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Wordless Wednesday: Breastfeeding in Disaster

I saw this painful photograph in a museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico, birthplace of the bomb that the U.S. dropped on this woman and her children in Nagasaki, Japan. Karleen Gribble shared both this copy of the photo with me and this article about what happened to the mom and her children.

Will Nebraska Finally Get A Public Breastfeeding Law? Will it Matter?

Only three U.S. states have no public breastfeeding law – West Virginia, Idaho and Nebraska. Unfortunately the majority of state public breastfeeding laws don’t do a particularly good job of stopping harassment of women who breastfeed in public (this is where I tell you again to go read my feature in Mothering magazine called Lactation and the Law, remind you that “a right without a remedy is no right at all,” and tell you I have an update feature on U.S. breastfeeding law coming out in Mothering in probably the May/June issue).

On January 7th, Legislative Bill 197 was introduced in the Nebraska Legislature. The text is:

Section 1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.

Introduced by State Senator Annette Dubas, it does not appear this bill, if passed, would confer any right, enforceable or otherwise. As written, this is a permission law. Women may breastfeeding in public and, it seems, other people may interfere with her ability to do that by telling her to leave or cover up. And it doesn’t appear there is anything the nursing woman would be able to do about it.

Since breastfeeding in public is not currently illegal in Nebraska, one must wonder why women need permission. They don’t. They need protection. And this bill doesn’t give protection.

Senator Dubas may not understand this is how public breastfeeding laws work. And it may be helpful if Nebraskans tell her what kind of public breastfeeding law Nebraska really needs.

Are you a Nebraskan? Have you nursed in public? Can you contact Senator Dubas, the bill’s co-sponsors and your own state senator and let them know Nebraska needs a public breastfeeding law that will really protect a right to breastfeed in public?

“The Talk” on Breastfeeding and The New Federal Workplace Pumping Law

The latest “sorta famous women sitting in a semi-circle talking about things they know little about” daytime show is called “The Talk.” You probably know lots more about it then I do. It looks like “The View” which I have seen only in clips – the clips that arrive couched in “can you believe [insert semi-famous women I probably have never heard of] said this about breastfeeding!” outrage. Barbara Walters’ comments in 2005 on not wanting to sit next to a woman breastfeeding on a plane is probably the most famous and led to protests outside the network studios. I think Babs learned her lesson. Personally, my favorite part of that whole incident was Jimmy Kimmel’s take on it:

Well, “The Talk” is clearly handling discussion of breastfeeding very differently. Thanks much to the great Karen Gromada for giving me a “heads-up” on this clip.

Stacey Armato Responds To The TSA Post On Her Breast Milk Detention

Stacey Armato, the mom who was detained by the TSA when she requested that her pumped breast milk be given an “alternate” screening, agreed to an interview with me to answer some questions that might be lingering since the TSA posted its statement on her case.

Q. In any earlier interview you said you hadn’t received an apology from the TSA but the TSA claims you accepted an apology from it. Did you receive an apology from the TSA?
A. In March of this year, TSA sent me a statement.  It stated that they were responding to my report that on “numerous occasions [I was] urged to put the breast milk through the x-ray machine and [was] subjected to additional screening.”  They stated that the “screening workforce [had] been briefed regarding this situation.”  The letter also stated that it was their “understanding that…the issue has been resolved” and they “extend [their] sincere apologies to [me] for the discomfort and inconvenience [I] experienced during the screening process.”  The letter concluded by stating that TSA “appreciate[d] that [I] took the time to share [my] concerns with [them].”  Of course, the complaint that I sent over to TSA on 2/2/10 addressed many important issues this letter did not acknowledge at all including being retaliated against, harassed, humiliated, degraded, threatened with arrest, held in security for an hour, among other things.  Frankly, I disregarded this letter from TSA in March as a standard form letter they would issue to any complaint and did not view it as an apology for what happened on 2/1/10. 

Q. The TSA states in its blog response: “The passenger has flown since these events occurred and has provided TSA a written confirmation that she no longer experiences issues.” Is this true?

