Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mister Rogers

Mister Rogers was a brilliant man.  So what would have been his take on breastfeeding?

An autographed photo of Mister Rogers,
which he sent to my husband in 1983.

Yesterday was Mr. Fred Rogers' birthday. 

It's been a decade now since the world lost this wonderful man.  A man who made children feel loved, just the way they are, and gave a crotchety Senator goosebumps.  A man who was gifted with so many insights about children and how they learn and feel and grow. 

I think most everyone recognizes that Fred Rogers was spot on with everything he said.  Always honest, always caring - he earned our trust.  He was special. 

So how would he have felt about nursing in public?

From Adam's scrapbook - Mister Rogers' letter
How do you think?  What's your best guess about how this great man, who was so in tune with children and how best to respect them and teach them - what is your guess about how he might have treated the topic of breastfeeding?

My husband, Adam, has always been a huge fan of Fred Rogers.  When he was eight years old, he wrote to him.  Mister Rogers wrote back. 

Adam even wrote a song about him when he died.

Yesterday he posted these photos to Facebook, and a friend of his commented that she liked the "Mister Rogers Talks about Food" episode, and today he found it online.

In it, Mister Rogers says that moms often find pleasure in feeding their babies - feeding their babies is a way of showing love.

In the clip below, there are different animals nursing their offspring.  As the mama cat is nursing, the camera gets a close up of a kitten, and you can see that it latches on to the mama's nipple to drink milk.  I thought as I watched it, "How wonderful!  Kids can really see it.  It takes the mystery out of it."

(You may want to watch for yourself now, to avoid my spoiler below.)

As I watched, I hoped that Mister Rogers would show women nursing on his show, even though I was happy even just to see calves and kittens.  And then - boom! - a nipple.  

A mama nursing her baby, and not even covered up.  

On TV, on a brilliant children's program.  Taking all the mystery out of breastfeeding, so that children can see and understand the primary function of breasts.  While they're young, before they've received the message broadcast so loudly by our society that breasts are sexy.  Cause how confusing must that be?  

Going from "breasts are for feeding babies" to "breasts are attractive" is as natural a progression as going from kisses on your neck tickling as a child to kisses on your neck tingling as a teen.  Starting with cleavage on pretty Disney princesses and then finally mentioning to adolescents that mammary glands are the best way to nourish a baby - that's what could be damaging to a child.

I'm still dealing with AISD so I have to say here that as the vast majority of mothers do, I will conform to society's expectations that I do not reveal any of my breast while I nurse my baby at school.  And my agenda with AISD has only ever been for mothers to feel at ease to feed their babies at schools as needed without being shamed.

But in the wider world, normalizing breastfeeding absolutely includes children seeing mothers feeding their babies as we were designed to do.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so.  The brilliant, gentle Mr. Fred Rogers thought so, too. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two Worlds Collide

UPDATE 3/23/13: You can see video of my speech and the post-communication discussion of suspending policy work by clicking here.  I have been informed that the board policy committee will not meet until June 11 (instead of next week) because they are all very busy working on the Bond election.  

Tonight I spoke at yet another board meeting.  I wasn't sure what I haven't already said, but I didn't want to waste an opportunity to try to get through to whomever may still disagree with my perspective.  Below is my speech.  I'll edit this post tomorrow to add the video when Adam has finished it.  You see, he had it about ready to go when Citizen Communication concluded and the board discussed suspending work on a board policy until we know the fate of HB 1706.  Ugh.  Spring break ended yesterday and already I can't wait for summer, when all of this will be done.  Or so I thought.  

Below my speech is my letter to the board, in response to the Chairman's interest in knowing more about the legislation.   

January board meeting - Marianne Baker, Lauren Reyes,
Barbara Brawn, Gail Gresham, & Kristine Phillips Keller
Good evening.  In less than two weeks the board policy committee will meet and breastfeeding will be on the agenda.  I don’t know the procedure beyond that, and I wanted to talk to you again before a decision’s made.
Two months ago when I was here, my baby was falling asleep in his father’s arms, but every two minutes a speech would end and the applause would wake him.  I nursed him to sleep, just before my turn.  So I was breastfeeding here at the podium.  It wasn’t a stunt - just a necessity.

