New Times: What happened? You were asked to leave a public pool because you were breast-feeding?
Amy Milliron: I went to the pool with my husband and daughter and [baby and] some friends, and we found a ramada that was off to the side, and when it was time to feed my baby, I covered myself with a blanket. I had a bathing suit on, and out of respect to myself -- I wouldn't want to expose myself to people -- I had a friend hold a blanket up while I latched the baby on. While I was burping him, a lifeguard approached me and said, "In the future, we encourage breast-feeding moms to use the restroom to feed their babies."
NT: Filthy! Who eats in a bathroom?
Milliron: I said that. "Would you want to eat in a bathroom? You may be comfortable with that, but other people find it offensive." I said, "I nurse him everywhere -- at restaurants, grocery stores, wherever I am."
NT: It's not like you were sitting on the edge of the pool and you just flopped out a hooter!
Milliron: True. But I was told that in the future, I needed to nurse in the restroom.
NT: Can they enforce a request like that?
Milliron: That's a much bigger issue. There are 40 states that either have a law or are in the process of enacting one that protects breast-feeding mothers.
NT: I'm guessing Arizona isn't one of them.
Milliron: We're not. We're a silent state on this issue. So there's nothing that protects or prohibits [breast-feeding moms]. If someone asks me to use the restroom and I refuse, I'm within my rights. But there are restaurants that say, "No shirt, no shoes, no service."
NT: Well, you're not planning to take your shirt off in a restaurant.
Milliron: No. It's just that there are people who aren't educated on breast-feeding. If people understood, they'd know that we have to feed our babies when we're out in public. If we don't, we risk engorgement, we risk infection, we also end up with a screaming child which we then get dirty looks for. If we don't feed a baby when they're hungry, we'll have to hold the baby off to feed it, which decreases milk supply.
NT: And so now you've become a one-woman La Leche League.
Milliron: Well, I called the aquatic superintendent, and she reiterated what the lifeguard said: "We encourage breast-feeding mothers to use the restroom." She told me they have a "family changing room," and I said, "What is that?" She described it: "It's a bigger room, it has a door that closes, and it has a toilet and a sink." That is a bathroom! I'm not going to feed my baby in a bathroom. She said they make this request because there are a lot of children -- teenagers in particular -- that come to the city pool, and they find breast-feeding offensive.
NT: Teenagers? But teenaged boys want to see exposed breasts!
Milliron: Well, I said, "I don't personally believe that's true. We need to do something about this." And she said, "It's not our job to educate people." So I took it to the city council to ask for clarification.
NT: And so it became your job to educate the public.
Milliron: I never thought I would wind up a breast-feeding activist. But it's worth it to protect the children. A lot of people forget that a child doesn't have a voice, that we have to speak for them. They can't say, "Look, we need to eat!"
NT: To which some people might say, "Then eat at home!"
Milliron: The alternatives that people have offered are, "Give your baby a bottle of breast milk that you've pumped." Okay. That would entail pumping every time you feed your baby; otherwise, your milk supply decreases. Nursing is much more discreet, and pumping requires taking all the equipment; keeping the bottles cool. Others have said, "Just give your baby formula." Well, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding your baby, because there's nothing that can match the benefits of breast milk. For me, I have a premature baby that my doctor told me the best thing I could do is breast-feed. How can I go against my doctor's recommendation?