A. The following week (2/9/10), I was ‘shadowed’ by a TSA authority assigned to me by Phoenix Airport to see what I go through each week.  As soon as I asked for an alternate screening, I was told to put the milk through the x-ray machine.  The TSA authority had to immediately make herself known to the TSA agent and said to give me an alternate screening.  It was clear that any briefing or training that had been done was futile.  In the weeks following that, after speaking with a Phoenix TSA customer service manager, I traveled out of a completely different gate.  I didn’t experience any more harassment or retaliation thereafter.  After a few more weeks, I resumed travel out of my original gate mindful never to encounter the four or five agents I had dealt with on 2/1/10. If there was a choice between two lines, I would pick the one with agents that were not part of the incident. I resumed travel out of my original gate fearful that I would encounter the same agents as on 2/1/10. I literally would start sweating wondering who I would encounter and how I would be treated.

On 4/22/10, after one of the final trips I took with breast milk, I emailed the Phoenix TSA customer service manager.  I wanted to make sure he knew that every week since 2/1/10, I had been instructed to place the milk through x-ray and had to ask again for an alternate screening…every single time.  I brought this to his attention so he knew the agents still had no knowledge or, possibly, no regard for the breast milk screening rules.  The response back to me was they were okay with that so long as, at some point, the agents remembered that my request [for alternate screening] was allowed. 

Q. How do you think the TSA should have responded to your complaint and how did its response fall short?

A. My attorneys have advised this I do not address specifically how the TSA should have responded. It may jeopardize my current tort claim against them, especially if they try to limit my relief to what I put in this response. After we exhaust all administrative remedies, we will file a lawsuit in federal court that addresses exactly what should have been done by the TSA.

What do you think about how the TSA has responded to Stacey Armato? Is the TSA “apology” and a “refresher” to TSA staff enough?

The TSA Responds To Breast Milk Mom, Stacey Armato

[UPDATE: After the original publication of this blog post, the following went up on The TSA Blog: “Updated on 12/9/2010 at 8:25 P.M. to add that proper procedures were followed.” Oh, really? ]

Over at The TSA Blog, they have posted TSA Response to “TSA Breast Milk Screening” Video. It is quite short but has already acquired a large number of comments, the vast majority of which find the response inadequate.

Here are some interesting bits:

We extend our sincere apologies to any passenger who may have experienced discomfort and inconvenience during the screening process.

So is this directed at Stacey Armato whose video is being discussed or just airline passengers generally? And if they are talking about Armato, are they saying she may have experienced discomfort and inconvenience? Are we really in doubt on this point?

Well, actually maybe not. The TSA Blog’s “Blogger Bob” also writes:

We acknowledge this particular passenger experienced an out of the ordinary delay, and have worked with our officers to ensure we proceed with expediency in screening situations similar to this.

So the TSA acknowledges something happened that should not have happened. And what do they tell us about what happened to the agents involved?

After the investigation, the officers received refresher training for the visual inspection of breast milk (an infrequently requested procedure).

Really?? How about a refresher course on retaliation and false imprisonment?

There is something Blogger Bob writes that may raises some questions for those of you who have read my previous posts about Stacey Armato’s visit to the TSA plastic detention booth in Arizona here and here. And that is:

TSA investigated the matter and sent a letter of apology to the passenger in March of this year. The passenger has flown since these events occurred and has provided TSA a written confirmation that she no longer experiences issues.

Armato has said she did not receive an apology, that she continued to see the same crew at the same gate as she made her weekly flight back from Phoenix to L.A., and she is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the TSA for the damages she suffered on February 1st when she was detained. So what does she have to say about the TSA response to her video? Hang in there. Armato’s response will be posted here shortly.

Please feel free to leave a comment at The TSA Blog with your feelings about the TSA response to the video in which Armato is detained for asking her pumped breast milk go through “alternate” screening.

And leave a comment here with your thoughts. How do you feel about the TSA response posted on its blog?
Was a “refresher” enough? Should there have been a more severe sanction for the TSA staff? How do you feel about how the TSA is responding to the complaints of flyers?

Take note also that in The TSA Blog post about Armato, there is a link which we are encouraged to use to share our experiences with the TSA. I filed a formal complaint with the TSA on November 22nd after my teenage sons were separated from me without warning while going through a TSA security checkpoint at Logan Airport in Boston. Other than an acknowledgment that my complaint was received, I have received nothing from the TSA in response to my complaint.