Last month, he couldn’t fall asleep.  I bounced him, he cooed.  He was a distraction.  He was disruptive.
When I was breastfeeding him, that was not disruptive.
Breastfeeding is not a tequila bottle or a curse word on a T-shirt.  Limiting distractions and disruptions that could be caused by fashion makes sense in a dress code, but there is no place for it in language regarding breastfeeding. 
If my child required a service animal (even a miniature horse) there’s no provision in the applicable policy that states, “If your dog’s really cute and the kids all want to pet him, you’ll have to be secluded away.”
There’s already a federal law which grants schools the right to tell a parent they have to leave if they’re disrupting the environment, but there’s no redundant language to reflect this in the service animals policy.
If I were Korean, black, a Baptist, blind, or in my eighties, no one would say to me, “It’s okay for you to be 83, as long as your being 83 does not disrupt the teaching and learning environment.”  Or, “You can be blind, but if it distracts anyone, you’ll have to go be blind in a private room."
Breastfeeding mothers are not a protected class.  But neither are parents with nose rings, or tattoos, or those who smell strongly of cigarette smoke.  But no one’s telling those parents that if those things draw attention, they’ll be segregated. 
And if someone did, while disconcerting and inappropriate, it wouldn't pose a risk to public health.  I can’t emphasize this enough: when breastfeeding is stigmatized as something which may be disruptive or distracting, rather than treated as normal and healthy, we take a great risk, for which our children will suffer. 


Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you again tonight about the importance of supporting breastfeeding mothers.  I rushed out to get my baby home and to bed even though he is all mixed up by the time change, and once home I learned of the conversation the board had regarding current legislation related to breastfeeding. 

HB 1706 will strengthen Texas' existing right-to-breastfeed law.  You can read the bill and subscribe to updates at this link:

Texas Health & Safety Code Sec.165.002 currently reads "A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be."

It is a terrific law which asserts a mother's right and comforts many women who are nervous about breastfeeding in public. 

However, there is no provision which actually protects the right.  While Austin ISD is working on whether and how other laws pertaining to students and parents must be taken into consideration when interpreting how to implement 165.002, places like Hollister Co. and Pure Fitness for Women are simply ignoring the law altogether. 

HB 1706 strengthens the language of the law by adding the word "otherwise" before "authorized to be" and stipulates that a mother cannot have her authority to be in a place revoked for breastfeeding, and that no one may interfere with or restrict her right.

In my opinion, the most important and potentially effective aspect of the bill is that it will notify businesses of the law via the Comptroller's office.  It is usually an ill-informed employee who insists a nursing mother must move or altogether leave a place of public accommodation.  If more business owners were aware of the law and trained their employees accordingly, fewer women would face discrimination.

The sticking point may be the enforcement provision, which grants a private right of action.  It is possible that some legislators will be concerned about people filing lawsuits.  It is equally possible that more legislators will recognize that a law which can be ignored with impunity weakens respect for the rule of law. 

A similar bill has failed in the past few legislative sessions; in the past the proposed enforcement provision was a fine.  But a fine would require creating a system to assess fines, which would create a need to finance that system. 

A private cause of action is not accessible to very many women; it would not result in rampant lawsuits.  Most families cannot afford a lawyer and do not have time for a lawsuit.  It would be difficult to prove damages, or even to get a lawyer to take the case.

It would however stand to remind businesses that the right has weight.

The language in the initial version of HB 1706 broadly defines an "interested person;" this language will be narrowed in response to concern voiced by the representative of NFIB, the only organization which testified against the bill.  There was significant support for the bill represented by individual stakeholders and health organizations. 

You can imagine how invested I personally am in this bill.  You see how motivated I have been to protect mothers and babies in our part of Texas.  I want very much to improve our law for all of Texas.

However, I see it as entirely unrelated to the policy at AISD. 

Texas has a right-to-breastfeed law.  We are asking AISD to have a right-to-breastfeed policy. 

Regardless of the outcome of this bill, the law exists for a reason.  With or without an enforcement provision, the law should be respected. 

Tonight's discussion of HB 1706 was unexpected.  I choose not to believe that AISD would take failure of the bill to mean that 165.002 can be ignored.  I choose to believe that AISD instead would feel emboldened to take a stronger stand in favor of the health of mothers and babies if the bill becomes law.

I ask that you continue with the policy work that you have begun and fully support breastfeeding regardless of the outcome of HB 1706.

If I may be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me via email or at the number below.  I hope that this information is helpful to you in determining how to proceed.

