Katie Couric dives into public breastfeeding debate: Were these two mom OK to nurse in public?

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.

From the “Katie” show:

“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?
AP: Yeah.
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?

66 comments Add your comment


September 28th, 2012
4:56 am

Hasn’t this topic been already debated to death on multiple forums for years? Are there any new angles or just rehashing the same old points?

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Logic please...

September 28th, 2012
5:56 am

Show some discretion…breast feed in private.


September 28th, 2012
6:27 am

She was breastfeeding an 11 year old?

I don’t think I was a nursing Nazi, but I nursed my kids, with a shawl covering me, anywhere I happened to be that they were hungry. I was most often at home (no shawl needed), but also at restaurants and choir practice. I was more comfortable to nurse than to feed with a bottle. The only person I am aware of that this bothered was my mother (which made it worth doing right there). Better to nurse than to hear a baby crying! It seems like a lot of folks equate nursing with having sex.


September 28th, 2012
6:29 am

Eleven year olds won’t fit under most shawls!


September 28th, 2012
7:39 am

Why was the professor’s baby in the classoom in the first place?


September 28th, 2012
7:43 am

Cat, I thought that too, at first. But I THINK it was a 20 month old baby. You’re exctly right, better than a screaming baby. You can look away from the nursing but you can’t plug your ears to the screaming. And you’re right that some equate the sex and the nursing, which I don’t get at all.

Don’t we have bigger fish to fry on both sides of the issue?


September 28th, 2012
7:43 am

@Catlady, you’re making me laugh. It does sound like, from the way this is worded that the child is 11. I think there was an 11 yr old there as well as the baby who was 20 months.
I have no problem with nursing discretely but I wonder why the need to nurse an almost two yr old in public? Most 20 month olds eat regular food, juice etc at lunch. Most moms I know who breastfeed that long do so in the mornings, at nap time or at bed time. I’m sure she wasn’t being discrete and because he was older, people were uncomfortable.
I agree that this topic has been talked to death. Most rational people agree on what is and is not appropriate.
The professor was totally out of line. Nothing discrete about nursing when you are the center of attention.
And what does the woman’s husband being in Afghanistan have to do with anything? Just dumb that they brought that up like we’re supposed to feel even more sorry for her that she was mistreated just because her husband is in the service. Whatever.


September 28th, 2012
7:47 am

I breastfed both of mine in public …20 and 25 years ago…..like catlady…when they were hungry. They were both weaned by the time they were 12 months old and able to ask for what they wanted such as a cookie instead of breastmilk. To me, this is the point. If they are small and under a cover, no one really notices. If they are big enough to have a regular conversation with you and/or unbutton your shirt themselves…that is a bit more obvious. I also never breastfed mine while I was being paid to perform my job. To me, that crosses the line. If it is your lunch hour or break and you have worked it out with your employer…then IMHO that is suitable. As a teacher, I do not think you can breastfeed and teach at the same time. Perhaps others can but not me and I teach both children and adults.

mystery poster

September 28th, 2012
7:55 am

I read this and my first though was… “Why would anyone want to eat at Applebees?”

Now, if she had been at...

September 28th, 2012
7:57 am

…Hooters she might have an argument, but not at Applebee’s…

And once I read catlady’s post I had to re-read the article, too, and it does sound like she was nursing the 11 yr. old – and even when a couple of paragraphs later it talks about “nursing for 20 months” it is still not crystal clear that she was referring to another child…


September 28th, 2012
8:03 am

She shouldn’t have brought a baby to a college class at all. If backup care isn’t available, then call out. It wasn’t good for a sick baby to be around a ton of people, nor was it good for the class to have a disruptive baby distracting their professor.


September 28th, 2012
8:08 am

@mystery poster, LOL! I agree.

