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Milk Truck provides haven for breastfeeding mothers

Keith Srakocic / AP

Jill Miller drives her Milk Truck, near her Pittsburgh home, Jan. 19. The truck is a vehicle she made for spreading the message that nursing mothers have the need and the right to feed their infants in public.

AP reports:

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- It's the Milk Truck, spreading the message that nursing mothers have the need and the right to feed their infants in public.

Jill Miller, an artist and mother, said she got the idea after the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh asked her to do a project of her choice last year.

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Keith Srakocic / AP

Jill Miller talks about her Milk Truck.

"I wouldn't say every woman in Pittsburgh has been asked to cover up — that would be totally overblowing it," Miller said. "But there were these stories I would hear that seemed almost like urban legends."

The stories were noteworthy because Pennsylvania has a law guaranteeing women the right to breastfeed in public without harassment, she said.

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Miller estimates that the project cost about $16,000, most of it from Kickstarter, an online funding platform for artists, inventors, and explorers. People describe their projects and set a funding goal, and contributors get something in return, such as artwork and personal thank-you notes.

Someone once described Miller's artwork as "very funny upfront, but very serious on the backside."

"It opens up a conversation with a lightness to have a giant breast on a truck. For me, the humor is very important. I couldn't do the project without it," said Miller.

Daisy Klaber Miksch, who runs a business that offers singing and music classes to children and families, recalled the first time she saw the truck.

"It made me smile," she wrote in an email. "What it said, and says, to me is, 'Breasts are nice. Nursing is nice! Here's a friendly reminder. Take a moment to consider changing your negative reaction to a mom who's breastfeeding her kid. Lighten the mood!"

Miksch isn't a mother, but said she has sisters and friends who've been given dirty looks for breastfeeding in public.

"We all have our own hangups — about bodies, about sex, etc. ... Our culture very strongly associates breasts with sex. But the fact that it's cultural means it's changeable," she wrote.

Some people complained, especially after local newspapers and TV stations did stories on the Milk Truck last year.

One man sent an email saying that he could "donate money to your silly truck" or continue to give to the local food bank to help feed hungry children. He chose the food bank.

"What an insane cause you chose to rally behind. ... Pointless!" he wrote.

Miller found that people from all walks of life were willing to help the project, such as a local mechanic who donated his time fixing the 20-year-old truck because he thought it was so cool. He even start using her nickname for it: the boob truck.

"He just loves telling people he works on the boob truck. He has a T-shirt and a picture," Miller said.

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The Warhol exhibit has closed, but Miller and McElfresh see new possibilities. Originally, they wanted the truck to be on call for mothers who get harassed in a public place, rushing to their aid with a comfortable, pink interior.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Jill Miller drives her Milk Truck, near her Pittsburgh home.

Over time they realized the Milk Truck was a valuable educational tool, even without a crisis. Stores for mothers and babies have invited the truck to park out front to show their support for breastfeeding, and it's appeared at public libraries.

"We have people all over the world who love the truck," Miller said. "We're now talking about having like a national tour. It would be like a rock band on a tour bus — but we are the tour bus," she said.

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Site: The Milk Truck