Best Regards,
Krisdee Donmoyer

Postscript: On my way out, a man in the lobby who had just watched my speech on the TV screen there thanked me. That means more to me than he can possibly know.  Isn't it incredible the effect we can have on people, both positive and negative, without ever realizing our impact? 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Regarding Rep. Riddle

Obligatory NIP photo, because NIP is freakin' awesome,
not immodest or lewd or in any way offensive. 
Photo courtesy of Tatiana Tate
Representative Riddle on Tuesday afternoon announced that House Bill 1706 does not have her support, remarking, while she was at it, that breastfeeding mothers need to be modest.  Instantly, breastfeeding advocates jumped in to comment, sometimes with gentle education and other times with "snarky" (according to the media) insults.

This is my bill.  Not really, it's Rep. Farrar's, but I am so invested in this bill.  I've been working to support our breastfeeding bills for weeks, to the point of exhaustion and dehydration, to the extreme detriment of my already messy home, and sometimes to the annoyance of my slightly neglected kids.  I skipped driving to the pharmacy to refill my Synthroid prescription for a whole week after running out because I was too busy working toward making this bill law.

You can think I'm stupid or nuts for this, or, you can try to understand the magnitude of HB 1706 for nursing mothers.

I'm not alone in this work.  Many women in and out of Texas have made sacrifices to spend countless hours gathering and sharing information.  We are striving to communicate the need for this bill to the representatives who will decide whether or not it continues through the legislative process.  (Rep. Riddle, by the way, is not among those representatives - as in, she's not even on the committee.)

This is my bill, our bill.  It belongs to the breastfeeding mothers of Texas, their babies, and their advocates.    And with intelligence, education, and diplomacy, we can help make it law.

I understand the frustration felt by the women who engage the opponents of the bill and make "snarky" comments.  I get that it can be hard to make your irritation (or fury, depending on how many comments you've read) take a back seat as you craft a well thought out, respectful, educational reply (and then proofread it).

But if the focus of all this media attention is put on flippant remarks, we stand to lose this bill, and it will be two years before we have another shot at it. So please, when commenting on Rep. Farrar's post or the media coverage of it, remember who you are representing.

With every comment you make, you represent mothers who may not breastfeed for as long or at all if this bill is not made law.  You represent babies who stand to have less incidence of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, allergies, asthma, ear infections, celiac disease, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) - and the list goes on and on and on.  You speak as a representative of mothers who will have lower rates of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  And postpartum depression - not just from breastfeeding but because they aren't holed up at home alone because they're too afraid to breastfeed in public. 
(See research citations below.)

Please, for the love of breastmilk and babies, show the world that breastfeeding advocates are on the smart side of this issue.  If you're yelling and demeaning people, they're not going to listen to you.  You're a mom.  You see it with your kids, right?  Adults are no different.  Criticize them and they'll ignore you. 

Over here on the smart side of this issue, you and I know that moms are not likely to have the time and money (I was told 10 grand) to sue a business.  (And those of us who have had NIP incidents know that attorneys aren't calling at all hours offering to work pro bono.  Not even the ACLU called me back.)  Furthermore, it would be very hard to prove damages, so you might even be hard pressed to get a lawyer to take the case if you were paying him/her.  

One vital aspect of this bill is that it gives the Comptroller's office the responsibility of communicating to business owners that there is a law protecting a mother's right to breastfeed.  This may really be more powerful than the enforcement provision which will protect our right.

A business owner reading an email from the Comptroller is going to think two things: "Oh - there's a law that says mothers can breastfeed in my place of public accommodation.  I did not know that."  And, "Oh, they really mean it with this law.  I can't just revoke that mom's authority to be in my establishment, they could potentially sue me if I do."  And maybe one more - "Well, gee whiz, that sure makes it easier to handle complaints.  I don't have to try to please one person by possibly humiliating another.  I can just tell anyone who complains that I'm following the law, and I could be sued if I don't."

So the problem of 40% of women being so worried about nursing in public that it's their top barrier to breastfeeding can be greatly impacted by knowing that business owners are telling their employees they have a right to nurse anywhere.  The problem is addressed through the education on the law, so NIP incidents plummet and lawsuits would be rare, not rampant.

And more importantly, babies and moms would be healthier.  Not to mention the economic benefits of keeping the patronage of breastfeeding moms and our supporters - more than 60% of Americans, according to a new poll by the Kellogg Foundation, as well as the economic benefits of saved health care costs.

People are going to spout off about law suits, the role of government, and modesty, but this is about NONE of those, so don't get sucked in.   

This is a bi-partisan, public health issue.

