The Wrong Way to Raise Awareness About Public Breastfeeding

Social media. A lovely place where people run with half stories, hate, and attempts to destroy businesses in an attempt to “go viral.”

A place where people who are so starved for attention can easily find it in a 2 sentence letter that is being misread en masse. I never thought I would have to dissect a 2 sentence letter and explain it to people but it appears that I have to.

“Thank you for your letter of November 28.”

Okay, that one is simple. Let’s get to the single sentence that has caused so much trouble.

“I have addressed your concerns with the staff and we regret that you will no longer be a visitor to our Mill.”

It seems that most people on social media are reading that as if they are kicking her out of their establishment. Even I thought that at first, but then I read it again. I read this letter before I read the letter that the mother sent. I was able to gather enough information, from this one sentence, to take a wild guess that the mother stated she would not be coming back.

Then I read her letter, and that is exactly what she said.

Here’s my letter to them in which this VIRAL (!) letter was written in response: (Please share away)

28 November 2015

To Whom It May Concern:

My family and I were visiting your establishment this past week, as we do quite often. While we were chatting with Nancy who we have come to know and like over the last few years, she peered into my baby carrier and saw that I was nursing my four month old son. She told me that I needed to cover up and that last time we were there, I had (apparently) angered other customers by doing the same thing. To clarify, I was being discreet. Had she not looked directly in my carrier she would likely not even know I was nursing. In my 3+ years as a nursing mother I have never once been “called out” on nourishing my child as if I were doing something wrong. I spoke with the manager on our way out of the store and while she was nice in explaining that yes, in fact there had been some sort of situation about it in the past and that’s probably why Nancy had told me to cover myself—so as to not upset other customers, and that as a business it’s hard to maintain that level of respecting other’s wishes. Am I not a loyal customer? She assured me that that she too had breastfed her and children and ‘understood where I was coming from.’

I will tell you where I am coming from. This situation has caused me a ridiculous amount of stress and sadness. The past few days I look at my son and think, “what did we do that was wrong?” And that’s the thing. We did nothing wrong. Of course it would have been different had I fed him in the store with a bottle. A breast is a bottle is a source of nourishment for a child. There is little room for discomfort and shame to be placed on a woman who is simply meeting her child’s need, especially in a “family-friendly” business.

There are many things that upset me about this situation (and that it’s even a ‘situation’ at all) but the main thing as this is reinforcing the stigma of breastfeeding and is not helping to normalize the most natural process. To a new mother, this may humiliate and horrify her to the point it affects her decision to continue breastfeeding. I feel that is not society’s decision to make for her.

As far as my family and I returning to your business, sadly we will not. We no longer feel accepted or welcome there.

With Respect,

libel2

The mother’s response to this letter follows:

My family and I very, very regularly visited the Fly Creek Cider Mill. One of our favorite activities for sure, until a month or so ago when I was discreetly nursing my four month old son in a baby carrier only to be told to “cover up because it upsets other customers.” I sent them a letter explaining my rights as a breastfeeding mother and telling them how it made me feel—like I was doing something wrong by feeding my hungry child. This is the passive response I received from them. The lack of regard shown here speaks volumes: Fly Creek Cider Mill DOES NOT SUPPORT NURSING MOTHERS. Please feel free to share or to review their Facebook page in hopes to raise awareness that BABIES NEED TO EAT.

In this, she states that she sent them a letter explaining her rights as a breastfeeding mother. I didn’t see this anywhere in the letter that she shared as the one she sent. I hope that she sent them this;

New York’s Public Breastfeeding Law

§ 79-e. Right to breast feed. Notwithstanding any other provision of
law, 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.

(Please note that a business has the right to say the mother is not allowed on the premises. If the mother chooses to stay, it then turns into trespassing.)

I’m very glad that they have addressed with their staff the mother’s concerns, however, they do not need to disclose how they addressed it. They’ve taken care of it. Hopefully if the mother sent them a copy of the breastfeeding law that would be all that they needed. Ultimately, it is her choice not to return to that business, but they aren’t going to beg her either.

Does this mean that they aren’t supportive of nursing mothers like she claims? No. Was their letter less than stellar? Yes. Should they have apologized? Absolutely.

But does it warrant a full-fledged social media attack that ultimately tanked their ratings and potentially caused them to lose business? No. And it is painfully obvious that this was not a true attempt to raise awareness about breastfeeding in public. As a lactation consultant, I’ve seen this play out many times, honest to goodness raising awareness about public breastfeeding. I’d like to say that there hasn’t been hate or anger thrown towards ignorant businesses and that everything was rainbows and butterflies and perfect apologies were given, but that wouldn’t be true. A little education goes a long way folks. It is impossible for a business to know every single law in the entire country, and it’s apparent that many businesses do not know about these laws at all. Educate them. Move on.

libel4

In my opinion, a more effective way to get one’s point across about public breastfeeding is to host a nurse in. This gets your point across without trying to ruin their business undeservingly.

Can we please remember that these businesses are a family’s livelihood? That maybe, sometimes, people depend on that income in order to survive? And also, that a little bit of ignorance about a law does not warrant an attempt to destroy them. Some of you may not think social media means much to a business, but it is a powerful thing in this day. Ratings mean a lot to a business.

After the business had been drug through the mud, here is the apology that the mother had to force from them because the first one wasn’t enough for her.

libel3

This should have been the first thing they sent her, absolutely. But we are adults, we don’t sit there and throw temper tantrums because things don’t go exactly our way. Perhaps it is time for the business to invest in a social media rep if they can afford it after this blow. But to be honest, we only have one side of this story. She can post what she said to the company all she wants, but what we have is a facebook post of something she supposedly wrote. At least we can say for sure that we have the company’s exact words to her.

