Ingrid Wiese Hesson's birthday discount from Anthropologie was burning a hole in her pocket. So she packed up her six-week-old son and headed over to the store in Beverly Hills. It was her first postpartum shopping trip, and it was a fruitful one -- all told, she loaded up on more than $700 worth of nursing-friendly clothes, E! Online reports. The new mom was all smiles leaving the register when her baby began crying. He was hungry.
What she did next -- find a chair toward the back of the nearly empty store, slip on a nursing cover and feed her baby -- was perfectly acceptable. After all, California law allows moms to breastfeed in public. But the store's staff felt otherwise and escorted the humiliated mom to the stock room bathroom, which offered only a toilet as a seat. The manager's reasoning? "I thought you and the other customers would be more comfortable off the sales floor," she allegedly told Hesson later, adding "we must be fair to all the customers, not just moms."
Understandably enraged, Hesson walked out and wrote a terse email to management; the corporate office responded with a post on its Facebook page that disavowed what the manager told Hesson and promised to improve staff training and education. But that, apparently, wasn't enough to assuage Hesson. She tapped into the frustrations of nursing moms everywhere who've been shamed while feeding al fresco and staged a breastfeeding sit-in at the store. "100+ women Breastfeeding at the Beverly Hills Anthropologie!!! Mommy strong! Refuse to move! Know your rights!!" she wrote on her Facebook page.
While I literally applauded Hesson after reading about her awesome comeback, her experience at Anthropologie is just the latest in a long string of incidents where nursing moms are coaxed -- or sometimes forced -- into feeding their baby in private, usually in a crowded back room or hovering above a public toilet. This is despite the fact that a woman's right to breastfeed in public or private is protected by law in 46 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. What galls me most is that nursing moms aren't whipping out their breasts to shock and awe the public; they're simply trying to feed their hungry children. It's not some excuse to go all Bourbon Street in the the middle of the day; it's a part of the job description. (And I don't know about you, but some days it did feel like a job.)
My colleague Erika Rasmusson Janes recently wrote a great piece that questioned why people are making such a big deal out of seeing a mom with a baby latched on to her breast. After all, she wrote, "breastfeeding in public is not immoral, indecent, or obscene. It's not something that should be relegated to dirty public restrooms (or even clean ones, for that matter. Breast milk isn't bodily waste, after all.)" So while it's great when corporations offer up apologies, like Anthropologie did here, what breastfeeding moms need more is the freedom to do what they need to do -- without all the judgment.
Tell us: Have you tried to breastfeed in public? How did it go?
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Image of sit-in courtesy of Ingrid Wiese Hesson via Facebook