The current law we are seeking to strengthen, Health and Safety Code 165.002,  was voted into law almost unanimously.  Authored by Democrat Debra Danburg after a friend was ousted from a restaurant for breastfeeding, it was passed through the House and Senate and was signed into law in 1995 by then-governor President George W. Bush.   


It's a good law.  We love the law.   The thing is, a law which can be ignored with impunity weakens respect for the rule of law.  A brilliant woman told me that. 

This good law, and the mothers and babies it seeks to protect, deserve respect.

Trolls on the internet and even Rep. Riddle don't really matter.   At this moment, HB 1706 is pending in the Business and Industry Committee.  If you're a Texan and you have five minutes, don't spend it commenting on Rep. Riddle.  If this issue matters to you, send an email to the representatives who matter to it.  Because the most important thing about Riddle's stance right now is that it is irrelevant if we don't make it out of committee.

If you're not a Texan, please share our advocacy efforts outlined at where there is information about our letter-writing campaign and our call for NIP incidents (which prove the necessity of this bill).

If you're on Facebook, share this group, and the graphic below.  And you can make the badge to the left your profile picture by scaling it to fit.

IF you comment on Rep. Riddle's post or on media coverage and you're a Texan, please begin your comment by saying so - and if you're in Rep. Riddle's district, 150, include that.  Click to look up your representative or check her district map.

PLEASE do not engage the trolls/opponents. They often make themselves look ignorant without any help from us, and when we start arguing, we're likely to get frustrated and become less diplomatic.

In fact, not reading the other comments can be a really good idea.

PLEASE be respectful of Representative Riddle. Here are some helpful guidelines.

You may feel you have been disrespected, and that makes it difficult to be diplomatic.  It also makes it hard to hear the other person.  And these comments should be about being heard, not just talking.  So make sure your voice is heard, and that you can be proud of how you represent other breastfeeding moms.  Please.

For this little guy, and so many more.

Bellybean nursed to sleep in the back of the room as the hearing for
House Bills 1706 and 741 drew to a close Tuesday.

Research on Health Benefits: 

Lancet 2002; 359:2003-2004.     
Pediatrics 2002; 110:597-608. 

Lucas A, Brooke OG, Morley R, et al. "Early diet of preterm infants and development of allergic ar atopic disease: randomized prospective study". Br Med J. 1990:300:837-840
Halken S, Host A, Hansen LG, et al. "Effect of an allergy prevention programme on incidence of atopic symptoms in infancy". Ann Allergy. 1992;47:545-553
Saarinen UM, Kajossari M. "Breastfeeding as prophylaxis against atopic disease: prospective follow-up study until 17 years old."
Lancet. 1995;346:1065-1069

Breastfed babies have lower risk for developing recurrent wheezing when they are older (age 6 or more). Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Med., July 1995), 

ear infections
"Otitis media is up to 3-4 times more prevalent in formula-fed infants".
Aniansson G, Alm B, Andersson B, et al. "A prospective cohort study on breast-feeding and otitis media in Swedish infants". Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1994; 13:183-188
Kovar MG, Serdula MK, Marks JS, et al. "Review of the epidemiologic evidence for an association between infant feeding and infant health." Pediatrics. 1984:74:S615-S638
Saarinen UM. "Prolonged Breast Feeding as prophylaxis for recurrent otitis media." Acta Paediatr Scand1982;71:567-571 )

celiac disease
Akobeng, et al.: Effect of breastfeeding on risk of celiac disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of
observational studies. Archives of Disease in Children 2005.

Ford RPK, Taylor BJ, Mitchell EA, et al. "Breastfeeding and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Int J. Epidemiol. 1993;22:885-890
Mitchell EA, Taylor BJ, Ford RPK, et al. "Four modifiable and other major risk factors for cot death: the New Zealand Study". 
J Paediatr Child Health. 1992;28:S3-S8
Scragg LK, Mitchell EA, Tonkin SL, et al. Evaluation of the cot death prevention programme in South Auckland. 
NZ Med J. 1993;106:8-10)

breast cancer
Epidemiology 1994; 5:324-331.
American Journal of Epidemiology 2000; 152(12):1129-1135.
Lancet 2002; 360(9328):1871-95.
ovarian cancer 
Rosenblatt KA, Thomas DB, "WHO Collaborative Study of Neoplasia and Steroid Contraceptives". Int J Epidemiol. 1993;22:192-197
Schneider, A.P. "Risk Factor for Ovarian Cancer". New England Journal of Medicine, 1987.)

postpartum depression
Groer M: Differences between exclusive breastfeeders, formula-feeders, and controls: A study of stress, mood, and endocrine variables. Biological Research for Nursing 2005; 7:106-117.

