Chicago’s New Motto: Nurse Early, Nurse Often

Welcome to Chicago! The Windy Breastfeeding City!

In case you missed it, I started a petition to ask our Honorable Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago City Council to pass a breastfeeding ordinance.  Wait, don’t we already have state laws to protect breastfeeding in public?  Yes, we do but there are several reasons why we need a city ordinance.  First of all, Seattle just passed a pro-breastfeeding city ordinance on April 9.  Washington State also has breastfeeding laws on the books, but the Seattle city council cited the measure’s importance as a public-health issue that needed more protection.  The Seattle city council essentially took an issue that already has state and federal protection and made it a local issue.

I live in Wicker Park.  While out on my daily walk, I stopped in 10 local businesses located on Division Street.  Only one business was aware of a state law protecting breastfeeding in public.  So, that means nine (9!) local businesses had no clue!  Granted, this was not a scientifically controlled experiment, maybe management knew of the law but the employees I talked to were completely ignorant to the subject.  In fact, most of the male employees seemed uncomfortable with me even saying the word “breast.”  A city ordinance in Chicago would certainly bring awareness to local businesses especially if they would be forced to pay a fine for violating the ordinance.

A city ordinance can hold people accountable.  While we have state laws, it is always the more restrictive law that is followed.  Our city council could very well decide to send violators to sensitivity training and/or pay an exorbitant fine.  A city ordinance in Chicago would also set a precedent for smaller cities, towns and villages across the state (and country for that matter).  It would be a great way to generate revenue by fining people and businesses but it would also bring to light the main issue, public health.

Seattle cited the ordinance as a public health issue; we all know the benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby.  Most people (myself included pre-pregnancy) do not know the health and financial benefits of breastfeeding.  By making it about a public health issue, it affects everyone.  A city ordinance would make breastfeeding a priority.  When the city council and the mayor pass a budget, breastfeeding education could make a difference in where the money is distributed.

Passing a breastfeeding ordinance is good for city tourism which in turn is good for taxpayers.  It’s like putting out a welcome mat for families.  “Hey! Come to Chicago! We love breastfeeding!”  I am always more comfortable in places where I know I am welcome.  Let’s face it, not all women and families are as comfortable as others.  Whether you cover up or let it all hang out, a city ordinance sends a message that breastfeeding is NOT about sexuality, it is about the best interests of mother and baby.

A city ordinance in Chicago would be one more link in the chain of events normalizing breastfeeding in public and changing society’s perception.  By encouraging breastfeeding in public, a new mother may just decide to throw out the formula and the lawmakers may decide that formula companies and lobbyists need to be thrown out as well.

We already have to fight tooth and nail for our breastfeeding rights and we have state laws, right?  The publicity and passing of a city ordinance in Chicago will put the law on the radars of every business owner, employer and bystander.  It should not be our responsibility to print out state laws for our employers. It should not be our responsibility to educate every person that walks by and makes a rude comment. However, it IS our responsibility to support this petition and what it will do for breastfeeding mothers everywhere.

Sign the petition now, and pass it on!

Thank you to Amanda McPhillips for creating and spearheading this project. Amanda is one of our Advisory Board members at Breastfeed, Chicago. She had a great idea, ran with it, and we are supporting her in every way we can! That’s what this group is all about. You rock, Amanda!

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