since when is inherited wealth earned?

Since when did Dubya, a playboy most of his life, earn the big bucks that ultimately made him our so-called president?

It scares the hell out of me to know there are sickies out there who can't see the wrong with one-third of Baltimore's children being raised in poverty (23 percent of U.S. children, according to the Children's Defense Fund) while Bill Gates rakes in more than $100 billion.

Gerald Ben Shargel

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