Research on Fear of NIP as Barrier to Breastfeeding:

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.

"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.

“[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.

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Lack of family and broad societal support is an obstacle to breastfeeding.”  Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk, Pediatrics February 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, Grummer-Strawn LM. The CDC Guide to Breastfeeding Interventions. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005.  

Research compiled by Central Texas Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition

Friday, March 15, 2013

Call to Action

HB 1706 & HB 741:

Go to for information about how to support breastfeeding legislation.


With AISD, we are in a holding pattern as the Board Policy Committee gathers input before coming to a decision.

Until a policy is adopted, you can sign our petition and share it with friends.  

Whatever it takes, I'm in this for the (potential) long haul, until we get what we deserve - a policy that upholds the law and respects a mother's right to nurse her baby wherever her baby is hungry.

Amplify Our Voices:

Please like us on facebook follow us on twitter.   

And while you're still here on the blog, follow/subscribe, & show your support with a comment.  

And tell all your friends! 

Nursing Sweet Pea, October 2010

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Business & Industry Committee Public Hearing on HB 1706 & HB 741

With Bellybean in front of the Capitol
after the hearing

On Monday I went to the Capitol to visit with the legislators who are on
the B&I Committee.  I've always loved this grand building.  But on
Monday when I walked into the rotunda, I was overcome with emotion
On past visits I had never connected so viscerally with the
magnitude of what happens within those magnificent walls. 
It is a fitting space for the incredible things that can happen there.

House Bills 1706 and 741 went before the Business and Industry Committee in a public hearing on Tuesday, March 12.  Testimony - almost all for the bills, was given by several people, including myself and some advocates I am grateful to know.  Michelle Hickman is Director of Activism of the Best for Babes Foundation and the woman who created their national nursing in public incident hotline.  Dr. Susan Landers is a Neonatologist for Seton Family of Hospitals, and Past Chair of Texas Breastfeeding Coalition.  Gail Gresham is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at a hospital, and is President of Central Texas Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.  I was honored to have been invited to speak with these remarkable women.

My amazing husband Adam found the recording of the hearing online and edited it down to just our bills.

Michelle Hickman, Dr. Susan Landers, MD, me & Bellybean, & Gail Gresham, IBCLC
Below are minute marks for each speaker.  Capitalized names are the ones I'm sure of, the others are just my best guesses at names given on the video.

HB 1706
05:00 Catherine Clarkson
15:00 GAIL GRESHAM, IBCLC, Texas Breastfeeding Coalition
18:00 MICHELLE HICKMAN, Director of Activism, Best for Babes Foundation
28:00 *Kathy Barber, National Federation of Independent Business (against the bill))
29:30 reading of those for & against bill
33:40 Johnny, representing firefighters

HB 741
36:52 REP. WALLE
41:00 Stephanie Diaz, TX State Employees Union, supervisor, CPS
43:45 KRISDEE DONMOYER, Central Texas HMHB & Keep Austin Nursing in Public
47:00 Rebecca Graber
1:00:00 Yvonne Porterfield
1:03:30 Johnny Villareal, Houston Professional Firefighters Association, Local 341
1:04:40 Paige Williams, Texas Classroom Teachers Association
1:08:45 **Laura Mueller, Texas Municipal League (on the bill)
1:09:45 reading of those for & against bill
1:12:20 REP. WALLE

The bills will be pending in committee for a week, maybe longer.  If they pass through this committee, the Calendars (Procedural) Committee will determine if they make it on the calendar to be voted on by the House of Representatives, and if they are passed by the House they will go on to the Senate.

This is the text of my testimony for House Bill 741.  Special thanks to Marianne Baker for helping me to edit it down to three minutes.

Good afternoon, representatives, and happy birthday, Chairman Oliveira.  

I’m Krisdee Donmoyer. I’m a stay-at-home mother of three young boys.

I’m also the Outreach coordinator of Central Texas Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, and a member of the Texas Breastfeeding Coalition.

I blog at Keep Austin Nursing in Public, and over 1,300 people are supporting efforts to convince Austin ISD not to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers.

Through this, I have heard from many mothers who need to express breastmilk for their babies while at work.

