Entries in NASCAR Kasey Kahne (1)


Why Is Public Breast-Feeding Still an Issue?

George Doyle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A controversial tweet from NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne and "nurse-in" demonstrations by breast-feeding mothers at Target stores nationwide this week have re-ignited the debate about nursing in public.

The question of whether it is appropriate for nursing mothers to breastfeed in public areas elicits passionate responses on both sides of the argument. Those against it believe breastfeeding should be done in private, saying it makes them uncomfortable to see a mother nursing her child out in the open. Those who support nursing in public contend that the practice is normal, natural, and a mother's right.

Kahne found himself in hot water Tuesday when he said on Twitter that a woman breastfeeding in public was "nasty."

His tweet prompted a firestorm of comments from both men and women, many of whom chastised Kahne for being insensitive, telling him to "grow up." But several others agreed with him. Kahne issued an apology on his Facebook page Wednesday.

This social media spat comes the same week that "nurse-in" demonstrations have taken place at Target stores across the country.

Michelle Hickman, 35, was asked last month to move into a dressing room when Target employees saw her breastfeeding her baby in the Webster, Texas store. Her story, which was shared on the pro-breastfeeding website Best for Babes, launched fellow moms into action. Kelly Roth, a nursing mother and a friend of Hickman, started a Facebook group to help organize a "nurse in," which now has 7,500 members.

Hundreds of mothers brought their infants to Target stores to nurse together as a group, taking photos of the event and posting them online. "Nurse-in" demonstrations have taken place in 31 states and Canada, according to the Facebook group.

Bernice Hausman, an English professor at Virginia Tech who is the author of Mother's Milk: Breastfeeding Controversies in America and Viral Mothers: Breastfeeding in the Age of HIV/AIDS, said "nurse-in" demonstrations have been going on since the late 90s, and the outrage over public breastfeeding boils down to "policing women's behavior."

"The biggest question is where women who are mothers are allowed to be. Apparently, mothers are not allowed to be walking around Target," she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months, and continue nursing up to one year after introducing solid foods. Forty-five states have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in either public or private areas, and 28 states have specific clauses that exempt nursing mothers from public indecency exposure laws.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio