Breastfeeding ’empowerment zone’ opens in Brooklyn during push for more public awareness

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NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) -- Statistics show that overall, New York City -- the epitome of a cultural melting pot -- is not so accepting of breastfeeding in public, but on Thursday there was a renewed push for awareness on this issue along with more family-first initiatives.

“The natural act of breastfeeding should not receive an unnatural glance by onlookers,” Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams said.

In an attempt to combat those unwelcomed stares and make breastfeeding mothers feel more comfortable, Adams said he’s creating a special space for them, opening lactation rooms for public use.

A hospital-grade pump will be available for anyone to use and now, Adams is encouraging all government buildings to follow suit.

“When a woman walks into a coffee shop or a store that store or coffee shop must be accessible and allow her to breastfeed and we know from doing focus groups that often times that doesn't happen,” a spokesperson with the Department of Health said.

Adams calls the move an expansion of breastfeeding empowerment zones. Businesses open to the idea are encouraged to place stickers on their windows. Except: laws are already on the books protecting breastfeeding moms. So you may be wondering why such a move by Brooklyn is even necessary.

“The reality is that the everyday public has not caught up with the spirit and the energy of the law,” Adams said.

Felina Rakowski-Gallagher has made this her focus since 1999. Her shop Upper Breast Side -- aptly located on the Upper West Side -- is one way she advocates for breastfeeding moms.

Gallagher called Brooklyn's push a step in the right direction, but believes more needs to be done when it comes to enforcement of the breastfeeding law.

“Women can make the change,” she said. “Then the public takes notice and it becomes less of a, ‘Oh what are you doing?’ Hey, we're just feeding our kid.”

Women in New York have the legal right to breastfeed in any location -- public or private, out in the open or not. The problem is it seems is some of the public continues to shame women from doing so freely.

Thursday’s rally touched on other family-first topics, urging lawmakers to continue to fight for paid family leave for new mothers and support postpartum depression screening. Training for screening is already underway through an organization known as the Seleni Institute in Manhattan.