Breastfeeding in public is not against the law in South Carolina, but the topic often stirs up strong feelings. A "nurse-in" held at Target stores across the country Wednesday brought mothers together to show their right to feed their children out in the open.
The Palmetto state has some of the lowest breast feeding numbers in the country but there's now a wave of activism to encourage mothers to breast feed their children because of the health benefits associated with it.
Renee Andrews works as breast feeding peer counselor with the Department of Health and Environmental Control. She breast fed all four of her daughters and had no qualms about doing so.
"It was normal for me because my grandmother breast fed my uncle till he went to kindergarten so that was just the norm back in the 50's," explains Andrews.
She works with mothers on WIC and encourages them to breast feed for at least six months because of the health benefits. That includes an increased IQ of about 10 points, breast milk is easy for the baby to digest, and mothers pass along their antibodies to their baby. Mom benefits as well, "It helps protect the mother against breast cancer, osteoporosis, and uterine cancer. And what happens with that is antibodies are being built up in the body to protect, it's not a fail safe," adds Andrews.
Breast feeding saves families the $1,200 a year it costs for formula and Andrews says breast fed babies are healthier and go to the doctor less. There are three stages of breast milk colostrum, foremilk, and hindmilk. Each one develops specifically to meet the baby's needs.
As the trend shifts back to more mothers choosing to breast feed, Andrews is there to support them. "It's a learned process especially for a new mom. Some babies come out and absolutely know what to do but some mom's need some support and that's really our role."