Nursing in Public Nightmares

Most nursing moms remember the first time they nursed in public. They remember shuffling the awkward (yet dainty) nursing cover over the baby in just the right manner as not to suffocate the baby and not to expose any skin. They remember nervously glancing around to see if anyone is watching or if anyone looks uncomfortable, while they sit awkwardly hunched, hiding under the security of the nursing cover.

Morgan Breeding, a mother of two, is not likely to forget the first time she nursed in public as a quiet moment with her baby became a humiliating public shaming no mother should endure.

With her family in tow, Morgan went to the Louisville Zoo so her two-year-old could see the elephants. Her newborn son, Daegan Lynn, became hungry, as newborns do. Morgan did not breastfeed her older son and as this was one of Daegan Lynn’s first outings, it was Morgan’s first time nursing in public. She searched for a quiet, secluded spot and found the perfect one on a park bench behind a bush. Wearing her nursing cover, she quietly nursed her newborn son.

"I chose to breastfeed Daegan Lynn because it's the healthiest choice for him," said Morgan. "It provides antibodies and an emotional bond most people can only dream of."

“I chose to breastfeed Daegan Lynn because it’s the healthiest choice for him,” said Morgan. “It provides antibodies and an emotional bond most people can only dream of.”

A young child around four years old approached Morgan and asked her what she was doing. Morgan explained that she was feeding her son. The child asked, “Where’s the bottle?”. Morgan said she didn’t use a bottle. Then the child ran away, like most children with wild curiosity and short attention spans.

Brace yourself, mamas and breastfeeding advocates. This is where things got ugly.

After a few minutes, the child’s mother approached Morgan and exclaimed that she had no right to be breastfeeding in public and she would be informing an employee. (By the way, the offended mother couldn’t be more wrong. Kentucky is one of the 46 states that have laws in place that specifically allow nursing mothers to breastfeed in any public or private location the mother and child are allowed to be.) Morgan told the mother to feel free to inform an employee.

About 20 minutes later, a female Zoo employee approached Morgan and advised that she move to the “designated area.” According to Morgan, the employee told her the way she is acting wasn’t appropriate, many people find it disgusting, only her husband and child should see such a thing and she should think twice about doing it again. 

I told you things got ugly. Oh, and the “designated area”? It was a family restroom. Not wanting to cause problems, Morgan agreed to pack up and continue breastfeeding in the restroom. When she walked in the restroom, she was met with a broken chair and walls covered in feces. Bon appetit, eh?

“It made me feel like I was doing something wrong, even though I was covered and not sitting in an open [crowded] area,” said Morgan. “I wanted to cry.”

This is the second incident this week in Louisville, Ky., where a nursing mother was asked to leave the area where she was breastfeeding and go to a restroom instead.

Renee Villatoro attended the newly opened Kentucky Kingdom amusement park with her four children. While at the park, she nursed her newborn under a cover while supervising her older children near one of the rides . She was approached by a female employee who explained that her manager asked her to approach Renee. The employee said she didn’t think it would be an issue because Renee was wearing a cover, but she needed to continue nursing in a restroom.

"I used to be scared of breastfeeding in public," said Renee. "I didn't go out of the house much because of it."

“I used to be scared of breastfeeding in public,” said Renee. “I didn’t go out of the house much because of it.”

Later, Renee complained about the incident to a customer service representative, who instructed her to fill out a form. She received a call from the management staff and Renee told the representative it was illegal to ask her to move while breastfeeding. The representative told her she can breastfeed anywhere in the park, as long as she’s covered up. Renee explained she was covered up and was still approached and asked to move.

Strangely, there has been no mention by Kentucky Kingdom staff warning string-bikini wearing patrons to “cover up”.