First, what the teacher did was wrong. I would never nurse my baby at work! Inappropriate. She should’ve been prepared with pumped milk! I always carried some with me for my baby. I just stopped nursing about 3 weeks ago and I breastfed in public when I stayed away from home longer than expected. I have never had a problem breastfeeding in public because I was discreet. As for the Applebee’s mom, she was probably not covered up well. Also, at 20 months I really think it’s about the mom more than the baby. A lot of moms just want to continue to have that connection with their child. While in college I worked at Red Lobster. One day a lady came in, took her breast out and plopped it on the table, then started nursing her baby. It grossed everybody out. Nobody said anything but it was very inappropriate.


September 28th, 2012
8:17 am

This is almost as absurd a topic as most of Bookmans…. Who cares where they nurse..?


September 28th, 2012
8:17 am

Was it “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day” at the college? I’m all for breastfeeding and its benefits. But you have to leave the baby/child at home/daycare when you go to work. I couldn’t bring a baby to work in data processing? She must have tenure.

Also, some women love to brag about how they nursed their baby to the age of 1 year, or 18 months or two years or nine years or whatever. No one cares, and there are no medals to be given out.


September 28th, 2012
8:40 am

@Kat and Tired: That was exactly what I was thinking — why in the heck was she bringing an almost 2-year-old to work with her?! Never mind the nursing — just bringing the child would have been enough to earn her a lecture from me if I were her boss.

One thing that I thought was interesting: Her husband is deployed, and while on one hand she ran and told him, then on the other hand, she bemoans the “stress” that “all this” has put on him and possibly distracting him from his job. Well, damn, lady — WHY DID YOU TELL HIM, THEN?! The only person who put stress on him was HER, whining because some mean ol’ restaurant manager infringed on her “rights”. She’s the one that’s whipping this up into a media frenzy, certainly not the restaurant manager.

Van Jones

September 28th, 2012
8:40 am

There is a laundry list of natural bodily functions that I prefer not to witness in public. A little discretion goes a long way.


September 28th, 2012
8:47 am

I am so sick of the AU professor. I have no problem with women breastfeeding in public, but that’s not what she did wrong. She brought a crawling baby to class who had already been a distraction (almost got to the electrical socket) and then tried to calm the child by breastfeeding WHILE LECTURING. That’s just unprofessional, and I’d say the same if she were texting while lecturing. I had a couple of college professors bring children to class one time each, but they handled it appropriately. One brought his school-age kids on break who read and colored quietly in the back. Another’s sitter was sick and she couldn’t find a last minute replacement, so she brought her 3 or 4-month-old in a carrier. She expected the baby to sleep through class, but said at the beginning that her goal was to get through as much of the class as possible, and if the baby woke up, she would leave and the TA would wrap things up.

The AU professor handled the situation badly and rather than apologize, went on defense claiming it was about breastfeeding in public.


September 28th, 2012
8:51 am

With all of the backwoods yahoos and conservative moralists in this part of the world, I’m amazed Georgia has a right-to-breastfeed law at all.

Becky (original)

September 28th, 2012
8:59 am

@mystery poster..Especially the Applebee’s in Douglasville, GA. I live in Douglasville and have been to that one 2 times..The first time because it had just opened and the second time just to make sure that it wasn’t always going to be that crappy..It was..

As for the Mom breast feeding, I have no problem with her feeding in public, if she was covered..But as others have mentioned, breastfeeding a 20 month old..Really?? If a parent can’t have a naked or almost naked picture of their child taken at that age because it’s porno, why should I have to watch a toddler breast feed? Just my opinion..

There are lots and lots of children in my family as most on here know and we have never had a child bottle fed or breast fed after the one year mark..Most of them were weaned at no later than 9 months..

As for the professor breastfeeding in class..Oh HECK no…Not to mention, a class in “feminist anthropology” People actually get paid to teach stuff like that? Please give me a break…

non committal mind reader

September 28th, 2012
9:00 am

1) The Applebees woman was okay. What she did should be perfectly acceptable in the USA.
2) The Teacher was NOT okay. You want to breastfeed in public on your time… fine. You want to breastfeed in the classroom on MY time (as a student)… unacceptable. I don’t bring my kids to your classroom, you do bring your kids either. It is not professional an disrespectful to paying students.


