Katie Couric talked about breastfeeding in public on her show this week. She interviewed Douglasville mom Dawn Holland on being asked to leave a local Applebee’s after refusing to breastfeed in the bathroom. She also talked with American University professor Adrienne Pine on her decision to breastfeed her child in front of her class.
The show sent over excerpts from the interviews so I wanted to share those with you and get your opinions.
“Douglasville, GA mom Dawn Holland on being asked to leave a local Applebee’s after refusing to breastfeed in the bathroom:
KC: Dawn, let me start with you. I know you were at an Applebee’s in Georgia. You were in a booth with your mom and your 11-year-old son, right? And you started nursing your son. Tell me what happened.
DH: We hadn’t been sitting very long at all. In fact we were still looking at menus and drink orders had just been taken. And a manager came up to me and told me I was being inappropriate and I needed to excuse myself to the restroom.
KC: And this was a female manager, which I think is kind of germane and interesting. What did you say to her?
DH: I told her that a restroom was not an appropriate place to breastfeed a child, or to feed any child anything– that there were laws protecting me and I wasn’t going to go to the bathroom and nurse my child.
KC: You had breastfeed in public before, I guess for 20 months you had been breastfeeding your son. Had you gotten any negative feedback before?
DH: No, I never had anything. I’ve had some people take some double takes every once in a while, but never approach me in this manner.
KC: Now your husband is deployed in Afghanistan.
DH: Yes he is.
KC: What did he say when you told him about what had happened to you?
DH: He was shocked to hear that had happened to me, and just very concerned that the stress it was going to put on our family and what it was bringing him. And you know, I worry about him too, what he’s not focused on his job over there, now he’s worried about his family back home.
KC: I know that after she told you to go into the bathroom, you actually just left and continued feeding your baby in the parking lot, is that right?
DH: I told her to go research the law to see that I did have rights.
KC: Good for you!
DH: I maintained my ground.”
“American University professor Adrienne Pine on her decision to breastfeed her child in front of her class:
KC: Did you think about kind of taking a break and maybe nursing her in private, or saying to the TA, “I need 10 minutes” or, “Kids can you read this passage and I’ll be right back?”
AP: You know I did think about it at the moment and it was a tough decision. But at the moment what I felt like was this was the least disruptive thing I could possibly do, because to leave class for 10 minutes would leave students hanging would’ve been very disruptive. And frankly I’ve been breastfeeding for a year, which is how old my baby is, and I’ve never had any problems. And so I figured this would calm her right down and I would be able to go on lecturing, and that’s what I did. Of course I warned them beforehand.
KC: And you covered yourself up, right?
KC: What’s interesting is the name of your class. Tell us the name of your class that you teach.
AP: The class is “Sex, Gender and Culture.” It’s a class in feminist anthropology.
KC: How appropriate right?”
So what do you think of these two cases?
Georgia is a right-to-nurse state. You have the right to nurse your baby anywhere. I nursed all three of mine in restaurants, in stores, in church. I went to the bathroom the first time I nursed Rose at a restaurant and it was a horrible experience. A mom has to practice to get comfortable doing it in public. You can absolutely do it discreetly and no one should care.
I am really torn on the university professor. I am sure that she was thinking I can just pop the baby on and the baby will be soothed and happy, and I can continue teaching. But even with a cover on I am not sure that I would be comfortable nursing while lecturing with 20 students looking directly at me. Now if she was in a dark room narrating slides from the back I would be comfortable doing that. But I am trying to picture myself at the front of my classroom nursing while talking to my students and I don’t think I could do it. I think I would have given them a quick break and said grab a Coke and I will be right back. It’s a little different since you are the center of attention as the teacher. Maybe if they were having a discussion and you weren’t the main one talking just sort of facilitating. I could see that.
So what do you think? Are these two cases different? Is it the same principle? Does the location change what is appropriate?