Saturday, March 12, 2011

Breastfeeding is not a crime

A friend of mine was visiting St. Louis for an appointment at the Children's Hospital this week.  While at the hospital, she went to the cafeteria with her 6 week old baby.  The baby got hungry, so she started to nurse him.

Everything was going great until a security guard came up to her and told her discretely that she was going to have to leave.  My friend asked him why.  He said that she couldn't nurse in the cafeteria.  My friend asked him why she could not nurse in the cafeteria.  He told her it was because there were children around and some people had complained.  She asked what she was supposed to do.  He told her to go to a nursing room on the fifth floor.  She told him she could not leave the cafeteria because her husband and older son were planning to meet her there, and she wasn't sure when they would be arriving.

He asked her to leave again, and she told him she was not sure about Missouri law, but in Illinois, (where she is from) a woman is permitted to nurse in any public place.  At that point, the security guard said he would go check with his supervisor regarding Missouri public breastfeeding laws.

He did not return, and my friend continued to breastfeed her baby.

I think my friend handled the entire situation superbly.  I wish I had her composure.  I asked her permission to post about this on my blog, and she said yes, but the whole situation makes me so angry that I can barely form sentences.

A few weeks ago, something similar occurred when a nursing mother was asked to leave the Smithsonian.   After that incident, breastfeeding advocates staged a nurse-in on the premises.  Maybe St. Louisans should do the same.  It feels particularly insidious when a woman is told she cannot nurse in a hospital.

And for the record, Missouri law: "allows a mother, with as much discretion as possible, to breastfeed her child in any public or private location."

That law seems heinously ambiguous (who determines how much "discretion" is sufficient?) and pales in comparison to the extensive protections offered breastfeeding women by many other states, including my former home state of Illinois.

Come on, people.

We're mammals.

Get over it.





Anonymous said...

Proud of your friend!! it is almost tooooo inconceivable to WRITE about, WHY?? in a CHILDREN's HOSPITAL no less, was it a PROBLEM???? GEEEESH, maybe 'the 'offended 'children are the ones who should have been asked to LEAVE!!! sure need to GET back to some of the' OLDEN" day's views. and GET over 'our 'concerns' about WHAT does and DOES not' offend " someone today!! GOOOOOOD GRIEF~~~ Hopefully SOME good came out of this HORRENDOUS SITUATION-and SAID, rules' in SAID HOSPITAL will be RE-EVALUATED~~~ POWER TO THE NURSING WOMEN~~~ luv you, mama

Alena said...

It's kind of sad to read about such things happening. Don't want to offend anybody, but I find American society to be strangely prudish about absolutely natural things (such as this one).

I hate to admit it, but I've become much more shy since I moved to the US, so breastfeeding in public is still not easy for me (I prefer to do it in the car if we're on the go).

Jackie Ferman said...

We're so disappointed to hear about your friend's experience. We are strong advocates for the benefits of breastfeeding. Was your friend forced to leave or was she able to finish nursing in the cafeteria? It is against our policy to remove anybody because they are nursing.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Your friend is giving her child a precious gift and we applaud her for it. If she feels like she has not received the appropriate support from St. Louis Children's Hospital, please tell her she is welcome to contact me directly.

Jackie Ferman
St. Louis Children's Hospital