September 28th, 2012
9:04 am

I apologize for my earlier post. I clearly am wrong, and insulting conservatives just shows a lack of maturity.


September 28th, 2012
9:09 am

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.

This is another attempt to exaggerate a situation and play on emotions. He was “shocked”? I’m sure you gave him and absolutely accurate description of what happened, right? Um, no.

I hardly think the parties involved will be permanently scarred for life. If your husband is in Afghanistan yet can fall apart of hearing about you being inconvenienced while breastfeeding, then you really have bigger issues.

And secondly, a “feminist” class does not exactly pay a compliment to the type of person we are dealing with in that professor. More like it isn’t surprising given the personality types that are involved in such material (I hate to paint with a broad brush, but often quite liberal types).


September 28th, 2012
9:23 am

What the hell was a baby doing in the classroom to begin with?
Leave your f’ing children at home. It’s your workplace. This sort of thing makes me crazy.

We make choices as working parents. It’s call “opportunity cost”.


September 28th, 2012
9:56 am

I have friends who manage restaurants and what a horrible position to be put into for the employees and the other tables. Just because it’s natural does not mean that people should have to watch. They’re paying for the dining experience, not to watch this ladies boobs flopping around. I would be willing to bet that she made no attempt to be polite and cover herself out of respect for others, yet she can preach about her feelings and what’s right!?! People should see that she’s nursing a 20 month old and figure out that something just does not click from the get go. Peeing is natural also, so maybe the professor can pull over a trash can and pee while the class watches. Why not? Because there is a time and place for everything including nursing.


September 28th, 2012
9:56 am

Did you see 2 Broke Girls this week? Mom in the diner feeding a kid…the kid peaks out of her shirt and orders fries!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


September 28th, 2012
10:02 am

Wow, you guys will watch a violent sex driven movie in public but you dont want to see a baby getting its nutrition. I guess you dont like father daughter dances either.


September 28th, 2012
10:04 am

It’s cool, we’re so worried about our rights that we don’t have time to question if it’s right.


September 28th, 2012
10:05 am

Hey OMG, movies aren’t for real just so ya know.


September 28th, 2012
10:37 am

I agree with the first poster we have debated this to death…

Personally I would don’t like to see nursing mothers public or private. But since it must be done…because heaven knows a bottle baby, even a part time bottle baby is evil…then do it at home. OR put up with the stares and crap.


September 28th, 2012
10:38 am

sorry i meant wouldn’t or don’t and combined them.


September 28th, 2012
10:45 am

FCM – I just LOL at work….so inappropriate of me! This is the workplace. LOLLLLLLLLLLL! But seriously, the professor was out of line. There are things you just don’t do at work and breastfeeding is one…unless you are a lactating specialist (I think that is what they are called) and you are demonstrating a technique.

The mom at Applebee’s – if she was appropriately covered – should not have had an issue. Law or not, you just need to be considerate, period. Natural or not, no one wants to see a random broad’s boobs at dinner. From all her dramatics – calling the husband in a WAR and upsetting him to the point he can’t concentrate on work (should he be a soldier if this kind of stuff bothers him that much?) – I can’t say for sure she’s not the kind that is not “I’m a breastfeeding mom, hear me roar…and I don’t care if you don’t like my boobs; the law doesn’t say I have to cover up”. I’m not a mom so I can’t go into the whole “my kid was hungry so I fed him” argument. I can speak from a diner’s perspective and I just don’t want it. I really don’t want it at a friend’s house either but I can’t really tell someone to cover at their house. I have to suck it up or leave. (I don’t know why I am like that because I am not that modest myself but I guess I don’t want to see YOURS even if I don’t mind walking around half naked when I’m at home alone.)

Becky (original)

September 28th, 2012
11:08 am

Oops..Sorry, I just watched the video and realized that it’s not the Applebee’s in Douglasville..


September 28th, 2012
12:18 pm

Wait… GA is a right-to-work state, which actually means you have the right to be fired at anytime. So if GA is also a right-to-breastfeed state does that really mean you have the right to be kicked out of anyplace anytime for breastfeeding?