No mother should ever be told to cover up while nursing her child in public. It is up to us to raise awareness about public breastfeeding without crossing lines. We must do this legally and respectfully, it is the only way to be taken seriously about issues in the adult world. This mom went about this so wrong, that this business now has everything they need to go after her for libel and loss of business. This situation is no longer an attempt to educate, its harassment in its true form.

And last but not least, the final piece in this puzzle proving that this was simply an act for attention. As if the “Let’s make this go VIRAL!” in the first post wasn’t enough of a clue.

libel1

This wasn’t an act to normalize breastfeeding, this was a selfish attack to feed off attention she knew she would get.

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Feeding On Demand

Nursing on demand can be a wonderful thing. Let us remember that nursing on demand means allowing your baby to feed at the breast as many times as he wants and for as long as he wants.

I want to emphasize that this does *not* mean allowing your baby to go long periods of time without nursing.

On average, a newborn baby in the first 24 hours of life will nurse about 4 times. Most of the time these babies turn out fine, and mom can go on to have a good nursing relationship. BUT, following these guidelines to the best of your ability (what works for YOU!) is extra insurance that your nursing relationship will start off excellent. Ideally, you want to encourage your baby to eat at least 10 times in 24 hours. 

christina

The more your baby nurses;

  • the faster your milk volume will increase.
  •  the faster your baby will expel meconium which harbors bilirubin, that can increase the chance of pathologic levels of bilirubin (leading to jaundice) if not expelled. 
  • the less likely you will suffer from rock hard engorged breasts when your milk increases in volume between days 3-5.
  • the less likely your baby will be readmitted to the hospital for jaundice, hypoglycemia, dehydration, hypernatremia, or excessive weight loss.

What if my baby won’t wake up to eat?

In the first hour or two after birth is when baby will be more alert and willing to nurse. After this, it is common for them to be really sleepy for several hours. In fact, a newborn will typically sleep for about 20 hours in the first day of life. It is still important to watch for early hunger signs such as stirring in their sleep, licking their lips, and bringing their hand to their mouth. Crying is a late hunger sign. Bring your baby to breast if your baby is exhibiting these signs. Ideally, you want your baby skin to skin for as long as possible, this helps facilitate the breastfeeding experience.

What if my baby still won’t eat after watching for hunger signs?

There are quite a few options you can do to ensure your baby is being fed. According to the literature, it is not necessary to supplement a baby in the first 24 hours. These guidelines I am explaining are an ideal situation and should be a goal for establishing breastfeeding. If your baby won’t nurse you can still express your breast milk. It is most effective to do hand expression while your breasts are mainly producing colostrum. Try to do hand expression every 2-3 hours, the same you would do if your baby was nursing. You can hand express into a spoon or in a little plastic medicine cup. You can then use a dropper to feed your baby your expressed colostrum, or save it for a later time. You can also use a manual breast pump, a personal breast pump, or a hospital grade double electric breast pump. Have your IBCLC verify that the flanges fit your breasts correctly, and teach you how to assemble the pump. It is imperative that you don’t use high suction on the breast pump before your milk increases in volume. Using high suction can damage your nipples, breast tissue, cause the nipple to swell, and ultimately cause pain. A very gentle, soft suction stimulation is all that is needed. You most likely won’t get much with the breast pump. This is okay, and it’s normal. To maximize production with a breast pump, use hands-on pumping. This is when you massage and compress your breast as you’re pumping. Express your milk every 2-3 hours, until your baby is able to nurse. Colostrum is thick and syrupy, and can be difficult to express. It takes practice!


Keeping track of nursing in the beginning is helpful for everyone, but why should you worry about it? It helps let us know how nursing is going when no one is there to help you. If we see that baby is nursing frequently for a decent amount of time, and you aren’t having pain, and baby isn’t losing weight excessively, then we have more puzzle pieces to say, “Yes, nursing is going ok for you!”
However, if we see that baby isn’t nursing frequently, is having very short nursing sessions (less than 10 minutes), you’re reporting pain, baby is losing more weight than normal, or is starting to jaundice, then we have those puzzle pieces to get you the extra help that you need. Hopefully from an IBCLC!
Minimizing bumps in the road early on will help establish breastfeeding and prevent negative breastfeeding experiences for you. Nursing isn’t always easy! As an IBCLC, I made a vow to myself not to let these moms and babies fall through the cracks. We must be vigilant, listen to you, and look at the entire picture in order to be most helpful to you.
I hope you’ve found this infograph to be helpful! Let me know if you have any questions.

Edited to include: Explanation of delayed onset of milk production.

There are several risk factors for why milk takes longer to increase in volume. Risk factors include; cesarean birth, excessive IV fluids, first child, traumatic birth, long birth, hormonal issues, and anatomy issues. This list is not 100% complete as there are a lot of risk factors involved. Frequent nursing isn’t a guarantee that your milk volume will increase faster, or even in the normal time frame (3-5 days after birth). If you aren’t noticing significant breast changes by day 3 or 4, make sure you consult with an IBCLC to evaluate your specific situation. In some cases, supplementation may become necessary if milk doesn’t increase in volume between days 3-5. It is not normal for it to take longer. It may be common, but it is *not* normal, and there are specific interventions to help in these situations.

http://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/when-will-my-milk-come-in/

Feedingondemand