One mother, Patty, relayed to me that when she returned to work as an early childhood intervention teacher, she tried to pump for awhile in either a frequently used closet, or the only restroom available for teachers. She eventually gave up pumping, and supplemented with formula. Without pumping for all those hours each day, her milk supply failed.

Another mother, Anna Smith, wrote to me,

“I was a kindergarten teacher in Marlin, TX for 5 years. This past May I had my baby... I... informed... (the principal) that I was a nursing mother and I would need a place to pump and... a short break in the afternoon to pump since my conference period and lunch time were in the morning. He cooperated for the first two weeks of this school year and then one day no one showed up to relieve me for my break. I was in pain! I talked with him... and... he informed me that he could no longer provide relief for me to pump. I told him that I was not going to stop providing breastmilk for my baby and I needed that break in the afternoon or... we would have to discuss my resignation. He... allowed me to resign.”

Patty still regrets that she was unable to continue breastfeeding. Anna is sad that she had to leave her students, and is thankful that her husband’s income covers their monthly expenses.  In both stories, the mothers faced a difficult choice that women should not have to make. Give up breastfeeding, or give up my job?

Anna’s story was just at the beginning of this school year.  Patty’s... was in 1983.

In 30 years, nothing has changed for so many women.

I recently spoke with a school district superintendent who didn’t understand how frequently babies eat or the supply and demand nature of breastfeeding. He essentially said that his teachers are adults, and they can figure out on their own how to make pumping work.

In fact many teachers in that district were left feeling that they could not pump during the school day. Without administration support to help with a short break and a clean place to pump, most teachers can’t manage pumping at school.

And even in a district such as Austin ISD, where they say they’ve been providing rooms for pumping for the last decade, three moms have reported to me that they have nowhere on their campuses to pump this year.

I’ve been a teacher, and I know how complicated it can be to pump at school. But it can be done. Thankfully, many mothers have been supported for a full year of pumping.

Their administration was understanding, their co-workers supportive. The health benefits and reduced absenteeism far outweigh the costs of an added scheduling complication, and the teachers feel very loyal as a result.

In a field dominated by women and where turnover rates are high, supporting a mother so that she does not have to choose between her baby and her job is worth the extra effort.

I ask you to support HB 741 and grant public employees worksite accommodations to support mothers and their breastfeeding babies.

Thank you.
This little ladybug landed on me when
we left the Capitol after the hearing.  I'm not
superstitious, but I do hope she
brought us good luck.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Letter-Writing Campaign for HB 1706 & HB 741

Thank you to Pamela Riemenschneider
& Baby Ike for this photo!

HB 1706 & HB 741 went to the House floor on Tuesday, March 13th.  They will be pending in committee for probably a week or longer.  Texans, please write a new email weekly if you can.  Below are guidelines and sample letters for emails from individuals, then letters from breastfeeding groups, and of course, contact information. Currently most sample letters speak to HB 1706; please add HB 741.  HB 741 needs our support as well; it will extend worksite accommodations to salaried public employees.  HB 1706 strengthens the right-to-breastfeed law.

Ready... Set... Go!


Please send letters to the Business & Industry committee members:
  1. **Committee Chair** Rep. Rene Oliveira - D - District 37:
  2. **Committee Vice Chair** Rep. Dwayne Bohac - R - District 138:
  3. Rep. Armando Walle - D - District 140:
  4. Rep. Jason Villalba - R - District 114:
  5. Rep. Rob Orr - R- District 58:
  6. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez - D - District 51:
  7. Rep. Paul Workman - R - District 47:

If you want to send your email once rather than individualized emails as listed above, you can copy & paste this list & then add your representative:,,,,,,

And also to your district representative:

Sample letters are below. Personalize one as much as you can, begin by introducing yourself as a constituent, and keep it short (two paragraphs). Make certain that letters are not antagonistic or accusatory. If we get out of committee next week, try to email weekly.

If you would like a reply, please include:
  1. Name
  2. Physical Address
  3. Zip Code
  4. Phone Number(s)

Example #1

Hello Rep. _____,

I hope this email finds you well. As a resident of _______, I’m writing to ask for your support of House Bill 1706 sponsored by Rep. Farrar and Rep. King, and House Bill 741, sponsored by Rep. Walle and Rep. Hernandez Luna. Currently Texas law states "A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be." However, this merely asserts her right. It does not protect her right, as there is currently no enforcement provision. Mothers are frequently discriminated against for feeding their children while they are out supporting the economy by shopping for their families and eating in restaurants. Fear of this discrimination prevents many mothers from choosing optimal nutrition for their babies as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and others. HB 1706 will not only serve mothers and babies, it will inform businesses of the law and allow them to avoid the negative media attention that sometimes follows an incident where an ill-informed employee humiliates a mother who is trying only to feed her child.