It was around this point that all Hell broke loose in the local mama world. A plague of lactating mothers were sent upon the gates of Kentucky Kingdom in the form of a scheduled “nurse-in.” The Kentucky Kingdom Facebook page was bombarded with angry breastfeeding advocates citing local laws and lambasting the park for both the incident and their response. Critical posts about the incident began mysteriously disappearing and some of the mothers who posted were banned from the page.

Kentucky Kingdom publicly responded to the backlash with a brief overview of their policy. kentuckykingdom2

 

See the glaring issue in this official statement? “…providing they use discretion.” According to the law in Kentucky (and just about anywhere), a mother can breastfeed anywhere she is allowed to be with her child in any manner she chooses. No cover or permission needed. very-crafty-colored

Here’s the law:

211.755 Breast-feeding permitted — Municipal ordinances not to prohibit or restrict — Interference prohibited.
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, a mother may breast-feed her baby or express breast milk in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be. Breast-feeding a child or expressing breast milk as part of breast-feeding shall not be considered an act of public indecency and shall not be considered indecent exposure, sexual conduct, lewd touching, or obscenity.
(2) A municipality may not enact an ordinance that prohibits or restricts a mother breast-feeding a child or expressing breast milk in a public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In a municipal ordinance, indecent exposure, sexual conduct, lewd touching, obscenity, and similar terms do not include the act of a mother breast-feeding a child in a public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be.
(3) No person shall interfere with a mother breast-feeding her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.

While I am not a lawyer, I can read and there are a couple things that stick out to me in this law that seem to be in violation with these two incidents. First of all, the mother is allowed to be in any area of both Kentucky Kingdom and the Louisville Zoo, so the mother can breastfeed in any area. No where in the law is a cover or “discretion” mentioned, so although both mothers were wearing covers, they were well within their rights to go uncovered. In fact, I would consider requiring a cover a restriction, which the law explicitly prohibits.

That last part of the law really sticks out to me. In two incidents, just this week, these mothers were approached by others. The people who approached the mothers and interfered were in violation of the law, not the mothers nursing their babies.

After more backlash, Ed Hart, CEO and President of Kentucky Kingdom, made a statement.

kentuckykingdom

 

Hart removed discretion from the public breastfeeding equation and encouraged mothers to breastfeed how they see fit, ensuring that they should not expect inference from staff in the future. Renee still requests a refund of her admission and hopes to attend the nurse-in at the park.

“I just don’t want them to bully nursing mothers, especially new moms or ones who don’t have a good support system,” said Renee.

Any breastfeeding mother knows that breastfeeding can be very difficult. Beginning to breastfeed is difficult. It can be painful. It can be exhausting. Once the mother finally feels comfortable venturing out, she’s faced with the new challenge of nursing in public. No nursing mother should be faced with the challenges of public shame like Renee and Morgan faced. Breastfeeding is hard enough.

bathroombreastfeedingIf you’re a nursing mother, become familiar with your state’s laws regarding breastfeeding. Most states’ law are similar to Kentucky in that you are legally protected to breastfeed anywhere, with or without a cover and no one should interfere with your right to do so. If someone tells you to breastfeed in a bathroom, you can kindly tell them to go eat in a bathroom, you’re quite comfortable where you are.

If you see a mother nursing in public, leave her alone. Babies have to eat. Newborn babies have to eat A LOT. Frequently. I promise you, those babies don’t care where you are, they don’t care if it makes your sensitive self uncomfortable, they just want to eat. Public bathrooms are dirty and not a suitable solution for the nursing mother. If you would not dine in a public restroom, do not suggest it to a mother. If your child asks what she’s doing, tell your child she’s feeding her baby. Don’t turn a teachable moment into an uncomfortable one. If you feel compelled to do anything, tell her she’s doing a good job.

