Jul 14, 2015 3:08 PM

NH1 News Investigates Breastfeeding Battle: Advocates say NH law has 'no teeth'


CONCORD – “It doesn't have any weight to it,” said Kate Frederick, a breastfeeding advocate. “It doesn't have any teeth to it.”

That's how advocates throughout New Hampshire feel about the state's current breastfeeding law.

And that’s why the battle is brewing at the State House

READ: Breastfeeding Battle: Mother claims Pembroke business made her feed in bathroom

Should mothers cover up while breastfeeding children in public?

Under the current breastfeeding law, it's legal for moms to breast-feed anywhere in public but when it comes to private property or what they call so-called private places of public accommodation, like a restaurant, if the manager asks a breastfeeding woman to go to a private place or even leave and the mother doesn’t, the manager can call police and could be charged with trespassing.

That has advocacy groups working overtime to pass new legislation.

“I was fired for requesting breastfeeding accommodations during the workday,” she claims.

Frederick got the pink slip after working for the State Department of Health and Human Services as a child support officer.

Her baby Devon she said came along, and at 2 months old, he wouldn't drink from a bottle yet.

She said she lost the fight with her employer to breast-feed in a safe and private area during work hours.

“I was incredibly surprised,” Frederick said about her firing.

Frederick's now suing the state for discrimination while at the same time, she’s working to change the law here in New Hampshire.

The current one, she said, doesn't effectively enforce a mother's right to breastfeed.

“It doesn't have any weight to it,” she said. “It doesn't have any teeth to it.”

Kate is once again speaking out after a Bradford mother claims she was discriminated against while breastfeeding at a private business.

“The manager came over to me and politely asked me to feed my child in the bathroom,” said Tabatha Cole.

The manager told her, Cole said, that young boys were staring and that Cole had left her breast, including her nipple exposed, while breastfeeding.

What Cole and many other mothers don't know, Frederick said, is that since the business was a private place, the manager could have called the cops.

“Yeah, they can basically kick you out,” said Frederick. “You can actually be arrested for trespassing.”

Many mothers and private business owners and staff, she said, don't know the law as well as they should.“

All the owner really has to say is that we're complying with the law but if you're uncomfortable, we'd be happy to move you somewhere else,” said Frederick.

But why?

The company is a private business and New Hampshire law protects mothers in public places.

That’s why she and breastfeeding advocacy groups are pushing for a breastfeeding law that would allow mother's to not, she said, be discriminated against.

The bill did not pass this year and now, it will either be killed in the House in the fall or be voted on and move forward.

It's the second year it's gone to lawmakers.

“It's one thing if this is an isolated circumstance, but this isn't an isolated circumstance,” Frederick said. “This is rampant.”

The New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights enforces the current law but Frederick said they've been backlogged with investigations, sometimes as long as eight months.

It’s just one more reason, she said, they need the new bill passed

You can to contact the New Hampshire Citizen Alliance here.

It is a 501(c)4 organization incorporated in 1998 to further a mission of social, economic and political justice for all. New Hampshire Citizen Alliance for Action works to engage grassroots activists in lobbying the legislature to ensure that consumer and community concerns are addressed by public policy. In addition, New Hampshire Citizen Alliance for Action assists voters in holding state and federal elected leaders and candidates accountable to their constituents.

There is a breastfeeding awareness event on July 31.


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