House Bill 742Authored by Representative Farrar
Co-Authored by Representatives S. King and Collier
In 1995, the Legislature codified the right of mothers and babies to breastfeed wherever they are authorized to be (Texas Health & Safety Code §165.002). HB 232 makes this law function as originally intended.
Problem: Twenty-two years later, mothers are still frequently told to stop feeding their babies or asked to feed in another location, such as a restroom. These events are violations of H&S Code §165.002. These violations lead to a fear of confrontation for feeding one’s baby, which is a major barrier to breastfeeding.
Causes of Violations . . . and Legislative Solutions
1. Ignorance of the Law . . . Provide Education: Many violations appear to be due to ignorance of the law. Few businesses will knowingly violate the law. Educate businesses about the law, and the problem should largely disappear. HB 232 stipulates that the Comptroller’s office shall notify business owners of the law. No significant fiscal impact is implicated for the Comptroller’s office.
2. Refusal to Abide by the Law . . . Provide for Legal Recourse: Unfortunately, some refuse to abide by the law even when they are made aware of it. Allowing people to violate freely one Texas law causes loss of respect for all laws. HB 232 gives harassed mothers legal recourse. They may file suit for no more than $500. This provision communicates to businesses that following the law is not merely optional.
3. Misinterpretation of the Law . . . Clarify the Law: H&S Code §165.002, as currently written, is not explicit whether a mother’s authorization to be in a place may be revoked because she begins breastfeeding. It also is not clear whether restrictions – such as feeding the baby only in the restroom – may be put on the right to nurse. HB 232 explicitly states that no one may interfere with or restrict a mother’s right to breastfeed, and her authority to be in a location may not be revoked solely because she begins to breastfeed.
83% of people are comfortable with a mother nursing near them in public (W.K. Kellogg First Food Poll), and only 3% of people think breastfeeding in public is “wrong” (2014 Lansinoh Breastfeeding Survey). Yet reports in traditional and social media, such as the 80 incidents we have documented, leave mothers feeling that harassment is inevitable. For this reason, almost half of mothers cite anxiety over nursing in public as their greatest worry about breastfeeding (2012 Lansinoh Survey).
The legislature has agreed that mothers and babies should have the right to feed their babies wherever they are. Let’s make sure that the right is known and protected by passing House Bill 742.
Research Supporting the Importance of
Protection for Public Breastfeeding
Strengthening the right to breastfeed is crucial to ensuring that babies are breastfed, which is recognized as the optimum method of infant feeding. Breastfed babies need to eat frequently, and thus, need to be free to eat in public. Several studies have found that embarrassment and concerns about breastfeeding in public are major barriers to continuation of breastfeeding.
In order to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration and to reduce health inequities breastfeeding needs to be more visible.
Amir LH: Breastfeeding in public: “You can do it?” International Breastfeeding Journal, 2014; 9(1):187.
“The variability in support for breastfeeding by managers of restaurants and shopping centers will continue to create uncertainty for mothers wishing to breastfeed in these public places.”
McIntyre E, Turnbull D, Hiller J: Breastfeeding in public places. Journal of Human Lactation, 1999; 15(2):131-135.
Nursing women “felt ‘vulnerable’ nursing in public. Certain proactive behaviors and personal attributes as well as support from other women enabled them to breastfeed successfully in public.”
Sheeshka J, Potter B, Valaitis R, et al. Women’s experiences breastfeeding in public places. Journal of Human Lactation, 2001; 17(1):31-38.
“[P]ublic perception needs to be changed and legislation prohibiting discrimination against breastfeeding in public needs to be encouraged and supported,” based on findings that more than a quarter of surveyed adults found breastfeeding in public embarrassing.
Li R, Fridinger F, Grummer-Strawn L: Public perceptions on breastfeeding constraints. Journal of Human Lactation, 2002; 18:227.
“Lack of family and broad societal support is an obstacle to breastfeeding.”
American Academy of Pediatrics Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 2005; 115(2):496-506.
“Interventions to increase public acceptance of breastfeeding include legislation ensuring the right to breastfeed.”
Shealy KR, Li R, Benton-Davis S, et al. The CDC Guide to Breastfeeding Interventions. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005.