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Oh, Good Grief – More Breastfeeding in Public Nonsense

June 24, 2008

According to the Tennessean (Nashville, TN), “A woman who became angry when deputies asked her to stop nursing her baby outside a Rutherford County courtroom was threatened with arrest.”

The article indicates that she was asked to more to “a more discreet location,” when she allegedly began “screaming and causing a disturbance.”

I’m not touching the screaming bit with a ten foot pole. However, the article indicates that:

“Sgt. Michael Potts said Rankins’ breast was exposed…But Rankins said her breasts were covered and she believes her rights were violated.”

The article claims that the law states that “a mother has a right to breastfeed a baby who is 12 months old or younger in any location.” Tennessee state law does say this, but it also explicitly states, “the act of breastfeeding shall not be considered public indecency, or nudity, obscene or sexual conduct.” Regardless of what happened after he asked her to move, she had a right to breastfeed exactly where she was, regardless of whether the Sergeant caught a glimpse of boob. Officer of the Law, meet the Law.

In a more expanded coverage of the event, the Daily News Journal quotes the Sergeant as saying, “If she had been covered up, nothing would have been said to her,” and rightly points out that Tennessee law does not require coverage.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2008 2:10 pm

    The comments at the DNJ make me stabbity. Ugh, people are so ignorant and stupid.

    However, I must say I have breastfed in that very same hallway as she did and nary a peep. I do have to wonder if there’s some attention whoring going on there. I don’t know her, though, so I’m trying not to judge.

  2. June 24, 2008 2:15 pm

    Badbadivy – I try not to get into the attention-seeking question (fraught with freakin’ peril, man), but simply focus on the fact that the act of breastfeeding itself was perfectly legal and the Sgt. was incorrect in believing that covering up was necessary.

  3. RMB permalink
    June 24, 2008 3:30 pm

    I have to say that having spent a good deal of time in the halls of courthouses (as an attorney, rather than some other type of culprit), breastfeeding outside of a courtroom is just not safe. The hallways are generally a rogue’s gallery of degenerates, slimeballs, nutjobs and their kinfolk. The law is one thing, but common sense is decidedly something altogether different. The cops might have been reacting to a perceived risk to the mother, and just giving her some good advice. Covering up may have been necessary from a common sense point of view, but not from a legal perspective. Cops tend to be buddinskys, but her dramatic reaction seems to show that she needed external guidance regarding her behaviour. For what it’s worth…

  4. June 24, 2008 3:35 pm

    RMB, I think it’s entirely possible that there was miscommunication in the approach, and perhaps an overreaction, although there may also have been some misunderstanding about the law. It’s so hard to tell with these things, so I usually defer to reminding people that, yes, it’s legal and not obscene for women to breastfeed.

  5. Tom permalink
    June 24, 2008 3:51 pm

    I am a father of an 11 month-old. Sometimes with some infants, the only thing that will comfort the infant is Mom and her boob. Believe me, I know. Sometimes, you have to breast feed right where you are, no matter where you are, even if the place where you are is full of ‘nutjobs and their kinfolk’.

    Also note that if this was the case, I can understand the woman’s reaction to the law officer. Any parent knows that sometimes you are at your wits end when trying to comfort a child. Every parent has a bad day.

    If this was simply attention whoring, well then…

  6. Donna McCleskey permalink
    June 24, 2008 4:25 pm

    I breastfed my babies and no one was the wiser. A soft cotton blanket draped over the shoulder and breast is discreet and much less likely to offend than just letting it all ‘hang out.’

    Am in total agreement that sometimes the only thing that will quiet an irritated and/or hungry infant is mom’s breast.

    Sounds like this lady probably had a relative (husband?) on trial. Babies sense anxiety, and who knows what her situation was. Down south folks like these are considered PWT. They don’t have proper manners because they just don’t know better!

    Personally, I would have politely asked her to cover herself. While it may be a beautiful thing for family and close friends to see a beloved baby nursing, showing your headlights in public is a definite no-no.


  7. June 24, 2008 4:50 pm

    Some children are just fine breastfeeding under a blanket. Other children become highly agitated when placed under a blanket.

    The law does not require a blanket for a mother to feed her child. The child’s needs trump the squeamishness of adults with aversions to “headlights”.

  8. KoKo permalink
    June 24, 2008 7:02 pm

    NO infant should need to be hidden under a blanket (these are hot, suffocating)to get to eat. Breasts are intended to feed babies. Men have sexualized breasts and in their minds made breasts something less than wholesome. So now men are offended at seeing breasts feeding babies. But it’s not the breasts that pose the problem, it’s mens’ own pronographic fantasies. Interestingly enough, they are not offended at seeing breasts on display in a sexual clothing, everything revealed but the nipple. But DO NOT FEED THE BABY!!! Women who agree with men that breasts need to be covered while breastfeeding do a diservice to all women and their babies. There is no need to be “discreet” about feeding a baby. There is simply nothing wrong with it. Nothing. Shh. I said nothing. Stop interupting.

  9. June 25, 2008 1:24 pm

    So, someone explain to me how a baby nursing is offensive, but Bubba, mowing his grass shirtless, with breasts, larger than 62% of the women I know, is perfectly fine?

  10. June 26, 2008 6:03 am

    Legal in public only to 12 months? Crikey! Buddy’s almost 13 months and he’s still breastfeeding. We try not feed in public anymore, mostly because he’s highly distractable – but sometimes it’s the only thing we can do. Screaming baby or nursing? You decide. I know which one is more offensive, that boy can yell.

    And blankets are no good for him, but it’s perfectly possible to nurse discreetly without one. That’s certainly what I try to do.

  11. June 26, 2008 6:38 am

    Vol Abroad, I have no idea why they put that specific time limit on it.

  12. Sarah N permalink
    June 26, 2008 6:43 pm

    What exactly do they think the “degenerates, slimeballs, nutjobs and their kinfolk” are going to do to this woman in the hallway of the friggin’ courthouse?

  13. July 16, 2008 7:47 am

    I have never put on a show feeding one of my children and I would defend to my last breath my right to feed a child anywhere it was safe to do so. Breasts believe it or not have the primary function of nurturing a baby – not sexual gratification! Mothers should not have to sufforcate their child under a blanket or feed in a public restroom.

  14. Bethany permalink
    February 9, 2009 3:19 pm

    I’m all for breastfeeding wherever you need to, and have done it myself on many occasions. However, women who just “whip it out” and show more breast than necessary are completely rude, selfish people. And the ones I’ve met are trying to flaunt the fact that they are nursing a baby. Obviously it makes others uncomfortable. Have a little common decency and cover up. Jeez, even without a blanket it’s not that difficult.

  15. Ms.Virgo permalink
    January 11, 2010 12:48 pm

    “I think breastfeeding in public is very nasty I say that b/c people have their breast exposed.Now a day’s people do it amywhere parks,malls,etc.Other childern might be watching & shouldn’t be looking at women breast.”


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