An Ohio mom is using her own experience to raise awareness about normalizing breastfeeding in public.
In August, blogger Jennifer Mancuso — mom to twin girls Aria and Asher, 18 months, as well as daughters Piper, 3, and Parker, 4 — posted an Instagram photo of herself breastfeeding one of her twins, recounting an experience she’d just had when the director of the daycare she was nursing in asked her to relocate indefinitely.
“I started to nurse on one of the chairs and the director said, ‘Hey Jenn, I’m gonna need you to nurse in the back. The employee break room (which is no bigger than a closet) is where you can nurse from now on,’ ” Mancuso captioned the snapshot.
“She said her boss (the district manager who was in the day prior and witnessed me nursing inside my girls room, away from almost everyone) said that I am not allowed to nurse my babies in any of the public spaces and that it has to be in a private space — the s—y little closet break room,” she continued.
“I responded saying that I don’t think that’s legal, what they’re telling me. She said, ‘It’s company policy because we have school age children,’ ” Mancuso went on. “Pause — SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN?! As if implying what I’m doing is inappropriate for older children to witness?!”
“She continued that not only is it in their company handbook but because they are ‘private sector’ that the Ohio Law of being able to breastfeed in public does not apply here,” she added. “The manager of the location chimed in and stated that also it’s to protect other parents who may find it offensive, because of their religious beliefs.”
Mancuso (also stepmom to three children) opens up to PEOPLE about the incident now, saying that she had “never” been asked to move before that day in August.
“In fact, the director who made me move is also a mom of two sets of twins who breastfed both of them,” she says. “I had nursed Piper there when she was an infant — in the classroom and lobby — and was never told anything negative.”
“I believe this incident occurred because they had their regional director there as well as their ‘state lady,’ who was auditing them at the exact time,” Mancuso adds.
In an October follow-up post, Mancuso revealed that the director had called her personally with “a complete 180°” from their previous conversation.
“Her tone was completely apologetic. She explained how sorry she was about how her comments as well as the regional managers confusion made me feel,” Mancuso shared. “She saw how negatively that could make a new or insecure breastfeeding mother feel and potentially ruin a journey.”
“She spoke with her regional manager and together they decided to have a district-wide sensitivity training on state and national law which protects mothers rights to breastfeed their child anywhere and everywhere,” she continued. “She explained they will be updating their handbook to make it very clear so there is no more confusion and will never happen again.”
Despite the initial negative experience, Mancuso’s twins are “still at the same daycare” because she loves the staff — including those who asked her to move.
“[I] believe this was a learning opportunity for them and teaching opportunity for me,” she tells PEOPLE. “They are wonderful to my children and always have been sans that moment. My girls are adjusted well there and it’s a great place.”
“Since then, they’ve had staff sensitivity/breastfeeding awareness training,” Mancuso adds. “I overheard a new mom ask where she can nurse and the staff said ANYWHERE YOU LIKE, ANYTIME YOU NEED. And they were happy to tell the mom that and the mom was super appreciative. That made me very happy, and my experience and the way I handled it worth every second.”