So why is the TSA encouraging people to communicate with it if it does not respond meaningfully to complaints?

[UPDATE: Within seconds of publishing this post, I received an email from TSA customer service in Boston restating my complaint and apologizing for any “discomfort.” I have replied asking again some more specific questions concerning TSA policy on screening families traveling together. Another post coming on that point.]

Breast Milk Mom Prepares to Sue the TSA Over Detention

Stacey Armato, the mother who was detained by TSA agents in Phoenix last February when she asked for “alternate” screening for her pumped breast milk, has filed a TSA Tort Claim Package, the last step before she can file a lawsuit against the government employees who she claims detained her in retaliation for filing a complaint against them. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, in order to sue the United States government or its employees for certain claims one must exhaust all remedies available to you by the relevant government agency. Armato, who is due to give birth to her second child on December 25th, plans to file a lawsuit against the TSA and the individual agents as soon as it is legally possible.

According to Armato’s complaint filed with the TSA concerning what happened when she presented her pumped breast milk for screening at the Phoenix airport on February 1st:

All the same TSA parties were present from the week before surrounded [stet] me . I was demanding an explanation and wanted to speak with the manager but was refused. I was told to be quiet and do as I was told or I wasn’t going anywhere. I felt like a caged animal, stared at by multiple TSA agents and other travelers. After 15 or 20 minutes, my anger turned to tears. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt harassed, degraded, violated, falsely imprisoned, and retaliated against.

Finally, three Phoenix police department officers came. One … came in to tell me that I needed to calm down or TSA could have me arrested. He instructed me to go through alternate gates for security on my following trips because they seemed to have it out for me. He said these TSA agents saw me coming, remembered me from the week before, and wanted me to play along with their ‘horse and pony’ show or they would have me arrested.

Armato alleges as well:

The incident on February 1, 2010, was an obvious retaliation against me for lodging a complaint with the TSA the previous week. It is absolutely unforgiveable that these TSA agents would hold me like a caged animal in an apparent act to “teach me a lesson.” The TSA agents knowingly, and willfully, disregarded their own rules and regulations. I was placed in a glass enclosure, in full view of all the other passengers. I was continuously yelled at, talked down to, and threatened with arrest if I did not adhere to the TSA agents’ demands. The TSA agents, as well as the TSA itself as employers of these individuals, is liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, battery, assault, trespass to chattel, false imprisonment, and civil harassment, among other causes of action

While news agencies have reported receiving a statement from the TSA claiming that Armato accepted its apology concerning the incident, Armato maintains she has received no apology.

Amato’s story and the TSA video of her detention has gotten a great deal of press. Has the TSA’s treatment of Armato changed your plans for travel? How do you think you might behave if you were in Armato’s position?

Sustainable Mothering will continue to present the latest on this case, as well as other incidents involving the TSA that impact parents. Stay tuned.

Atheist Parenting

There is an interesting discussion over at PhD in Parenting in a post called Approaching Heaven, Mummies and Infinity about raising kids without religion. As happens to me a fair bit, I began to leave a comment that became so long I brought it over here and turned it into a blog post of my own. Thanks to Annie for the nudge.

My boys are now teens and tween and I have been shocked that “is there a god?” and related questions simply never came up. My boys never asked me “whether” questions about religion. They have only asked me “why would anybody think?” questions. “Why would anyone think there is a man above the clouds? Why would anyone think you go somewhere after you die?” Lots of “why would anyone think X is the answer to that question?”

To my knowledge, none of my boys ever even considered the existence of a god. They came home from time to time telling me what religious beliefs friends had. My main job has been to teach them to be respectful of beliefs with which they disagree unless the beliefs are hurtful. I could easily deal with “Jimmy thinks there is a heaven” with “that belief doesn’t hurt anyone and you can disagree without being disrespectful.” But “Jimmy thinks god says gays are bad” needed a discussion about when religious tolerance must stop because religious behavior is hurting people.

