Lansing, Mich. (WILX) Women who breastfeed their children now have every right to do so in public.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed Senate Bill 674 into law Tuesday afternoon, preventing stores, restaurants, public transit or any other public place from asking nursing mothers to leave.
"So many women are deterred from breastfeeding because they're not able to breastfeed in public, and they're concerned about being out at a restaurant, being at a retail establishment or even being on a bus," said Shannon Polk, executive director of the Michigan Breastfeeding Network. "We know we finally have a chance to protect the rights for mothers in Michigan."
Mothers like Shannon McKenney-Schubert celebrated the signing Tuesday, as they remembered the times they had been asked to go to bathrooms, back rooms or even leave a business in order to nurse their children -- a scenario McKenney-Schubert called "common."
"At the core of every mom is taking care of your child, no matter breastfeeding or formula feeding, whatever, that's at your core, so being told that you can't do that is scary," she said. "I think it makes you feel like you aren't welcome to do what you need to do. You aren't welcome to care for your child wherever you need to."
It's the reason Sen. Rebekah Warren authored the legislation five years ago. She called Tuesday "a wonderful day" as she addressed a small group of supporters.
"There have been people in Michigan in recent years that have been asked to leave restaurants, leave shopping centers, leave public transportation in southeast Michigan for a practice we know is absolutely the most healthy thing for both our babies and our mothers," she said.
Warren praised a bipartisan effort at the Capitol -- the bill unanimously passed the senate and the house approved it 108-2.
"It's a wonderful day to see so many Democrats and Republicans coming together to say the health and economic vitality of our babies and mothers is something we can all stand behind," she said.
The Michigan Breastfeeding Network says it still has plenty more work to do, only calling this bill "the first step" in its mission to make breastfeeding the norm.
The group hopes to work with businesses to make breastfeeding easier in the office and work with hospitals to push more women toward breastfeeding.
The Department of Community Health says babies that are breastfed catch fewer colds and get fewer ear infections. The Michigan Breastfeeding Network adds that more widespread breastfeeding means lower infant obesity rates and a decline in infant asthma, pneumonia and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The executive director of the Michigan Breastfeeding Network says most women are discrete in their method when nursing. The purpose of the bill isn't to make others uncomfortable or push breastfeeding on shoppers and diners.
"What [mothers] are saying is they don't want to be forced into a bathroom," said Polk. "They don't want to be forced into someplace where you wouldn't want to go and you wouldn't feel comfortable."