Press Release from the Senate & House GOP Caucuses, April 26:
Bill allowing nursing mothers to continue feeding in public past 12-month limit signed into law
(NASHVILLE, TN), April 26, 2011 – Legislation which authorizes mothers to publicly breastfeed a child beyond the current 12-month age limit without being prosecuted for public indecency has been signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. The proposal, Senate Bill 83, is sponsored by Senator Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill) and Representative Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville).
“For each child who is breastfed because we passed this bill, the consequences are both good and great,” said Senator Faulk. “There will be a reduced risk of pediatric overweight. The longer a child is breastfed, the less likely he or she is to become overweight. Mothers who breastfeed have fewer female cancers and estimates show Tennesseans would save $200 million per year if children are breastfed to age 12 months.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding protects against a variety of diseases and conditions in the infant such as bacterial meningitis, bacteremia, diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, necrotizing enterocolitis, ear infections, urinary tract infections and late-onset sepsis in preterm infants. It can also protect the child against developing type one and type two diabetes, lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkins disease, as well as childhood obesity. In addition, breastfeeding provides long-term preventative effects for the mother, including an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight and a reduced risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
“Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for babies since a mother’s milk has the perfect combination of nutrients needed for growth and development,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “I am pleased this legislation was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Haslam. I hope it will serve as further encouragement for women to consider breastfeeding and continue the practice beyond a child’s first birthday.”
The AAP reports that breastfeeding families are sick less often and the parents miss less work. The Academy recommends breastfeeding beyond the baby’s first birthday for as long as both the mother and baby would like.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 70 percent of mothers start breastfeeding immediately after birth, but less than 20 percent of those moms are breastfeeding exclusively six months later. The national goal is to increase the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their babies in the early postpartum period to 75 percent.
“Research clearly shows that there are many positive benefits for nursing,” said Representative Brooks. “These studies show that the positive health benefits can last for many years. The state should not put an arbitrary limit on this matter which should be a decision by the child’s parent.”
The bill takes effect on July 1.