I fully expected at least one of my kids to give serious consideration to whether there is a god and am surprised none of them ever did. It seemed to me that children would be predisposed to think of magical answers to difficult questions. But my children have always wanted scientific answers to questions. My children want facts and if there is only theory, the theory needs a basis in reason and what we do know.

I happen to like magic. Fairy tales are lovely and it has been disappointing to me that my kids have shown so little interest in them. I also really want my children to think things out for themselves. I don’t want them simply adopting my or their father’s views on anything. And somewhere I read that it was normal for children to believe in god. That it made them fear uncertainty and death less. Well, definitely can’t prove that by my kids. That mysteries could be explained by a higher power always seemed just plain dumb to my kids. Go figure. I didn’t teach them that.

As younger children, religion didn’t come up much but when it did I was always careful to say that, while I don’t believe in a god, I am not necessarily right and they may choose to believe in god. When they went to school, they went to Quaker schools. My youngest went to mandatory “Meeting.” If you haven’t been a Quaker Meeting, there is no formal service. Members sit in silence and speak if they have something to say. I went to lots of Quaker meetings when I was involved (for many wonderful years) with the American Friends Service Committee. With great respect to Quakers (with the notable exception of Richard Nixon), I have to say I was really bored. But when my then-four year old went to Meeting, he found it calming and peaceful which makes perfect sense because it can be largely meditation. I suck at organized meditation but my son didn’t. But there was no god involved for him. It was peaceful quiet time and he liked it.

When we started homeschooling, religion came up a lot because most of the organized homeschool groups in my area are dominated by fundamentalist Christians who believe it is their duty to make me feel unwelcome. I have not accepted Jesus as my personal savior so they don’t want their kids playing with my kids. Yeah, I am bitter. I have no respect for that attitude. But I hid it from my kids because I didn’t want them to know there are people we have never met who exclude us out of bigotry.

So my contribution to the discussion concerning what struggle one might have raising kids without religion is … well, there may be no struggle at all.

So what has your experience been? Did your kids ask religious questions without any prompting from you?

Sling Baby in the European Union Parliament

Have a look at this piece in Britain’s Daily Mail about Italian EU Parliament member Licia Ronzulli casting a vote with her infant daughter in a sling.  Apparently EU Parliament rules allow parents to bring their babies to work.

While this Daily Mail piece is quick to point out the baby might have have disturbed the other parliament members had she awoken, it describes (and shows in photos) that cradled in a sling, with mom leaning over now and then to kiss her head, 2 1/2 month old Victoria slept peacefully. To which us veteran babywearers say, “Like, duh!

So can you bring your baby to work with you? Would you like to?

Share your stories. And if you would like some help creating a child-friendly workplace, head over to the Parenting in the Workplace Institute which has all the resources you might need.

“Tits in the Parliament”: Are Fines for Breastfeeding Harassment Always a Good Thing?

For some months now I have been hearing about a proposed bill heading to the Taiwan Parliament that would impose a large fine (30,000 Taiwan dollars, about 940 US dollars) on “anyone attempting to prevent breastfeeding in public.” Breastfeeding advocates the world over have heralded this bill as a model for laws elsewhere. However, I have been unable to find a copy of the proposed Taiwanese law. Before I support penalties, I want to know what conduct is being outlawed. Is the Taiwan bill going to impose this fine on owners and employees of public accommodations or will anyone be subject to it? What constitutes “preventing” breastfeeding? Should a store owner who harasses a breastfeeding customer in any way be fined? In my view, absolutely. Public accommodations enjoy certain benefits from the state and are regulated so that they can be truly public. Should a passerby in the park who makes a rude remark be fined? In my view, no. Regulating speech is dangerous business. If I limit your ability to say things with which I disagree, you may limit my ability to say things with which you disagree. Down that road, I don’t get to say much.

But this post isn’t really about what conduct should be fined and what conduct should be endured. When I find out what the Taiwan law actually says, then I’ll see if it is appropriate to go on about free speech and the need to suffer fools in order to protect our own rights. This post is about what I found in my search for the text of the Taiwan bill.

