This post also appeared on www.capecodonline.com/blogs in the opinion section of the Cape Cod Times, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc.
I came across an interesting news item earlier this month and it really made me stop and think. It involves a woman who was asked to refrain from breastfeeding her child while eating at a restaurant. She demonstrates the exact pose in the picture at the top of this post, so check it out for yourself. As for her story, here it is:
Tonight my sister, her boyfriend, my three month old daughter Catalina, and I all went out to dinner at a local restaurant, Arizona Pizza in Fort Myers (off of Winkler). Catalina got hungry and so I discreetly began to nurse her. Within moments, a server, Irene, came over to me and asked me to stop nursing or cover up, and then she TRIED TO COVER MY BABY WITH A NAPKIN!! I told her several times, as politely as possible that I would not do either of those things as Florida law didn’t require me too and in fact protected my right to breastfeed in public. She tried to cover Catalina a few more times and then asked me to nurse facing the wall, which I also refused to do. Afterwards, she went behind the bar and began pointing at me and getting all of the wait staff to turn and stare at us.
So, if you have a few spare minutes, I’d love it if you could send an email to one (or all) of the following email addresses telling them how terrible you think what they did to me is.
Here is a copy of the letter I sent them which includes the exact Florida laws which protect my right to NIP.
I am writing in regards to an incident that occured this evening at the Fort Myers Arizona Pizza around 7:30 PM. I was dining in the restaurant when it became necessary to breastfeed my three month old daughter. I discreetly began to nurse her. Due to her fussiness it was necessary for me to stand up and sway from side to side. As I was doing this, an employee of the restaurant, Irene, came up to me and told me that I needed to cease breastfeeding or cover up immediately and she attempted to place a napkin over my child’s head. I refused to do so, citing Florida law which states:
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 383.015
1993 Fl. ALS 4; 1993 Fla. Laws ch. 4; 1993 Fla. HB 231
The breast feeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. A mother may breast feed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breast feeding.
Fla. Stat. 800.02, 800.03, 800.04
Statute language omitted. These statutes exclude breastfeeding from various sexual offenses, from the definition of an unnatural and lascivious act.
Fla. Stat. § 827.071 (Child abuse statute)
(g) “Sexual conduct” means … A mother’s breastfeeding of her baby does not under any circumstances constitute “sexual conduct.”
Fla .Stat. §383.016, , 383.016, 383.311, and 363.318
Section 383.016 of the Florida Statutes, provides for a breast-feeding encouragement policy for facilities providing maternity services and newborn infant care and authorizing use of “baby-friendly” designation. Sections 383.016, 383.311, and 363.318 of the Florida Statutes relating to breast feeding, administration of maternal and child health programs, education for birth center clients, and postpartum care for birth center clients, requiring encouragement of breastfeeding.
She continued to insist that I cover myself or cease feeding my baby, which I again refused, politely citing Florida law once more and asserting my baby’s right to eat. She attempted to blame other patrons of the restaurant and in fact became quite rude, repeatedly attempting to cover my child’s head with a napkin. She then instructed me to turn around and face a wall while feeding my baby, which I also refused to do. I am outraged that your establishment would allow such bold disregard of Florida law and a woman and child’s right to engage in a breastfeeding relationship. I would like to know what will be done to rectify this situation and to ensure that it does not happen to anyone else again.
I will not be returning to dine in your establishment. Furthermore, I will encourage everyone I know to boycott the attendance of a restaurant that encourages such backward thinking and ill treatment as I received this evening.
So I have a few thoughts and opinions on this.
First of all, she is legally protected under Florida state law. That’s pretty much the bottom line here from a legal standpoint. The law clearly protects her right to breastfeed, even in a private restaurant, and that’s that. The waitress had absolutely no right to tell her to stop feeding her child. Furthermore, if a waitress ever tried to cover my baby’s head with a napkin I would flip the hell out. That was a serious error in judgement and I hope she’s fired for that one.
Now, even though this woman is protected legally, the question remains: Is it in bad taste to breastfeed while out in public? For the purposes of this discussion, I’m limiting my comments to this specific case. The woman in this case admits she stood up and swayed from side to side, and did not use any kind of a cover. While I’m all for breastfeeding, there has to be some sense of decorum. It’s not like this woman was sitting discreetly in a corner trying to nurse her baby as conspicuously as possible. She was STANDING UP AND SWAYING FROM SIDE TO SIDE. I don’t care who you are, when a large-breasted and semi-attractive woman is standing up in the middle of a restaurant with half her boob hanging out, that’s going to attract attention. Now as I said before, the problem (at least in my opinion) occurred when the waitress told her to stop and attempted to cover up her baby. Let’s say that didn’t happen, and instead a few people nearby calmly and politely asked her if she could cover-up a little bit. I think that’s completely understandable.
Bottom line is I don’t believe what this woman did was appropriate. MJ has a very nice, pretty silk cover-up that she uses when she has to breastfeed in public. And as a result, you’d never even know she was feeding a child. And although feeding the baby is of the utmost importance, it’s vital to remember there are people around you who came out to eat a nice meal. Maybe those people are with some older children, and the parents of those children shouldn’t have to worry about their young boys seeing a woman’s boobs over an appetizer. And don’t give me this crap about explaining breastfeeding to children and desexualizing it…boys like boobs. Period! And boys will stare at boobs if they are out in the open. You can explain breastfeeding til the cows come home, but most boys don’t care. They see a boob and suddenly that’s all they can see and think about for the next week, nevermind until the end of the meal. There is an expectation of privacy in a restaurant and this woman did nothing to attempt to meet it. She could’ve and should’ve been more respectful of the people around her, or at least sat down so she wasn’t sticking out like a sore thumb. It just seems she was throwing it in everyone’s face a little bit and I think that was uncalled for.
I know there are very strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but this is my two cents. So nurse your child in public but buy a cover-up and have a little respect for the people around you.