In addition, House Bill 741 would extend worksite pumping protections to salaried public employees. Currently, state employees like teachers are often forced to choose between providing breastmilk for their babies or keeping their jobs. HB 741 would give these working mothers the same protection that is already afforded to hourly workers under federal law: reasonable accommodations for pumping milk for babies up to a year old.

As a breastfeeding mom and an advocate for mothers and children, I urge you to support this legislation as we take this to a new level and truly protect a woman’s right to breastfeed. HB 1706 has already received media coverage from Dallas Observer, Houston Press, The Spring Observer, and The Stir (links below). I would love the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this public health issue. Thank you for your time!

___Contact Info____

Example #2

Hello Representative _______,

I am a breastfeeding mother living in __________, and it has come to my attention that House Bills 1706 and 741, sponsored by Representatives Farrar and King, and Walle and Hernandez Luna, respectively, are pending in committee. I ask that you support them.  Under the current law, a woman has the right to breastfeed in any location that she has permission to be.  However, because there are currently no consequences for disturbing a breastfeeding mother, this law is often violated. Additionally, federal law requires that working mothers paid on an hourly basis receive reasonable breaks for pumping and a space to do it in, but there is no protection like this for salaried public employees such as teachers.

I ask that you help us to support these pieces of legislation so that we can give our children the best possible nutrition without fear of harassment; so mothers won't be forced to choose between their babies and their jobs.  This topic has received media coverage from The Dallas Observer, The Spring Observer, and Houston Press, and The Stir (see links below).  I would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you to discuss this public health issue.  Thank you for your consideration.

___Contact Info____

Example #3

Hello Rep. ______ ,

I hope this email finds you well. I am a mother who resides in the State of Texas and I am writing to ask for your support for House Bill 1706, sponsored by Rep. Farrar and Rep. King. Texas law already recognizes breastfeeding as the best method of infant nutrition and entitles a mother to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be; however she is not truly protected because there is no enforcement of that law and is thus at risk of being bullied.

Breastmilk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. It gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development. It is safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses - such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide. Breastmilk is readily available and affordable, which helps to ensure that infants get adequate sustenance (World Health Organization, 2012).

As a breastfeeding mom and advocate for mothers and children, I urge you to support this legislation to better protect a woman’s right to breastfeed. I would welcome the chance to meet with you to further discuss the importance of community support and breastfeeding!

Thank you for your time and support,
___Contact Info____

Example #4

Dear Rep. __________,

I'm a new mother in ______, TX, and I breastfeed my baby. Currently, state law asserts that I have the right to nurse my baby anywhere that I am authorized to be... but that hasn't stopped people from asking me to move to a private area when I breastfeed my ______, or telling me that I need to cover up with a blanket (even though I take care not to expose myself). Other Texas women have been harassed even more harshly than I, have been humiliated publicly, and have been banished from public places, all for giving their babies the very best food available: breastmilk. This has caused many of my friends to avoid nursing in public at all costs, which incidentally has a side effect of depriving local businesses of potential customers. HB 1706 would amend the law to create a private right of action as a recourse for mothers who are discriminated against or harassed for nursing in any public place where they are already allowed to be. Please support this bill, and support Texas mothers.

Thank you,
__________ and son/daughter __________ (___ months)
___Contact Info____

Example #5

Hello Rep ____,
I am a constituent of your district ___ and breastfed/am breastfeeding my child(ren). I’m writing to ask your support for House Bill 1706, sponsored by Rep. Farrar and Rep. King. Texas law already recognizes breastfeeding as the best method of infant nutrition and entitles a mother to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be; however she is not truly protected because there is no enforcement of that law, leaving her at risk of being bullied.
Mothers like me are frequently discriminated against for feeding their children in public. This happens at malls, restaurants, and parks across the state. [optional: insert your NIP incident here] The fear of being belittled by another person can be enough motivation for some moms not to breastfeed, despite recommendations from some of the biggest health organizations in the world including the AAP and WHO. The benefits of breastfeeding are well known, but a nervous new mom may choose not to breastfeed to avoid potential public ridicule. HB 1706 will not only serve mothers and babies, it will ensure that businesses and their employees are up to date on what the law protects. As a breastfeeding mom and advocate for mothers and children, I urge you to support this legislation as we strive to truly protect a woman’s right to breastfeed.

