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Brazilian city to fine those who shame breastfeeding moms

Businesses in the Brazilian city of São Paulo will have to start thinking twice before they try to stop a woman from breastfeeding in public, because if they do, they could be fined $150.

Despite laws that specifically give a woman the right to nurse her baby wherever she is legally allowed to be, breastfeeding harassment continues to be a problem, not only in the U.S., but worldwide. Nearly every day, I read (or write) about a mother who is doing nothing more than feeding her child when an employee or representative of an organization asks her to move, cover up or leave the premises entirely. In nearly every state in the U.S., doing so is against the law.

Breastfeeding harassment isn’t unqiue to the U.S., however. It’s enough of a problem in São Paulo, the most populous city in the South American country of Brazil, that the mayor is expected to sign this bill into law within the next few weeks. Once the bill is signed into law, violators can be slapped with a fine equivalent to $150.

I love this move. If breaking the law isn’t enough of a deterrent, then maybe the addition of a fine will be. There are so many instances of under-trained employees incorrectly harassing breastfeeding moms, and even store owners asking moms to cover up so it doesn’t “bother” the other customers, that there should be an additional punishment for illegally confronting a nursing mom.

Breastfeeding a baby is feeding a baby. Just because it’s with a boob doesn’t mean it’s immoral, sexual, improper or akin to urinating, defecating or masturbating. Some moms prefer to nurse in private, but that doesn’t mean all moms have to, and if a mom doesn’t use a cover, it doesn’t mean she isn’t modest. Telling a breastfeeding mother to stay home, pump and use bottles or hide out in the bathroom or her car is putting your issues on her.

Nursing a baby in public is actually the best way to normalize it. When children see a mom nursing her baby, they don’t think it’s a big deal unless the adults they’re with think it’s a big deal. Also, bothering a nursing mom might not only embarrass or upset her, but it can derail her confidence and make her less likely to nurse in public the next time her baby is hungry. And that, my friends, is wrong.

So bravo, São Paulo, and maybe this will keep people in that city from hassling a mom who is doing nothing more than nourishing her kid, which is how it should be.

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