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.
Photo Credit: Pusteblumenland