Woman not allowed to breastfeed in Crawford County court

    7:38 PM, Aug 4, 2010   |    comments
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    A court bailiff told her to leave because she was breastfeeding her baby.

    When it comes to breastfeeding in public, Arkansas law states -- a woman may breastfeed a child in a public place or any place where other individuals are present.

    Read about breastfeeding laws in Arkansas here. (PDF)

    Nicole House arrived at the Crawford County courthouse to testify in a divorce case, covered herself with a cloth and breast-fed her daughter as she waited to be sworn in.

    "Then he [the bailiff] asked again, 'Are you breastfeeding?' I said 'Yeah.', and he said 'Don't you ever do that again here!' I was under the impression that the law said it was okay to breastfeed in a private or a public place where individuals are present," says House.

    But is the courtroom a public place?

    Holly Dickson, ACLU staff attorney, says there aren't exemptions to the law.

    "There aren't exceptions to the statute about this being a non-public place. If a court hearing is a closed and it sounds like someone is trying to stretch the statue to make an exception," Dickson says.

    Chief Deputy Attorney General Brad Phelps released a statement, simply saying,"We are not aware of any Arkansas cases that have addressed this issue."

    "Some individuals have a perception that breastfeeding is a something other than a natural way to feed a baby. And that's where their issues lie," says WIC State Breastfeeding coordinator Sandra Jones.

    Jones says it's important to look beyond issues and focus on the benefits.

    "When they see that breastfeeding is part of health in general or part of life. It makes it a little more comfortable to talk about, to discuss, to accept it. So it takes time."

    House is filing an official complaint with the Crawford County sheriff's office regarding the bailiff that confronted her. She hopes no mom ever experiences what she did.

    "He really embarrassed me like maybe it was shameful for somebody to breastfeed, and I don't feel that it is," House adds.

    State Representative Pam Adcock spear-headed the bill in 2009 which allows women to breast feed in public. She says it's disappointing to hear this is still an issue; adding she never thought there would be a need to specify actual locations to define "public place" in the bill.

    According to the CDC, Arkansas ranks last in the nation when it comes to correct breastfeeding success. Read the 10 Steps to successful breastfeeding here. (PDF)

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