September 28th, 2012
1:28 pm

The mom should build a bridge and simply get the *** over it. This won’t be the last time people are put off by her. You can suckle in public legally, you aren’t guarenteed to be accepted– big difference. Maybe the dad made a bad choice of mates.


September 28th, 2012
1:30 pm


I choose to go to the movies, when I can choose when and where someone else can breast feed, you will have a valid comparison. Now, not even close. You can breastfeed in the theatre if you like fairly discretely though. You just have to pay.


September 28th, 2012
2:06 pm

I am a mother of two (a 9 month old and 17 years ) and I breastfeed. However, I have never breastfeed in a restaurant or any other public place. Lets face it, it’s hard to breastfeed a 20 month old discreetly. They are usually into everything, including moving away from the breast to enjoy (other) more worthy causes. I’m speaking from experience. My 9 month old will not stand still for five minutes doing a feeding, she is mobile and happy to have that freedom.

When I go out, I make sure the baby has been feed. I eat out all the time, sometime I provide baby friendly food from my plate just to keep my 9 month old happy while dining out.

I do not want anyone gawking at me while I am trying to breadfeed. It’s not because I am embarrassed about having my breast in my babies mouth, but more of a privacy thing for me personally. Plus I like to dine with others……

When I am having diner, I do not want to see my girlfriends or my sister with a baby attached to their breast. Other people do have a right to what they are going to see while in a public place and it should not be anychild over the age of 3 months with a breast in their mouth. That’s about the only age when it can legitimately be still done discreetly.

Elder Flower Child

September 28th, 2012
2:12 pm

Discreetly breast feeding a young infant is one thing…toddlers are a whole different ballgame. As these babies get older and grow, even if you want to continue breastfeeding, they are also old enough to have learned how to drink from a cup. There is a time and a place for everything, and while it may be your ‘right’ to do so, sometimes it just isn’t right to do so.

Have A Smile! ☺☻

September 28th, 2012
2:15 pm

I have a great compromise. I’ve always said, if you want to breast feed in public, just expose the 2nd breast also. What? You won’t?

Oh…of course, women want it both ways. Expose your breast(s) in public but at the same time get “offended” that you draw unwanted attention, sometimes from men. And then berate men for having a natural, healthy attraction to the female form.

It amazes me sometimes how far people want to take things then b|tch and moan about the unintended consequences.

If you want to breastfeed in public, do so discretely please. But don’t get all butthurt and make it out to be a national crisis when it doesn’t work out and someone complains.

Raisin Toast Fanatic

September 28th, 2012
2:18 pm

Maybe the dad made a bad choice of mates.



September 28th, 2012
2:23 pm

Discrete (covered) in public is perfectly fine. Can’t understand the issue really with college kids. They are doing far worse things in their dorm rooms and certainly have been able to see worse things on the big screen legally since turning 17/18.

Frankly the irony should not be lost on the wife of the soldier.

We hear from every soldier and every supporter of the military that “they are fighting to protect our rights.” What a load of crap when you honestly think about it and examine it historically.

During every war that has ever been founght by this country, the rights of citizens in the US have diminish greatly and have never been restored when the war ended. Since 9-11, nearly the entire bill of rights and so much of the constitution has been destroyes, along with many rights as old as the Magna Carta have been shreaded by the past two presidents and their lap dog congresses.

What exactly is this guy fighting for? The women in afganistan ended up with MORE rights as a result of our invasion/destruction/occupation (though tens of thousands obviously lost their innocent lives) while women in this country have far fewer than they started with .

Don’t ever expect Katy Couric to point out this obvious point.

Seems like the best way to not see a nursing woman in Applebees is for everyone to simply NOT eat at Applebees. Use the rights you have left and withdraw your support. It is the true democracy of the dollar. It is certainly more effective than voting if one wants to make a change.


