Health Department educates mothers on public breastfeeding laws

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- The Eau Claire City-County Health Department is helping more mothers in our area know their rights when it comes to breastfeeding in public.

Since 2009, Wisconsin has had a law on the books allowing mothers to breastfeed their children in public and private locations.

That law also goes on to say no person can prohibit a mom from breastfeeding her child, ask a mother to move or ask a mother to cover while breastfeeding.

Workers at the health department say that they have had several cases where mothers have been asked to move or cover while breastfeeding. They say when that happens many moms are unsure of the law and the rights they have.

“It’s what's healthiest for the both of us and it’s inexpensive,” mother of three Angela Borgne said.

Borgne says breastfeeding was her first choice for her two month old son, but she admits it’s not always easy.

“When he is nursing he doesn't want to be covered he wants to be able to see mom. He wants to see the world he wants to be able to socialize,” she said.

“Breastfeeding has protections so that a mother is not required to cover herself or her child, be redirected somewhere or have a breastfeeding zone,” Attorney at Law Harry Hertel explained.

Hertel says Wisconsin law offers protections for nursing mothers. The Eau Claire City-County Health Department says they are teaching more mothers about their rights as more women turn to breastfeeding their babies.

“We want to make nursing normal as far as public health,” Public Health Nutritionist Alexis Tuma said.

Tuma says mothers have a right to breastfeed in public and the health department is working to remove public stigma surrounding the issue.

“When baby is nursing you don't see that much. It should not be too offensive,” Tuma added.

Local businesses say they follow the law while respecting all of their customers.

“If we receive complaints from people who don't fully understand what's going on we are caught a little bit in between,” Festival Foods Public Relations Director Nick Arlt said.

Arlt says they are put in a tough situation when they receive complaints of mothers breastfeeding in their stores. Arlt says if moms prefer, their stores have options for more private locations.

“If women choose to breastfeed at our stores they find a place they feel comfortable doing that we have some offices that are more private if they prefer,” Arlt said.

For Borgne, It all comes down to motherly instinct and knowing her son has the right to be fed whenever, wherever.

“I have a right and so does he.” Borgne said. “Are you going to tell me a two month old should starve because you are uncomfortable?”

The City-County Health Department says it does offer breastfeeding classes monthly for mothers who want to learn more.

The health department is also putting on a daylong conference on breastfeeding coming up in November.

For more information on those classes or to see the full state law follow the link on the right-hand side of this screen.

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