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Idaho Still a Holdout on Breastfeeding Laws

February 9, 2011

BOISE, Idaho - Idaho is one of just six states that has yet to put laws on the books to protect a mother's right to breastfeed in private or public locations, or protect her from prosecution under indecency laws. Neither item is on the agenda for the Legislature yet this year, even though U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin said recently that she believes women face too many obstacles and not enough support when it comes to breastfeeding.

Registered Nurse Martha Sears, a breastfeeding expert, highlights the health benefits, as well. She says breastfeeding gives babies nutrients not available in formula, and research has shown breast-fed babies have fewer infections and hospitalizations - resulting in lower medical bills.

"Breastfeeding would change the face of health in this country. It's probably one of the biggest items - is convincing parents how important it is."

A list of breastfeeding laws by state is online at www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=14389.

Some studies have disputed the efficacy of breast milk versus formula, saying the health advantages are minimal, but Sears says mothers should at least attempt the process to help support the mother-child bond.

Not every mother can breastfeed, though, and Sears points to options involving banked milk. She says it's true the processing can be expensive, but for sickly or premature babies, it can make a difference.

"Now we have a way to do it that's more modern, but I think it's overlooked."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 percent of mothers start breastfeeding immediately after their babies are born, but only 20 percent are still breastfeeding six months later.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID