Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


The Mammary Games: Polarity on Breastfeeding Practices

Bryana Spann

Throughout the 2016 election and into the new administration of the President, women’s rights advocates have further reverberated their platform to let the world know that we matter. On January 21, 2017, millions of people around the world took to the streets voicing their outrage towards the insulting rhetoric of the past election cycle. With dozens of speakers and thousands of signs decrying the police brutality, the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and discrimination against minorities, there seemed to be a missing message: the absolute right to breastfeeding.


Global Discourse on Breastfeeding

The benefits that come with breastfeeding have been highly regarded within the international community for the past few decades. Groups such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that women breastfeed their child within the first hour of birth and exclusively for the first six months of the child’s life.[1] At six months, soft or semi-solid foods be introduced to complement breastfeeding for up to two years or more.[2] Not only does breastfeeding benefit the child’s health, development and nutrition but it also substantially decreases the chances of child and infant mortality.[3] Optimal breastfeeding is especially important in developing countries that have a high risk of disease coupled with low access to clean water or sanitation. In such conditions, an exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child. [4]


Despite the benefits that come along with exclusive breastfeeding, it’s simply not a reality for the majority of women. With about 830 million women workers worldwide, less than 40 per cent of the world’s infants are exclusively breastfed at the appropriate time. [5] The WHO, UNICEF, and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) recently published a joint report, citing the inadequacy of national laws to protect and promote breastfeeding.[6] The report tracks country involvement and adaptation with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (the Code) as part of their membership in the WHO.[7] Generally, the Code is aimed towards, “safe and adequate nutrition for infants, the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breastmilk substitutes, when…necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.” [8] Although 135 countries have in place some form of legal measure related to the Code, only 39 countries have laws that enact most or all of the Code. [9] Most of the implementation of the Code has taken place in developing countries of the “Global South”, where the populations are more susceptible to high rates of infant mortality due to respiratory infection and diarrhea. Some of the most pervasive challenges in implementing the Code include the lack of political will to participate, interference from manufacturers and distributors, as well as the absence of coordination by stakeholders. [10]

Taboos and Attitudes towards the Boobs

Despite the global initiatives by UNICEF, WHO, and IBFAN, there still seems to be cultural taboo against mothers who choose to breastfeed in public. Some of the most important elements to successful exclusive breastfeeding is “on demand” feedings and expressing milk when not around the child.[11] This ensures that adequate milk production is maintained throughout the different stages of breastfeeding. Sadly, this becomes more problematic with the lack of maternity leave, as well as the lack of nursing accommodations at work and public places such as restaurants, shops, and airports.


In May 2015, Rep. Tammy Duckworth from Illinois introduced the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act to the House following her travel experiences with her infant daughter [12]. She realized that many national airports didn’t provide suitable space to breastfeed in airport terminals. The FAM Act would require all major U.S. airport to provide “lactation rooms”, with seating, a table and an electrical outlet. Although 62 per cent of the country’s 100 largest airports considered themselves as “breastfeeding-friendly”, only 8 per cent of them provided suitable breastfeeding accommodations. [13] The mandate would aim to bring privacy, comfort, safety, and convenience to traveling mothers. As of 2017, the bill is still with the House Subcommittee on Aviation. [14]

Just this year, traveling mothers have had their own issues across the pond. Gayathiri Bose, a Singaporean mother of two, was traveling to Paris from Frankfurt Airport when she was confronted by German authorities.[15] She was traveling without her baby, but with her breast pump so that she could regularly express breastmilk. This raised suspicion with a female police officer. According to Ms. Bose, the police officer asked her to prove she was lactating by asking her to manually expressing her breastmilk. The incident proved to be an embarrassing moment for Ms. Bose, who is now seeking legal action following her encounter. A Frankfurt police spokesman has confirmed that Ms. Bose’s breast pump checked as a possible suspected explosive and denies her allegation. Claire Dunn, travelling from London Heathrow airport found herself in similar debacle when she was questioned by two male security guards over her breast pump.[16] She alleges that the men had no idea what the object was and kept asking her why she needed the pump if she wasn’t traveling with her baby. [17] Anisha Turner, who traveled from London to India, also found expressing to be problematic during her flight in December 2016. [18] Turner was traveling without her one year old daughter and was able to find numerous nursing facilities in the Mumbai Airport but was stuck expressing milk in disabled bathroom stall in Heathrow Airport, evidencing the disparities in attitudes between the “Global North” and the Global South” regarding breastfeeding.


Traveling mothers seem to have an uphill battle when it comes to nursing on the go. As the Women’s March takes its next steps, it’s important that citizens reach out to leaders in the organization to force this issue into the spotlight. Phone calls, letters, and social media have also been great tools in reaching out to congressmen and governors. It’s going to take a more open and frank conversation on breastfeeding, women’s health, and child mortality to educate government officials and society as a whole on an inherent part of motherhood.  

Bryana Spann is a 2L student at the University Of Baltimore School of Law. She completed her undergraduate studies at the College of Charleston, where she majored in International Studies with a Concentration in Asian Studies. She also spent a semester abroad in Shanghai, where she studied subjects such as the Government and Politics of China as well as Chinese Calligraphy. Currently, Bryana is member of the International Law Society, the Black Law Students Association, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. having previously served as its Global Impact Chair for the Gamma Xi Omega Chapter. Having worked as a law clerk with the Lake County Public Defender, her interests include international human rights, civil liberties, as well as pro bono criminal defense.

[1] http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/facts/en/

[2] Id.

[3] https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_24824.html

[4]https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_breastfeeding.html#2 (citing Black R. et al. ‘Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences’. (Maternal and Child Undernutrition Series 1). The Lancet, vol. 371 No. 9608, January 2008, pp.243-60

[5] https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_breastfeeding.html#2

[6] https://www.unicef.org/media/media_91075.html

[7] Id.

[8] http://ibfan.org/the-full-code

[9] https://www.unicef.org/media/media_91075.html

[10] Id.

[11] http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/facts/en/

[12] http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/rep-tammy-duckworth-leads-charge-lactation-rooms-airports

[13] Id.

[14] https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2530/all-info

[15] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38767588

[16] http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38809100

[17] Id.


[18] Id.

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Bad Air? Have no fear! Bottled Air is here!

Jasmine Pope

Can’t breathe? Have no fear, bottled air is here! Yes, you read that correctly. No, this is not a joke. Companies are bottling and selling air. Not just any air though: companies are selling the best of the best, thehighest quality air money can buy. The idea of bottled air might have started as a joke, but it is no laughing matter now. But don’t judge air by its bottle, air also comes in cans and even bags! Companies, such as Vitality Air, Aethaer, and Green and Clean, are making millions of dollars in this emerging industry. Many of these companies started as a joke, with some even selling bagged air on eBay. So then why sell air? Well, because people will actually buy it.

Leo De Watts is the founder of Aethaer, a British company with the goal that “buyers would come to regard [the] product as a collectible, like a sculpture or a limited-edition print made by an artist.”[i] How could air in a bottle become a collectible? De Watts notes that “clean air is actually a very rare commodity.”[ii] He’s not wrong. Places like India, China, and Southeast Asia are being choked by smog.

Pollution & The World Health Organization

Air pollution is defined as “contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.”[iii] In 2012, World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in unhealthy environments.[iv]  As of this year, 92% of the world’s population is living in an environment where the air quality exceeds WHO limits.[v] This means that only eight percent of the world’s population lives in an environment where the air quality meets WHO regulations. What are the risks of living and breathing polluted air? Overtime, as air quality declines, “the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases increases for the people who live in them.”[vi]

The Eastern World

Cities and towns in Southeast Asia, China, and India are being smothered by smog. When pollution levels are high in China, “you can definitely smell the pollution. Your eyes itch, you cough. It’s like a very rich, dense soup.”[vii] Until very recently, the Chinese government refused to address the issue of air pollution, let alone recognize that there was indeed air pollution. In December 2015, for the first time ever, Beijing issued a pollution red alert, canceling classes for days, pulled cars off the road, shut down barbeque stalls, and halted outdoor construction.[viii] A red alert is the highest level in a four-tier system. Some people have viewed the declaring of a red alert as a sign of progress because “[the government is] understanding how they should react and respond to these extreme conditions.”[ix] In 2015, Southeast Asia saw one of the worst, most prolonged period of haze. The haze spread to Malaysia, Singapore, the south of Thailand and the Philippines.[x]  India also suffers from polluted air, mostly due to its major cities, like Delhi, having some of the highest vehicle density per kilometers in the region.[xi]

Back to Bottled Air

What does bottled air have to do with all of this? The market is exploding in places like China, India and Southeast Asia for an innovation that could possibly tackle the smog choking many cities. There are more practical innovations, such as air purifiers which can attach to outdoor towers or bikes and suck up smog, but bottled air represents an interesting innovation in the marketplace.[xii] Pan Li, who works in Beijing states that bottled air makes her lungs “feel clean…it might just be [her] imagination, but [she’s] willing to try anything.[xiii] And she’s not the only one. Green and Clean, an Australian bottled air company plans to ship 40,000 containers a month to China.

Aethaer’s website states that they are dedicated to “[providing] clean, fresh and pure natural air in bottled form,” and that Aethaer is “collected from fresh natural air flowing over a range of prime locations from fertile lush pastures and wild untouched meadows, to wind-kissed hilltops and heavenly snow-capped mountains.”[xiv] This might sound wonderful and amazing, but in reality, “an individual requires a minimum of eight to ten packed bottles every minute to breathe.”[xv] So why are people buying bottled air? Fortunately, many are buying it as gag gifts or as Leo De Watts stated, as collectibles. But there are many people, like Pan Li, families with children, athletes, and business executives alike, that genuinely think bottled air is the answer for all of the problems. Whether or not they’re right or wrong, companies are making millions of dollars because hundreds of thousands of people are buying bottled air.

Jasmine Pope is a second year law student at the University of Baltimore. She graduated from Towson University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, with a minor in History. Jasmine is extremely interested in and passionate about international human rights, particular the rights of women and children. She also participated in the Summer Study Abroad Program in Aberdeen, Scotland. She has also studied abroad in Benalmádena, Spain. Currently, she serves as the Secretary for the International Law Society. Jasmine is currently a member of the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Team. Jasmine is also a Staff Editor for the Journal of International Law and works for the Law Office of Hayley Tamburello.

[i] Javier Hernandez and Emily Feng, “Selling Air (a.k.a. the Idea They Thought of Next)” October 31, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/world/what-in-the-world/china-bottled-air-pollution.html.

[ii] Javier Hernandez and Emily Feng, “Selling Air (a.k.a. the Idea They Thought of Next)” October 31, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/world/what-in-the-world/china-bottled-air-pollution.html.

[iii] http://www.who.int/topics/air_pollution/en/.

[iv] http://www.who.int/gho/phe/en/.

[v] http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/en/.

[vi] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/air-pollution-rising/en/.

[vii] “What is China doing to tackle its air pollution?” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35351597.

[viii] https://priceonomics.com/why-is-the-pollution-so-bad-in-beijing/.

[ix] “What is China doing to tackle its air pollution?” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35351597.

[x] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34265922.

[xi] http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/delhi-s-air-pollution-bad-other-cities-not-far-behind-pollution-watchdog/story-NBQSt0XGUuUrX9eDjOOlaN.html.

[xii] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/world/what-in-the-world/china-bottled-air-pollution.html.

[xiii] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/world/what-in-the-world/china-bottled-air-pollution.html.

[xiv] http://www.aethaer.com/about.

[xv] http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/fyi-delhi-bottled-air-being-sold-china-52290.