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It’s Really Time to Stop Shaming Breastfeeding Mothers

It’s Really Time to Stop Shaming Breastfeeding Mothers

Picture this: You decide to treat yourself to some much needed retail therapy so you head out to one of your favorite stores. You happily find lots of take home pieces and drop a pretty penny on said purchases. All is going well until your 6-week-old baby starts getting fussy.

It’s time to eat so you sit and begin breastfeeding; that is until the store manager escorts you to the bathroom to finish breastfeeding. With nowhere to sit but the toilet, you awkwardly, and uncomfortably, finish feeding your baby and leave for home at the peak of frustration, for once having nothing to do with not finding anything that fits.

Such was the case of Ingrid Wiese-Hesson who was shopping at her local Antropologie in Beverly Hills with her 6-week-old son earlier this week. Angered by what happened, Ingrid later called the manager to find out why she had been asked to finish breastfeeding in the bathroom — after all breastfeeding in public in California is legal — and she was told:

Well, there are other customers in the store, and I thought that you would be more comfortable, and they would be more comfortable, if you were to leave the sales floor.

Would feeding a baby in a public bathroom without a place to sit besides the toilet really be the most comfortable environment for a mom or baby? I certainly think not.

When asked about the experience Wiese-Hesson recalls:

I don’t know if it was imagined or felt real, but I felt judged. As I walked out of the restroom and toward the door to leave, I was overcome with a feeling of shame, which is not something I’m accustomed to. I’m not someone who embarrasses easily…When I sat down in the car, I thought, “Is this what it means to be a mom?”

Wiese-Hesson is not alone. On behalf of her and breastfeeding moms everywhere, several nursing mothers staged a “nurse-in” at the offending Antropologie. Some women walked in with their babies and started breastfeeding them when they arrived and others walked in breastfeeding their children.

Antropologie eventually released a statement about the incident, and while it sounds well meaning it leaves much to be deserved:

We are disappointed to hear of the unfortunate experience that occurred in our Beverly Hills store. As a company comprised of hundreds of mothers, which seeks to put the customer first, we celebrate women in all of their life stages. Given our staff’s dedication to providing exceptional customer service we welcome this as an opportunity to enhance our customer experience by providing further training and education for our staff. Our aim is that all women all mothers be comfortable in our stores and delight in their relationship with Anthropologie.

Sounds good right? But where is the apology? Where is the actual action of what they will do so all mothers feel comfortable in their stores? Anthropologie had a real opportunity here to take a stance on breastfeeding in public, but it squandered it.

Unfortunately what happened at Antropologie is not an isolated incident. In Oregon, another state where breastfeeding is legal in public, last week mothers staged another “nurse-in” at a restaurant that told a breastfeeding mother to cover up.

What struck me most about these two incidents is that in Wiese-Hesson’s case she felt shamed for breastfeeding in public. I’m sure she isn’t the first woman to feel this emotion, and she certainly won’t be the last.

A recent photo of Olivia Wilde breastfeeding her 5-week-old son in a diner in Glamour magazine made me hopeful that this would be a point of awareness raising for breastfeeding women, but instead it kicked off a new round of Mommy Wars. Countless viewers used the image as a jumping off point for discussing the virtues of breastfeeding while shaming mothers who bottle feed their children.

There it is — the shame again, which in my opinion is the real point here. Breastfeeding mothers and those who choose to bottle feed their children shouldn’t be made to feel shame for the choices they make for their families. We should respect women’s choices and trust them to make the right decisions concerning the health of their babies.

After all, there are lots of ways to be a good mom and for that women should be celebrated not shamed.

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Photo Credit: Pusteblumenland

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142 comments

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7:00PM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

No kidding!

2:25PM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

John S., I have no idea why you think that. Perhaps the confusion lies in the fact that although I live in Spain, English is my native language? As for the butterfly points, I must confess I've never looked into exactly what they are about.

In any case, back to the topic at hand. Spain is, for Europe, a relatively modest and conservative country. But in this and a few other important (in my opinion) instances, they've got things right here. Women are free to breast feed when and wherever.

Betty K, nice suggestions! Personally, I'm partial to #4!

12:21PM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

Wendy R, 3,191 Butterfly Credits . . . . wow, your amazing. Why don't I think you actually live in Spain?

11:44AM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

To John S....if you ''dislike babies'' I suggest that YOU stay at home and avoid them.

5:57AM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

ty

4:33AM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

merci Ximena

10:44AM PDT on Aug 29, 2014

This "problem" is no biggie; there are several solutions for public places to choose. [1] No breast fed babies allowed. [2] Provide employees to hold screaming babies. [3] Provide comfortable "nursing lounges". [4] Put blinders on those who can't tolerate the sight of a nursing baby.----There you have it ; pick one.

7:51PM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

I appluade ALL breastfeeding moms

10:45AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

Gill A., Tina A., of course there's a place where you can do this, or any action, in private. But who made you so special that you get to decide? "I don't feel comfortable, therefore you should change your behavior." Really? I'd say, if you don't feel comfortable, perhaps you should look away, or go away. Breasts are made for... breastfeeding! That is their purpose. Get over yourselves!

John S., some of us don't like you, perhaps you should refrain from commenting. You DO realize you were once a baby yourself, right...

3:34AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

Some of us dislike babies, perhaps you should refrain from "retail therapy".

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