Image by Paala Secor and Rachel Lesteshen
On September 15, nursing mom Dawn Holland was shamed for feeding her child in a booth near the back of an Applebee's restaurant in Georgia. THe manager gave Ms. Holland an ultimatum: to finish feeding her child in the bathroom or to leave the restaurant. After Ms. Holland explained to the manager that breastfeeding moms are protected by Georgia state law and that she would not be going anywhere, the manager called police. Ms. Holland also called the police. After hearing both sides of what happened, the police offer did not file a police report.
Applebee's has yet to apologize to Ms. Holland. They have released a statement saying:
We're in the business of welcoming guests to our restaurants and our top priority is always to provide a friendly and comfortable environment for everyone, including nursing mothers who have the right to nurse in public. This was an unfortunate misunderstanding and we hope the guest will give us another chance to demonstrate that to her personally.
First of all, "an unfortunate misunderstanding" is not the same as "we sincerely apologize" or even "we are sorry". Second of all, you can bet I would never set foot in an Applebee's again if something like this happend to me. In fact, Ms. Holland said in an interview that she has no plans to dine there again. Sadly, this is not the first time that Applebee's has asked a nursing mother to feed her baby in the bathroom. Back in 2007, the manager of a Kentucky Applebee's asked a nursing mom to cover up. This was in violation of Kentucky law which says, "No person shall interfere with a mother breast-feeding her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be." (okay, how freaking COOL is that? No person shall interfere! Love it!) See here for more info on the Kentucky issue.
There has been so much about the benefits of breastfeeding in the news this year. I find it really upsetting to see and hear stories of moms not having support nursing in public or pumping at work. What kind of message does this send to a pregnant mom who wants to breastfeed? It's as if we're saying to her, "Here, we'll help you initiate breastfeeding, but good luck finding the support you need if you want to do it outside of the home or pumping at work." In my opinion, banning the bags and the push for baby friendly hospitals isn't enough. More needs to be done to protect breastfeeding moms, both at work and in public. What's the point of having high initiation rates if moms stop due to a lack of support before reaching the AAP's 6 month recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding?
A national nurse-in is set to take place on Saturday, September 29 at 1pm local time, all across the US. The goal of the nurse-in is to educate businesses and the public about breastfeeding. Head over to your local Applebee's and support a mother's right to nurse in public without being hassled. You do not have to be nursing to attend. Please show your support. No matter how you feel about whether a woman should nurse in public covered or uncovered, no one should be asked to eat in the bathroom.