District ____
___Contact info___


Please help us locate and get all leaders of every state and local breastfeeding coalition, the Texas chapter of AAP, Texas Baby Friendly folks, Texas Mother Friendly folks, Texas IBCLC clubs, or whomever you can think of (hospitals?) to write a letter asking the 7 committee members of the Business & Industry Committee for support:
  1. **Committee Chair** Rep. Rene Olveira - D - District 37:
  2. **Committee Vice Chair** Rep. Dwayne Bohac - R - District 138:
  3. Rep Armando Walle - D - District 140:
  4. Rep. Jason Villalba - R - District 114:
  5. Rep. Rob Orr - R- District 58:
  6. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez - D - District 51:
  7. Rep. Paul Workman - R - District 47:

We are also asking that you email them to ( so that we can see who has sent letters and who hasn't, and so that we can print out the letters for the public hearing on Tuesday at the request of Nishi, the staffer from Rep. Farrar's office.

If you want to send one email rather than individualized emails as listed above, you can copy & paste this list:,,,,,,,

Letters should begin with an introduction of your group. They should talk about health benefits of BF, how you support BF, and HB 1706. Letters from a mom should be personalized from the mom's point of view, but these letters should be personalized from the organization's view. Letters should be polite, of course (not antagonistic or accusing). These letters can be more lengthy than the 2 paragraph max for letters from individuals (but still somewhat brief). Include contact information with the signature. See sample letter below.

Thanks, thanks, and more thanks to who ever helps work on this by notifying and collecting letters from BF groups.

Example Letter:

Hello Rep. ________,

We are the _____________ located in __________, Texas. We ____(serve the community in this way)________. We are asking that you support House Bill 1706, sponsored by Rep. Farrar and Rep. King. Texas law already recognizes breastfeeding as the best method of infant nutrition and entitles a mother to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be; however she is not truly protected because there is no enforcement of that law, and she is thus at risk of being harassed.

There is a large push in the state to increase breastfeeding rates through initiatives like Baby-Friendly Hospital designations and Texas Ten Step Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative. Only 13.7% of Texan mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of life as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and other leading health organizations. Initiatives like those mentioned call for support from the community to improve breastfeeding rates.

Mothers are frequently discriminated against for feeding their children while they are out supporting the economy as mothers do. Fear of this discrimination prevents many mothers from choosing optimal nutrition for their babies. HB 1706 will not only serve mothers and babies, it will inform businesses of the law and allow them to avoid the negative media attention that sometimes follows an incident where an ill-informed employee humiliates a mother who is trying only to feed her child.

As representatives of many of your constituents, we urge you to support this legislation as we take this to a new level and truly protect a woman’s right to breastfeed. We are available as a resource to you if you would be available to further discuss the importance of community support and breastfeeding!

Best Regards,


The credit for the writing here is not all mine - mostly it goes to several women.  I apologize for not tracking down everyone's names right now.  Thank you for helping us all to make a difference!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

HB 1706

My head is spinning - I'm dizzy with excitement!  A bill has been filed to strengthen our right-to-breastfeed law in Texas!  

I've wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but at first I was paranoid about how to garner massive support without inviting opposition.  Now I'm so busy working on ways to help get it passed that I don't want to take much time to blog.  So I'm just going to link you to all of the blogs and media outlets that are covering it.  

If you'd like to help work on getting this bill passed, too, request to join the Facebook group We Support Texas Breastfeeding Laws with Enforcement.  There are a few big jobs, and lots of very simple things.  There is so much that can be done - and we need it all to be done by Tuesday!  The bill goes to the House floor then, and we want to have collected as many NIP incidents as possible to document the need for the bill, and to inundate the legislators on the Business and Industry Committee with brief emails, gracious emails encouraging their support.  When I get to it I can post details on the letter-writing campaign here, but for now - please join the group, where we're amassing information and strategizing!  

You can read the bill (note the tabs across the top of the page) & subscribe for updates at this link.

Call to Action: Help Texas Get A Breastfeeding Enforcement Provision by

and the first thing I read about it, giddy as a school girl and in utter, delighted shock:

In Houston Press Blogs:

It's addressed briefly among other bills here: