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Posted on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 9:25 a.m.

County-controlled properties to become breastfeeding-friendly spaces after unanimous vote

By Amy Biolchini

Nursing mothers will soon be able to breastfeed their children in Washtenaw County-controlled properties without fear of harassment after the Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a new policy Wednesday night.

Commissioners voted 10-0, with Barbara Levin Bergman absent, to adopt the policy after no discussion on the issue by the board.

The policy is the result of an initiative supported by Washtenaw County Public Health, which has a breastfeeding-friendly policy in its department.


The universal symbol of breastfeeding and the icon that will appear on signs in Washtenaw County-controlled properties to show support for the practice in public.

Public Health staff had approached the Board of Commissioners during a working session in September, when they detailed the merits of breastfeeding and the challenges to mothers. The commissioners had reacted positively to the idea of adopting a policy during the meeting.

One of the deterrents to mothers in their decision to breastfeed their babies is not being allowed to do so in public.

With the adoption of the policy Wednesday night, the county will move forward in posting signs around properties it controls — including courthouses, parks and offices — to let mothers know they won’t be harassed if they need to breastfeed their child in public.

Although the policy does not state guidelines for how a woman should cover herself while breastfeeding in public, Public Health staff have stated that women typically breastfeed discreetly and didn’t feel it was necessary to include the language.

The breastfeeding-friendly policy supports a Public Health goal to get mothers who initiate breastfeeding with their children to sustain the practice for a longer period of time.

About 75 percent of new mothers in Washtenaw County start breastfeeding their newborn infants, but by the time the child is six months old, the rate drops to 16.5 percent, local health officials have stated.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Jim Walker

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

I once sat next to a lady on a plane who was breastfeeding, she made no attempt to cover herself and the infant, she was not embarrassed and neither was I, so we carried on a normal friendly conversation - partly including the obvious fact that her child was really hungry that day. No one else on the plane, including the flight attendants, made any comments or gave her any special attention. It is only an issue if people make it one. James C. Walker, Ann Arbor, MI

Jaime Magiera

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

I think the reasons for the signs is that it provides a level of protection for women who choose to nurse in these public spaces. Since the legislation (national, state and local) is not very well known, the simple act of uncovering a breast could cause some unnecessary complaints by those who are unfamiliar with a woman's right to do so. Having the signs will make it clear to everyone that it is allowed. Maybe down the road, when everyone is clued in, the signs will not be necessary.

ranger rick

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

i think it's great, but understand you are in public and if people or kid's stare that's on you! booby's everywhere, i like it!!!!!

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

Heh heh. You said "boobies." Heh heh.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

I don't see why this is an issue. There are state laws in place (I wish I had the references, but they are at home in my pumping bag) that protect breastfeeding women. My daughter is now only having "breakfast milk" and "bedtime milk" both of which we do at home, but we never once had a problem with breastfeeding in public. She's had her milk at a wide range of places around town, and I was always prepared to answer any adverse reaction to our milk time with our legal rights to breastfeed anywhere it was legal for the two of us to be.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

Unfortunately, this isn't true. While 45 states do indeed protect a woman's right to breastfeed wherever she and her child may legally be, Michigan does not. By law, Michigan women cannot be charged with public indecency when breastfeeding, but that is as far as the legal protection extends.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

Boy, (or should I say "girl" or "woman) do you ever "KNOW YOUR RIGHTS"!


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

Most women are discrete and cover themselves to minimize exposure. However I have seen some who plop it right out in front of everyone to see and then complain when someone looks. Can't have your cake and eat it too.

Jen Eyer

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

I'm glad the commission passed this measure, and I'm particularly pleased that they chose not to patronizingly tell women how they should cover themselves. This is a logical and respectful policy.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

Thanks for the feedback Jamie. Jen now works over at Mlive as the Statewide Community Engagement Director.

Jaime Magiera

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

I agree with you Jen. However, I have reservations about staff providing opinion on stories - just as a matter of journalism.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

"I'm particularly pleased that they chose not to patronizingly tell women how they should cover themselves" Oh? Was that really an option they were considering? I'd be interested in seeing how the "cover themselves" initiative was worded....


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

"the county will move forward in posting signs around properties it controls — including courthouses, parks and offices — to let mothers know they won't be harassed if they need to breastfeed their child in public." Does this mean I will get a ticket if I give them the evil eye? Will they also post signs saying someone has the right to pick their nose in public without being harassed? I don't care if a mother chooses to breastfeed in public but signs are overkill!


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

Finally, I can get to sleep tonight, without this burning issue troubling me.