Antiquated town code made public breastfeeding illegal in Hempstead

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A mistake by the town of Hempstead technically made it illegal for women to breastfeed in public.

Colleen Morgan, a Levittown mother of two children, discovered the antiquated town code restricting public breastfeeding while reviewing the town's regulations for pool use.

“As I was reading through it, one of the rules – rule No. 13 – had a provision in it that breastfeeding and diaper changing were permitted in designated areas only,” said Morgan.

That rule violates a New York state law passed in 1994, which states nursing women have the right to breastfeed unrestricted in any location, public or private, as long as they are authorized to be there.

Morgan says she emailed the town of Hempstead to let them know about the rule and request its removal.

“It's targeting breastfeeding mothers. It's hurtful. It's going to make them feel uncomfortable, ashamed,” said Morgan.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen says she immediately amended the old code so that breastfeeding is permissible in any location.

“I am the first mother to ever serve as the supervisor of the town of Hempstead, so obviously, this is not something that I would put forward,” said Gillen. “I know how important breastfeeding is to the infant and to the mother.”

Gillen says the mistake happened because the old town code had not been updated by previous administrations to match the state law. The rules and regulations signs at town pools have been changed to reflect the updated code.

“It's 2018. Mothers breastfeed in public and should not be ashamed to do so,” said Morgan.

Gillen says a public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Sept. 4. A vote by the Town Board will follow to make the change official.

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