Tuesday, October 22, 2013

KC Area breastfeeding mom facing contempt of court charges

Many of you are probably following the case of Lee's Summit, MO, mom Laura Trickle, who brought her infant son with her when she appeared for jury duty. She is a stay-at-home, breastfeeding mom, and her son doesn't take a bottle, so she brought him with her and is now being charged with contempt of court. She is scheduled to appear before Missouri Circuit Court Judge Marco Roldan on Thursday, October 24. The email address for the court is Div16.cir16@courts.mo.gov if you'd like to send an email on her behalf like I did.


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Dear Judge Roldan,

I am writing to you today on behalf of Lee's Summit mother Laura Trickle who is scheduled to appear before you on Thursday of this week. Ms. Trickle was called for jury duty but was forced to bring her son to court as she is a breastfeeding mother and also did not have suitable childcare. As a Missouri mother who has nursed my children according to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization (among others), I have often worried about what I would do if in her situation. Thankfully, I never had to find out but I always hoped that the presiding judge would understand that the care and keeping of our children comes before all else.

As a breastfeeding counselor for WIC in O'Fallon, MO, I often encounter mothers who breastfeed as recommended and whose babies refuse a bottle. In fact, one of my own babies was like this. For the first 7 months of her life, I was never away from her for more than an hour or two at a time. I was happy to do that for her and knew it was best for her and really had no other choice. When others recommend offering a bottle of formula or pumped breast milk, they clearly do not understand the health recommendations against formula feeding or the reality of having a child who will not take a bottle. 

I cannot speak to whether Ms. Trickle handled the situation perfectly, but further separation from her son who is entirely dependent on her for care and nutrition is certainly not the solution. And punishing her sets a dangerous and confusing precedent. Our federal government (in the form of the CDC and other agencies) tells mothers they should be breastfeeding and for an extended period of time. The AAP calls breastfeeding a "public health issue." When our courts punish moms for doing what they thought was recommended, we will start to see confused, angry, and fearful mothers, and quite likely a decline in the breastfeeding rates we've worked so hard to rectify.

I am proud that Missouri was the first state to have a law protecting a mother's right to breastfeed whenever and wherever needed, but it is clear this law is not strong enough when mothers are still being hassled for this most basic act of caring for their children. Missouri is one of only 12 states that does not have a provision excusing breastfeeding mothers from jury duty and the ONLY state that still has a discretion clause in its breastfeeding law. We will be working hard to change that in the next legislative session so that no other Missouri mother has to encounter this situation again and so that our state can be held up as a LEADER in supporting maternal/child care and nutrition.

I would respectfully request that you dismiss the case against Ms. Trickle on Thursday. She has certainly learned the lesson that bringing her son to court was perhaps unwise, even if she felt she had no other choice on that day. Further punishing her serves no useful purpose and only thrusts our state deeper into the national spotlight in a negative way. Showing compassion and understanding in this case will go a long way in showing that our state and court system support the needs and demands of mothers caring for their babies in the way intended by nature and recommended by experts.

If you have any questions about the current breastfeeding recommendations or requirements of a breastfeeding mother and child, I would be happy to answer them for you. Thank you for your consideration of this issue.

Respectfully,

Johanna Iwaszkowiec, CLC
Lactation Counselor & Nursing Mother

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