Breastfeeding Clinic in New York Struggles to Survive

A feud is escalating between two unlikely candidates: a Manhattan breastfeeding boutique and the condo board of the high-end building where the store is housed. The boutique, cleverly named the Upper Breast Side, occupies the ground floor of the Pythian, a historic apartment building that was, ironically, built as an all-male lodge.

The UBS is operated by Felina Rakowski-Gallagher, a woman who has sought to create a space where women can navigate the complicated world of breastfeeding. Rakowski-Gallagher is fighting against the condo board’s claim that the UBS violates the building’s zoning, because instead of being a resource center, its function is primarily commercial. Although purchases certainly happen within UBS, Rakowski-Gallagher claims that it is a “community facility.”

She has support from breastfeeding activists and other members of the women’s health community. “When mothers leave the hospital, are we going to throw them to the wolves, or are we going to provide support?” asked Marsha Walker, executive director of the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy. “If it’s zoned for community service, well, that’s exactly what’s being provided.”

The issue of what exactly constitutes a “community facility” is up for debate.  According to the city rules, it must provide “educational, recreational, religious, health or other essential services for the community it serves.” Although Rakowski-Gallagher, a former cop whose stated aspiration is to be “the woman who put easier breast-feeding on the map of New York City, and made it something as ordinary as eating pie and talking on your cell phone,” thinks that UBS is providing an essential service, the line between a commercial and medical facility is admittedly hard to draw. 

Doctors sell products, as the NYT points out, but does that mean that UBS counts as a medical facility? It’s, of course, hard to say why the condo board seems so opposed to UBS – whether it’s because of the somewhat-taboo nature of their products and services, or because they genuinely think that UBS is violating the zoning rules. Rakowski-Gallagher, too, has an interest in protecting her business as well as providing a service. But there’s a compelling argument to be made that because breastfeeding can be intimidating and products difficult to know how to use, a store like this which doesn’t merely sell breastfeeding accoutrements but teaches women how to use them does constitute a public service.

What do you think? Should UBS be allowed to stay open – and why or why not?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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40 comments

 .
.4 years ago

Sounds nifty,
Breastfeeding is a no-brainer, really, baby comes out and almost instantly starts rooting in and pursing lips, looking for the breast.
One of the only problems keeping women from breastfeeding is the unnatuaral way we choose to birth, in the hospital where sick people go. Doctors treat women like a number, use medication to stop women from feeling their child be born, causing babies to be born SEDATED!.
Breastfeeding needs to occur directly following the birth or ASAP if there are complications.
I blame NESTLE and other formula companies for the tragic state of dis-health in our newborn poulation.

 .
.4 years ago

Sounds nifty,
Breastfeeding is a no-brainer, really, baby comes out and almost instantly starts rooting in and pursing lips, looking for the breast.
One of the only problems keeping women from breastfeeding is the unnatuaral way we choose to birth, in the hospital where sick people go. Doctors treat women like a number, use medication to stop women from feeling their child be born, causing babies to be born SEDATED!.
Breastfeeding needs to occur directly following the birth or ASAP if there are complications.
I blame NESTLE and other formula companies for the tragic state of dis-health in our newborn poulation.

Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago

It's a service and educational facility. It's kind of like a health food store, where you don't need to be a medical facility to do so. I can't believe that some people are so anally retentive about breast feeding and giving the modern woman support on this issue. It's not like the olden days where you had 3+ generations under one roof, and grandma passed her wisdom to her daughters and granddaughters. If all income is used for the correct purposes, then they're not out of compliance.

pam w.
pam wilkerson4 years ago

noted! thanks for the infor.

Christine S.

It sounds like it is primarily a resource for women, and it happens to sell the appropriate products to make breastfeeding easier, rather than forcing women to search for the equipment on their own. Really, it sounds like a good resource, and it should stay.

Deborah L.
Deborah Lashever4 years ago

Luckily there is la Leche League which is a breastfeeding support group. They have a great book, classes and mothers you can call at any hour for help. It is all over the country and online. IT IS FREE! They are mothers helping mothers and unlike most breastfeeding professionals, have been there and done that so they know first hand and all La Leche League leaders are fully trained. And, did I mention IT IS FREE!

Yvette T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Our society judges NATURE. It started with religions going deeply to the opposite direction from the true teachings of meditation, respect for all beings as sacred entities just as they are born into this creation. We must recover our natural ways and learn to value humility, non-aggression, and community for all life before the greed, ego, and material-based priorities we have been conditioned to revere. Our conditioning to judge others is absurd, to confine, restrain, humiliate, degrade, insult, kill for food, control or interfere with any other life path, animal or human, is just wrong.

Heather G.
Heather G.4 years ago

breast feeding is not easy at first, it takes committment and for some women it doesn't ever work out. add to that the stigma of a naked breast in public and the chances of success go down even more.

women have not been breast feeding "for ever." just a generation or so ago hardly anyone did so if women want to do it they might have to seek sources of info other than their mothers or grandmothers.

bernadette Price
Berny p.4 years ago

"When mothers leave the hospital, are we going to throw them to the wolves, or are we going to provide support?"
This is an exageration .....women have breast fed ...for ever...so lets not get scilly!
Yes this place should stay open as it does help new mothers but keep things in perspective!

Kathy M.
Kathy M.4 years ago

If the center is in violation of the regulations in its current location, yet it wants to stay in business, it should move to a location where it is not in violation. I know, I know--much more interesting to create conspiracy theories of gender discrimination, but not every interaction between men and women involves big bad men holding women back.