 

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4 thoughts on “Nursing in Public Nightmares

  1. Lindsey says:

    Oooh, it makes me so mad!! Especially because both of these places are FAMILY places! That is their clientele; families! That includes mommys and babies! It’s not like they walked into a biker bar or something! Although, I imagine they’d get better treatment there than they did at these so called “family” establishments! haha And I can’t understand how, after all that has gone around and been said about mom’s breastfeeding their babies in public, they still think it’s good practice as a business to ask a mother to cover up, or worse, to move to a RESTROOM! And you don’t expect backlash for that?? I’m sorry for these mothers that they felt they needed to relocate after being asked to. Although, it’s one thing for another patron to ask but for an employee? That has to feel intimidating. It seriously makes me want to have another baby just so I can go to these establishments and breastfeed all over the place! haha I would have definitely stayed right where I was. I was lucky to have an AMAZING support system in my family while I was nursing. Justin was wonderfully supportive and did everything he could to help make nursing as easy as possible for me. But, like you said, some people don’t have that support and public shaming could definitely be enough to cause some mothers to throw in the towel over guilt and shame. It’s just terrible! And especially shameful when it’s another woman that’s complaining! I could just go on and on so I’m just going to leave it at that. Another great post, Farrah!

    • Mama A says:

      Thanks, Lindsey! Hopefully other establishments will train their employees more appropriately when it comes to breastfeeding mothers. I know when I was a new, nursing mom I wasn’t familiar with the laws protecting NIP, so if an employee told me to leave, I would be incredibly embarrassed and probably do as I was asked. I wouldn’t now. But I probably would then and I’d also be apprehensive to NIP in the future. It’s just awful. :/ I’m so glad these mamas were willing to speak out and tell their stories.

  2. Samantha Escobar says:

    I always love reading your posts! Very well-researched, articulate, and entertaining 🙂 It’s been a while since I’ve nursed, let alone nursed in public, but I have to say that culturally, for me personally (though I’m not seeking to further propogate stereotypes) or serve as the official spokesperson for all Latin@s, nursing in public just wasn’t a big deal. For as long as I can remember all the women that raised their babies around me as I grew up in this country would whip out their nips no questions asked. If baby was hungry, which as we all know happens pretty regularly, they had no qualms whipping out their lady parts to feed their little ones. It didn’t matter if it was at the park or in the middle of a Eulogy. There was no body shaming or issue on what was deemed “appropriate” or “discreet” enough, they just took care of business. In retrospect, I guess I’m glad I was raised around this concept of boobies, their function, and how “natural” it truly should be to BREASTfeed baby. Now, did I whip out my nips in ways that would make most men and small children feel that they were poking them in the eye by my sheer audacity? Nah. Culturally, I’d learned people weren’t quite ready for my jelly, if you will. See, I had my baby girl in Indiana and I learned very quickly what was and was NOT “proper” social decorum. I just can’t believe that nearly a decade later we are still having the same conversation? It’s sad, especially with the vast quantities of research that supports the countless physical, emotional, and psychological benefits to both mom and baby. As women, and as mommas, we have to be educated and stand our ground when we are challenged by businesses, employees, or other ignorant individuals because if we don’t then the cycle of body shaming continues. It’s already so damn hard to have the courage to breastfeed, period. We have to find a way to create a culture where breastfeeding IS the norm. I’m all about using social media to pressure and organize businesses to follow the law…but why does it always have to come to that point? It just gives fodder for people to further ostracize nursing mommas and their supporters as “other” or “different” or “trouble-makers” or…gasp, “those crazy Liberals.” We need to stop politicizing every issue and start empowering women to know their rights and how to exercise them regardless of who it is that is questioning them. It’ll be only then that we can actually start moving towards creating a culture and environment where, even if a person doesn’t feel that, “breast is best,” at least they’ll leave those enlightened enough to whip out our nip in peace 🙂 Ok…end rant. Thanks again for another awesome post!

    • Mama A says:

      Thank you so much! You made some great points. I really appreciate your cultural perspective. It’s really interesting to me that this is considered a big deal at all. It’s really quite silly. 😛 Boobs are for babies.

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