Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 191.915 and 191.918 (West 2002)

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Paula Magee
Instructor Larry Speight
28 March 2010
Breastfeeding for Babies, Mothers and the Public
Controversy surrounds new mothers and their babies from the very first day of
life. Breastfeeding, is it the healthiest form of nutrition for the newborn? The
decision to feed a newborn formula or breast milk is a struggle for new mothers. For
some mother’s, their decision is strictly based on the health benefits. For other
mothers, the decision brings into play their personal beliefs as well as how they will be
viewed from the public’s eye and standard social customs.
Breastfeeding is very beneficial for the health of the baby. Human milk is
designed to meet nutritional needs of a newborn baby. Breast milk contains zinc,
iron, and other minerals in highly absorbable forms. Soon after birth of a newborn,
the mother produces a substance called colostrum. This fluid is secreted from the
breasts and contains antibodies needed for immunity. Colostrum also contains
Lactobacillus bifidus which helps promote a healthy GI tract for the newborn La
Leche League International 1). The mother’s milk is easily digested in the newborns
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of food allergies. It is very common for a
newborn to have an allergic reaction to food other than breast milk, especially to
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proteins found in cow’s milk and infant formulas. There are many types of infant
formulas on the market today. By a mother choosing to feed her newborn breast
milk, this could eleveate the chances of reactions to different formulas and the
struggle to find the formula that is best suited for the individual newborn.
A mother’s breast milk decreases the risk of infections. Newborns are at risk of
infections such as ear, intestinal, and respiratory infections. The antibodies and
immune cells found in breast milk helps the newborn develop their immune system
faster than without breast milk. Breast milk changes in composition over time to
meet the changing needs of a growing infant. Later in childhood, as the baby grows,
the baby may have a reduced risk of asthma, obesity, and type 1 diabetes.
Breastfeeding is a clean, sterile way to feed your baby. A mother does not have
to worry about germs and bacteria that can live and grow on baby bottles. This also
reduces the chances of the newborn developing an infection. The less germs and
bacteria exposed to the baby are always beneficial to their health.
Breastfeeding has excellent benefits for new mothers. Breastfeeding reduces
uterine bleeding after delivery. It promotes a special bonding between the baby and
mother. The mother has a decreased risk of breast cancer (before menopause) and
ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding causes a mother’s body to burn a lot of calories
producing milk which in turn, promotes weight loss for the new mother.
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Social customs are a large part of why new mothers choose not to breastfeed
their newborns. Should breastfeeding be done in a private setting? Controversy
surrounds new mother’s as people express their personal views of feeding a newborn
or infant in public. Breastfeeding is a natural part of life, but it makes some people
feel uncomfortable. “… 57 percent of the public are uncomfortable with public
breast-feeding, according to Babytalk magazine (Good Morning America 1).”
According to ABC news, “The breast is equated with sex. Though 70 percent of
women try to breast-feed -- and most stop before they want to -- people feel
uncomfortable when a woman exposes herself in public (Good Morning America 2).”
“Public breastfeeding should be done with discretion and regard to others' feelings
(Bhatia 1)."
Some states have laws which help support nursing mothers. There are
approximately 15 states which do not have laws which protect nursing mothers. In
these fifteen states, nursing mothers potentially run the risk of being cited for
indecent exposure if they nurse their baby in public (Bhatia 1). In Missouri, the law
states, “Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 191.915 and 191.918 (West 2002) allows mothers to
breastfeed, with “appropriate discretion,” in any private or public location. Also
establishes that all ambulatory surgical centers and hospitals providing obstetrical
care are to give new mothers, where appropriate, information on breastfeeding. All
obstetrical or gynecological physicians, after January 1, 2000, must give patients
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information on breastfeeding (Weimer 8).” This law is not easy to interpret. Whose
decision is it to define “appropriate discretion?”
There are many health benefits to breastfeeding for the newborn and the
mother. The question remains if the benefits can overcome the public pressures and
social customs that are brought into the scenario along with the choice to breastfeed.
The decision has to be right for each individual and the pros and cons need to be
discussed among each new mother, their family and their doctor.
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Works Cited
Bhatia, Juhie. “Moms Fight to Breastfeed in Public.” 22 Nov. 2004. Web. 26 Mar. 2010.
Good Morning America. “Breast-Feeding Controversy: The Fight to Nourish in Public.” 18 Jul.
2006. Web. 26 Mar. 2010.
La Leche League International. “What is colostrums? How does it benefit my baby?” 13 Oct.
2006. Web. 26 Mar. 2010.
Weimer, Douglas Reid. “CRS Report for Congress: Summary of State Breastfeeding Laws.” 23
Jul. 2003. Web. 28 Mar. 2010.