PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The city of Portland is asking people to be accepting of mothers who breastfeed in public.
The city launched an initiative Wednesday called the "Whenever Wherever — We All Benefit" breastfeeding awareness campaign.
Flanked by more than a dozen breastfeeding moms, Mayor Michael Brennan said at a press conference that it's important the community support breastfeeding mothers by making them feel comfortable "whenever and wherever" they need to nurse.
Breastfeeding is beneficial to children's health and saves money on infant formula and medical and other costs, he said.
"If every community follows Portland's lead and makes a commitment to help families feel comfortable whether sitting on a park bench, riding a ferry or working in their office, we can have a significant impact on the health and welfare of our state and country," he said.
Businesses participating in the campaign will display "Whenever Wherever — We Welcome Nursing Moms" decals, train employees on how to handle issues like complaints about a woman who is breastfeeding in public, and pledge support to breastfeeding moms by not allowing them to be harassed.
The campaign has been in the works for about a year with the aim of increasing the number of infants who are fed with breast milk rather than formula. One challenge was to establish a culture where women feel comfortable breastfeeding in public without getting dirty looks or rude comments from people.
Rebecca Flaherty of Portland said it is good business for establishments to make breastfeeding women feel comfortable.
"I have noticed that my choice on where to shop used to depend on who had the sales," she said. "While that is still important to me, it has moved down my list of priorities, and a breastfeeding-welcoming place is at the top of my list."
Brennan said he hopes the campaign alleviates the discomfort some people may feel about breastfeeding in public. There are resources available for women wanting to know how to breastfeed, but this campaign is focusing on earning acceptance for them, officials said.
"Our 'Whenever Wherever' campaign is another example of how as a community we support each other in living healthy, active lives starting from the first day of life," he said.
Portland isn't the only place where the push is on in support of breastfeeding.
New York City has announced a new program that urges new mothers to breastfeed rather than use infant formula.
Under the Latch On NYC program, hospitals will no longer hand out promotional formulas unless it is for medical reasons. Dozens of city hospitals will ask new mothers to listen to talks about why their natural milk is better than a formula for newborns.
The New York initiative is part of a national effort involving more than 600 hospitals, according to the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy, a nonprofit based in Weston, Mass.