September 28th, 2012
5:10 pm

Whatever happened to discretion, decency, humility and professionalism? I am sick to death of feeling like the majority has to pander to the self-serving, over-indulgent, immature actions of the few who have to make a statement. You don’t want to see me shave my pube in public; I don’t want to see your boobies. I’m also confused by this story. Was the child she was breastfeeding 11 years old? If so, for crying out loud someone call child services! As far as the professor is concerned, fire her. How in the word can she do her job when distracted by a baby? Pump your milk and find a sitter, we all do it!


September 28th, 2012
5:14 pm

Here is a thought…why do we not just let ladies expose their upper half all the time?

Regardless of feed a baby or not…after all my boobs are natural…oh wait, some other folk’s boobs might not be…..

The Dixie Diarist

September 28th, 2012
5:26 pm

There’s a great cartoon in a recent issue of The New Yorker … showing how both sides take it a bit too far.

A politician is walking away from a crowd of people who have disgusted looks on their faces, especially a mom with a baby enjoying his liquid snack. The politician’s handler says to his flustered boss, “In the future, don’t kiss babies while they’re breast-feeding.”


Mayfield QA Tester

September 28th, 2012
5:59 pm

Could you ladies stage a breastfeeding event in the near future? How about at Starship on Northside. I would love to take a few samples. I’m quite sure you will feel right at home with me extraction technique.


September 28th, 2012
7:52 pm

This certainly shows the course this country has taken. It is obvious from so many comments that way too many people are terribly uncomfortable with this totally natural and beautiful process by which the mother is able to feed her child exactly what he/she needs to build their immune system and survive. And yet we have no problems with women with breasts hanging out in ads on tv and billboards or falling out in music videos targetted at kids. We have no problem with teenage girls walking around in clothes that 20 years ago only prostitutes wore and even encourage “beauty contests” among 2-6 years olds in which those same clothes are worn along with provocative dancing and other physical gestures.

And yet a women simply performing the loving act of feeding her own child is viewed in the way so many on this blog have responded. We should be deeply ashamed as a culture (and yet, just turn on TV and you can see that we are not). Meanwhile the greatest obscenity of all – war – is applauded as if it were a totally necessary and critical rite of passage for every man and every generation. Just disgusting – especially since the US has started nearly every war we have been involved in for the past 100 years.


September 28th, 2012
9:31 pm

When I eat at restaurants, I am not looking or paying attention to anything that is happening at other tables. Folks that notice what others are doing must be somewhat bored with their own dining companions. Unless there is a screaming child, drunk patron or other “major” noisy disturbance, I do not look over at other diners. I am engaged in eating my meal and conversing with my dining companions. I don’t understand what the big deal is about breastfeeding at other tables, as it is typically a quiet activity.

If someone at my table breastfeeds, who I am talking or interacting with, I am usually looking at their face. I may notice they are breastfeeding, but I am not focused on that.


September 28th, 2012
9:35 pm

cynic, I totally agree. I wonder if many of the previous people who have posted also post in opposition to advertisements of women in bikinis or dancing, with scarcely anything on in music videos…I would bet not. Breasts have been sexualised by western culture to the point that many people have forgotten their primary purpose.


September 28th, 2012
9:55 pm

@ cynic let me make sure I have this right: because this a natural, loving, beautiful act that nurishes the relationship (and alright the body) we should just deal because this is a child?

I can think of a natural, loving, beautiful act that nurishes the relationship of 2 consenting adults. So if a couple chose to do that while nurishing their body (maybe they share a pizza!)…like at the table next to you that is fine right?

It is not just women’s breasts that are being objectified. How much money did Magic Mike bring in? I can think of several dozen ads specifically geared at women that objectify men. (Oddly I don’t hear anyone screaming about that!). Yet I doubt anyone is suggesting men whip anything out at the table…and don’t tell me it is b/c they don’t feed babies. Equality is a 2 way street, how about letting the Dad have a chance to hold and bond with the baby by bottle feeding?

magic cat

September 28th, 2012
10:04 pm

Y’all are missing the point!!! Her 11 year old son was watching, too!! You should not be whipping out those boobs in front of your 11 year old son!!! Gross!!