Nursing mothers joined advocates at the Statehouse lawn on Friday to emphasize that women who breastfeed in the workplace should not face discrimination or retaliation, kicking off World Breastfeeding Week.
Similar gatherings were held in Dover, Littleton and Meredith.
"I'd like to have us think back and remember when women lost their jobs because they were pregnant," said Democratic state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth. "We've come a fair way since then, but unfortunately, nursing mothers today continue to be discriminated against in public and in the workplace."
Workplace policies on breastfeeding came up for debate in the New Hampshire Legislature this year. Fuller Clark submitted a bill that would've required employers to provide a reasonable break time and a sanitary place that is not a toilet stall for women to express breast milk. Employers with fewer than 50 employees wouldn't have been subject to the requirements.
The measure stalled in the House. Fuller Clark and Republican Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, a co-sponsor, said they plan to push for the bill's passage next year.
"We know that far too many nursing mothers have quit work, quit breastfeeding, or endure unsafe working conditions," Fuller Clark said.
She said she intends to file additional legislation this fall that would include a penalty for anyone who denies a mother the right to nurse her baby in a public place.
Christine Dodson is founder of Mamava, a Vermont-based company that used the Burlington International Airport for its lactation suite prototype and now has them installed at other airports and other businesses. She said she thinks of it as a billboard communicating that there are many working, breastfeeding mothers out there who can use all the help they can get, "actually bringing the discussion into the open and not hiding it in a bathroom stall or under a blanket."