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Breast-feeding advocates to carry fight beyond Forest Park

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A group of mothers who believe governments should not set age limits on when a child can breast feed in public, plans to carry its fight to other metropolitan Atlanta communities, according to the group's leader.

Last month, approximately 300 mothers participated in a "Nurse-In" on the front lawn of Forest Park City Hall, to protest the city's public obscenity ordinance that allowed breast feeding in the city -- but only as long as the child was under age 2. The mothers, who waived signs and breast fed their children on the lawn of city hall, felt there should not be any limit on how old a child can be to breast feed in public.

In the end, the moms notched a victory on their belts. This past Monday, the Forest Park City Council amended the ordinance by removing the breast feeding age limit, according to City Manager John Parker.

Now, emboldened by their recent success in Forest Park, the mothers are turning their attention to communities in DeKalb and Spalding counties, which also reportedly have ordinances that set an age limit for children to be breast fed in public.

"We're going to ask them to voluntarily remove the age limits," said Jessica Lister, a Griffin mother who organized the fight in Forest Park. "If they don't, we're prepared to protest at council meetings and file lawsuits."

Lister said the experience that local breast-feeding supporters gained in their fight in Forest Park should come in handy in their future battles. In addition to holding the "Nurse In" at Forest Park City Hall last month, the mothers also used the social media web site, Facebook, to organize their efforts, and gather supporters, and they also went to the media to state their case.

A few mothers also attended the Forest Park City Council meeting this week, to directly make a public plea for the removal of the age limit on breast feeding, to members of the city council, Lister said. She believes other communities may see what was done in Forest Park, and realize these mothers are not playing around.

"I think they know now that we're serious about this, and these mothers are going to hold nurse-ins, and show up at meetings, to get what they want," Lister said.

During the nurse-in, in the city, Forest Park officials provided bottled, cold water to the protesting mothers. Parker said the city provided the water to the mothers, because city leaders did not want them to become dehydrated on what was a warm day.

Then, it was only two weeks after the nurse-in, at the first gathering of the city council since that event, that the age limit was removed.

Parker said Forest Park leaders are taking away from this experience the knowledge that groups of people, from certain segments of the population, will mobilize to get the attention of government officials if they feel passionate about a particular issue.

"There was an issue that seemed to concern a certain group of people," Parker said. "This is a decision that should be made after careful consideration."