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Bill protects breastfeeding mothers

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It's considered one of the most natural acts between a mother and child but surprisingly Guam is one of a handful of states and U.S. territories that does not have any form of breastfeeding laws. Legislation aims to ensure the rights of nursing mothers and infants.

New mom to soon-to-be-nine-month-old son Tanom, Jennifer Camacho says breast feeding is one of the most natural acts between a mother and child. "And when I found out that almost every state and other us territories had wonderful protection for breastfeeding mothers, I knew that was something Guam needed," he said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Guam along with American Samoa and West Virginia are one of the few U.S. jurisdictions that do not have laws protecting breastfeeding mothers. Camacho along with several other stakeholders approached Senator Aline Yamashita who just month introduced legislation to do just that. "Bill 153, the Nanas and Patgon Act, the Mom and Child Act will say to our island that if a mother wants to nurse at work, she may during her breaks and it has to be a place that's not a toilet," she explained.

The measure, co-sponsored by Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr, falls in line with federal statute. Yamashita says the measure takes into account the benefits economically and health-wise. "It really is a way to welcome moms back to the workforce so they can continue to nurse and it's also a way to ensure that their babies have the best food, the best nutrition possible or them and we know that it is shown that breast milk cuts down on diseases and illnesses so economically it's just a really smart move," he said.

And despite how she's read how breast feeding could be seen sometimes as obscene, inappropriate or indecent, as a nursing mother, Camacho says that could not be further from the truth. "One of the beautiful things about this bill is we had some input from the stakeholders and myself included being a private employer, being a business person, but also being a mother it really helped to craft this bill  so that's it's business friendly, it's family friendly and it just works and will be really good for Guam," she said.

Yamashita met with close to two dozen individuals and organizations including Certified Lactation Consultants, Sagua Managu, Public Health, the Department of Labor, the Employers Council and Guam Chamber of Commerce. The public hearing meanwhile is set for 2pm Thursday at the Public Hearing Room.

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