Back in 2004 the Scottish Parliament was debating the ultimately successful passage of a bill imposing a large fine on stopping a woman from breastfeeding a child under age two in licensed premises (what would be called “public accommodations” in the U.S.). Now this is my kind of law. And this was also my kind of debate. A representative of the National Childbirth Trust said:

We therefore welcome this landmark legislation, which will establish a mothers’ right to breastfeed her baby whenever and wherever they are together and convey the message that breastfeeding is a positive choice to be supported by society rather than discouraged.

I admit, the little hairs on the back of my neck go up every time I see breastfeeding described as a choice. After giving birth, one can choose not to breastfeed but lactating happens when you give birth. But otherwise that statement is right on: mothers must be able to breastfeed their babies wherever they are. However, there was a statement in the Scottish Parliament that day I find more interesting and certainly more memorable. Then-Member of the Scottish Parliament Carolyn Leckie said the following; suitable for framing, T-shirt or refrigerator magnet:

There are tits all over the newspapers, tits all over newsagents’ shelves, tits all over the telly, tits in the cinema, tits in advertising hoardings and no doubt tits in the parliament.

All right, some U.K. friend is going to have to tell me what “advertising hoardings” are but Leckie makes a great point with a suitable amount of outrage. It isn’t breasts people object to – just breasts with children attached to them.

This is What a Nursing Toddler Looks Like

Top Hat over at Its All About the Hat suggested a Breastfeeding Blog Carnival called “This is What a Nursing Toddler Looks Like.” [This is my first blog carnival so I will link to the other participants as soon as I figure out the rules of the game – UPDATE: I have added some links at the bottom to other Carnival participants.] Luckily for me, the Carnival theme left a good bit of room for interpretation since I don’t currently have a nursing toddler. I have many fond memories of nursing my kids when they were toddlers and so do they. I and they remember how important it was that they could nurse when they were sick or hurt or needed comfort. We nursed when they needed some time with mom. We nursed when they were getting used to sharing mom with a new sibling. We nursed when they were hungry. We nursed to sleep. We nursed standing up and sitting down and in positions I used to call “Olympic Freestyle Nursing.”

A nursing toddler can also go hiking and he looks like this:


But with my kids getting older, I am seeing more of what a nursing toddler looks like when he is no longer nursing and is no longer a toddler. That can be someone who really understands how important it is that kids get to nurse and mothers get to nurse their kids. A former nursing toddler isn’t fazed by seeing women breastfeed wherever they are.

A few years ago my then 12 year old son saw me helping to organize a nurse-in. I explained that a woman had been quietly nursing her baby on a bench in a shopping mall when a security guard ordered her to stop and move. She refused, saying she needed to finish feeding her son. Soon she was surrounded by security guards who engaged her husband in a shouting match and left the woman terrified. When the mom shared her story and the shopping mall management refused to respond to her complaint about her treatment, a nurse-in was planned.

My son was confused – why would anyone think there was something wrong with a mother feeding her baby? Then he was mad – this was wrong. He asked if he could come to the nurse-in. When he saw me making signs, he asked if he could create one for himself. I told him that we expected press coverage and there was a chance his friends would see a photo of him from the protest. He was adamant that he wanted to be seen.

Back to the Carnival theme – This is What a Nursing Toddler Looks Like. He looks like a proud breastfeeding activist.


UPDATE: Other What Does a Nursing Toddler Looks Like Carnival participants.

A Breastfeeding Toddler Photoshoot, Escaping to my Controversial Place

The Joys, Humors, and Struggles of … , The Mother’s Lamentation

Nursing a (and Around a) Toddler Creates Cute Stories, Melissa’s Place

I Never Thought I’d Nurse a Toddler, The Prudent Woman

The Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding a Toddler, Breastfeeding Moms Unite

Nursing an Older Toddler, Musings of Mommy Bee

My Nursing Toddler Story, babyREADY

Beautiful at Any Age, A Piece of My Mind

This is What A Nursing Toddler Looks Like, Three Girl Pile-Up

This is What a Nursing Toddler Looks Like, Permission to Mother

This is a Nursing Toddler, Gaze Into the Heavens

This is What a Nursing Toddler Looks Like, My Seaside Retreat

Nursing a Toddler in a Ring Sling, PhD in Parenting

This is What a Nursing Toddler Looks Like … , Mama’s Apple Cores

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