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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