Breast of Intentions

Mrs. Milliron has a pair of complaints

NT: But there are places where it's inappropriate to nurse, don't you think? What about in church?

Milliron: I know a lot of churches that welcome breast-feeding mothers. Many also offer nursing rooms for mothers who aren't comfortable nursing in the pews.

NT: Is this anti-breast-feeding stand just some weird form of misogyny?

Amy Milliron is a one-woman La Leche League.
Marnie McCown-Guard
Amy Milliron is a one-woman La Leche League.

Milliron: I don't think so, because I haven't seen a lot of opposition. I have received 99.9 percent support -- e-mails, phone calls, meeting people out in public: "Hey, aren't you the . . ." And, "Boy, good for you." City council did receive some e-mails saying that public breast-feeding should not occur. They're not offering solutions, just "Don't breast-feed in public!"

NT: "You should stay locked in your house because you have a baby!"

Milliron: That's not possible, and here's why: If I were to stay in my house during all my nursing years, my older children would never get to play tee ball, have dance recitals, play soccer, because I'd never be able to leave the house so they could enjoy their life.

NT: Breast-feeding seems to be mixed up with something sexy in some people's minds. It's not like you're doing a pole dance!

Milliron: What's happening is that some people in the media have portrayed a huge opposition [to breast-feeding] when really I don't believe there's a lot of it out there. We haven't seen anybody who opposes breast-feeding come to a council meeting and speak. No one has come up to me to say, "Don't breast-feed in public."

NT: In that case, it should be easy for you to convince the Legislature to --

Milliron: But the Legislature is listening to the same media. And Arizona actually has a higher-than-average percentage of breast-feeding mothers.

NT: Which doesn't necessarily mean that you or others are going to be whipping your tops off in department stores.

Milliron: No. I don't personally know anybody who has nursed their child and exposed themselves.

NT: What's next? People with bad table manners being banned from restaurants?

Milliron: I don't know that that's a good analogy, because breast-feeding is so different. We have the La Leche League and other organizations saying we should breast-feed because of the health benefits. Bad table manners would be just disrespectful, not a health risk.

NT: I was very surprised to read that a woman can be charged with "criminal trespassing" if she's breast-feeding in public.

Milliron: That's actually not true. We went to the Chandler City Council meeting in June, and asked for a possible ordinance that would protect breast-feeding mothers citywide. We met with the Community Services Department, and they decided to put together a proposed administrative directive. Here's where it's been misconstrued. On August 8, the Community Services director gave the proposal to the city council, when in fact city council doesn't vote on directives. They only need to vote on proposed laws. It was really up to the city manager, and if the city manager wanted to put [the directive] into place, he had the choice to. By the next morning, they started receiving a flood of e-mails from people objecting to that administrative directive. And people have made the assumption that women would be charged criminally for breast-feeding, and that isn't the case. Actually, they would be cited for trespassing.

NT: What do people want you to do while you're breast-feeding in public -- wear a poncho?

Milliron: No! There's been a lot of discussion about what constitutes "reasonably covered," which is what the administrative directive said. Ten percent of the breast showing? Twenty percent showing? Who's going to get out there with a ruler?

NT: Not me.

Milliron: Who's going to decide how much is appropriate? What happened next was that the Chandler City Council put it on the agenda. They didn't put the directive in place. It never was enacted. Unfortunately, it wasn't portrayed that way in the media. The term "administrative directive" was actually confused with "ordinance" and "law" by the media, and the two are very different.

NT: On behalf of the media, I'm awful sorry. I'll say "administrative directive" in my column.

Milliron: Good. Because the media had portrayed that there was a new law that said you can't breast-feed in public, so a lot of very angry parents showed up [at that city council meeting]. Once it was explained that this wasn't the case, the meeting was great. And [council members] asked to put together a task force to discuss what we could do to create a city ordinance that protects breast-feeding mothers. It's what God intended for mothers to do, if they choose to.

NT: And that's where you're at now.

Milliron: Yes. I think it's important to educate yourself, and not to go on hearsay. And understand that nursing mothers aren't asking people to allow us to expose ourselves. We're asking to be allowed to breast-feed our children, just like a mother who's bottle-feeding would do. Please respect us. We're trying not to expose ourselves to you. So please respect our choice to breast-feed our child. Because our children don't have voices.

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