If you happened to be riding the southbound A train at noon today, you might have caught a glimpse of breasts. Two subway cars were packed with “lactivists” from groups like the New York City Breastfeeding Promotion Leadership Committee and the Brooklyn Alliance for Breastfeeding Empowerment (BABE), carrying signs that read “La leche materna es el mejor alimento” and “Breast milk is best milk.”
The signs, the T-shirts, the buttons and the boobs were on display to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and defend women’s right to breastfeed in public. The caravan’s final destination was a BABE-sponsored breastfeeding fair at Restoration Plaza in Bedford Stuyvesant, marking the beginning of —who knew? —World Breastfeeding Week.
State Senator Liz Krueger, author of the Breastfeeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights, was among the straphanging horde. The bill, which was passed by the Assembly but must still go before the Senate, requires that expectant moms be informed of breastfeeding options before they deliver and while in the hospital, and prevents formula providers from pressuring moms while they’re at the hospital.
On maternity floors, new moms often don’t get all the information because “nurses have a lot of beds, and if a mommy insists [her baby] have formula, doctors have to go with what the mommy says,” says Maria Elena Ballesteros, a breast feeding specialist at the WIC (Women, Infant and Children) Program. Often, new moms don’t know that breastfed infants have fewer medical problems and hospital stays than babies raised on formula, so they’ll choose formula over breastfeeding because, says Ballesteros, “It’s easy. Open the can and that’s it.”
Photo by Becca Tucker