Despite federal and state laws protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, many women still face harassment and ridicule when feeding their babies outside the home. What are some of the ways women are harassed? What should you do if asked to cover up? And what resources are available for women who’s rights have been violated?
The Boob Group
“Ways to Combat Breastfeeding in Public Harassment”
March 15, 2013
Robin Kaplan: While most of the fifty states have laws that protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, many women face harassment and ridicule while nursing their baby or toddler outside of the home.
What are the laws that protect a mother’s rights, and what can she do if she is involved in an uncomfortable and embarrassing harassing incident?
Today, I’m thrilled to introduce Michelle Hickman, the Director of Activism for Best for Babes, and a long time breastfeeding mama. Today we are discussing ways to combat nursing in public harassment.
This is The Boob Group, Episode 45.
Robin Kaplan: Welcome to The Boob Group, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. I’m your host, Robin Kaplan, I’m also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and owner of the San Diego Breastfeeding Center. At The Boob Group, we’re your online support group for all things related to breastfeeding.
Did you know that we have an entire panel of experts that would love to answer your parenting and breastfeeding questions? All you have to do is send us an e-mail or call our hotline at (619) 866-4775 and leave a message on our voicemail. Your questions will be answered on an upcoming episode.
Today I’m joined by two lovely panelists in the studio. Will you please introduce yourselves? We’ll start with you, Whitney.
Whitney Thomas: My name is Whitney. I’m twenty-two, I am a stay at home mother to a little girl named Lauren who will be two on March the 2nd.
Daisy Dweik: I’m Dalal Dweik, but I go by Daisy. I’m thirty-three. I’m an executive assistant in finance and investor relations, and I have one daughter who’s almost one year old.
Robin Kaplan: Well ladies. Welcome to the show!
Robin Kaplan: So, let’s kick off today’s episode with some unbelievable breastfeeding stories making headlines around the internet.
All of these stories are posted on The Boob Group Pinterest board if you would like to check them out.
So, actually, this is from one of the Best for Babes articles. I just found it so fascinating, and the title is called “Miracle Milk Helps Heal Brain Injured, Formula Fed Baby.”
So, the story is that there is this beautiful little baby named Charlotte Rose, and she was actually never breastfed by her mom; and until the age of eleven months, she was a happy healthy little girl, and that all changed radically when she suffered a traumatic brain injury. And so, what happened was-she had this incredible aunt who wanted to make sure that she actually got breast milk while she was healing in the hospital; and so-the aunt’s name is Maria-and just quoting from the article, “I announced to the PICU doctor-“ PICU stands for…I’m blanking on it, it’s essentially an intensive care unit for-for pediatrics, that’s it. And what she said was, “Instead of instant formula, I want Charlotte to have pasteurized banked breast milk.” And this was something that they had never even considered, and the nutritionist actually didn’t even know that there were human milk banks.
And so, what happened was this baby just started to heal miraculously-truly miraculously-in the hospital; and they really credit the breast milk that she was given while she was in the hospital to really help heal her through this traumatic brain injury.
So, I just wanted to ask you all, what-have you ever heard about how people have used breast milk to heal different things? And how do you think it-what do you think of this story? Is it something that shocks you or is actually something that makes a lot of sense?
Daisy Dweik: It does make sense to me. I read a book where a mother had a-one of her babies was born with several developmental disabilities-and she actually started, maybe when he was two-when she realized that he was plateau-ing in his progress with traditional medicine, she already had another baby and she started giving the two year old breast milk again and that was the only change she made; and started noticing huge milestones in his improvement.
Robin Kaplan: Wow, that’s amazing. How about you, Whitney?
Whitney Thomas: I think that’s amazing for people to be willing to donate their breast milk to less fortunate babies; whether it be due to the fact of illness or just injury or anything. I-personally I am very glad that I was blessed to be able to breastfeed, and am very glad that I was able to help other babies if they needed it. I was on a list to donate my milk-
Robin Kaplan: Oh, no way!
Whitney Thomas: At the time being-if anybody needed anything-to contact me, and I was just willing because I wanted other babies to have the same chance of nourishment that they need that I was giving my daughter.
Robin Kaplan: Awesome. We actually just had an episode on milk sharing. And it was unbelievable how fortunate these moms felt, who were not able to produce as much, that they were able to get donor milk; and how incredibly fortunate they felt that their babies were able to receive breast milk when they thought that they may not be abl to, so that’s amazing that you were on that list! I love it!
Robin Kaplan: So today on The Boob Group, we are discussing ways to combat nursing in public harassment. Our expert Michelle Hickman is the Director of Activism for Best for Babes, the creator and manager of the Best for Babes Nursing in Public Harassment Hotline, as well as the initiator of the nation-wide Target Nurse-In in 2012.
Michelle was also incredibly instrumental in helping me resolve a nursing in public harassment incident that happened in San Diego just a few weeks ago. So, I’m super excited to have you on the show, Michelle. Thank you for joining us, and welcome!
Michelle Hickman: Welcome!
Robin Kaplan: [Laughs] So Michelle, can you give us some background on your nursing in public harassment incident with Target and how you wound up in this advocacy position with Best for Babes?
Michelle Hickman: In November-the 29th- of 2011 I was shopping at Target with a basket full of things and my sleeping infant woke up screaming and hungry. So I decided not to go into a dressing room with a cart full of stuff to come out and my cart be gone- because that’s happened before. So I just found a place right outside the fitting room, and I tucked away and sat down criss-cross applesauce on the floor and began to nurse the baby-and made sure I wasn’t blocking the aisle ways or anything like that.
And I was nursing with a really large blanket over us at the time, and even though we were covered, we were out of the way; I had several employees approach me repeatedly. Despite the fact that I stated my state’s laws that I had the right to nurse there, they kept trying to tell me that I needed to move to the fitting room, that it was Target’s policy; that they were trained to demand that we move to the fitting room despite how many times I stated law.
And after stating law so many times and them knowing that I wasn’t going to move, then they threatened to call the cops on me and fight me with public indecency; even though all you could see was the feet of the baby hanging out from the large blanket.
And I shared my story with some moms in my local mommy’s group; and of course we reached out to Target, and Target was never responsive for quite a long time, they had plenty of time to make a proper response.
Then, eventually they said, “If Target is not going to reply to you, let’s turn up the heat and let’s try and make them reply. Let’s see what we can do.” So that’s when to organization of the nurse-in began.
Robin Kaplan: That’s awesome, and how did you end up getting involved with Best for Babes?
Michelle Hickman: During the time when this happened to me-and this is my fourth child, and I’ve had other small things, but nothing like this-nothing to the point where when I called corporate office to report, saying “Hey, you’re employees aren’t being trained properly. They’re acting outside of the scope of law.” For the corporate office to turn around and have a corporate office person tell me that all breastfeeding moms just want to flaunt their boobs around the store-
Robin Kaplan: Oh, no way!
Michelle Hickman: Well, you know, I was pretty amped up, and I reached out to several breastfeeding advocacy groups, hoping that somebody would tell me what I’m supposed to do and how to do it; and just to have support from them-and Best for Babes’ Tina Forbes ended up calling me back. She was the only one, so I was so grateful to her for helping me through my situation at the time, that I decided if I was going to join anyone it would be them because they were so gracious to me.
Robin Kaplan: That’s awesome. Michelle, can you describe different ways that breastfeeding mothers might be harassed for nursing in public?
Michelle Hickman: You know, there are simple things that people do just by the stinky looking stares and the eye rolls and the odd-handed comments; and those aren’t too bad for most moms. There are some moms who can’t even handle that-that I talk to-and that’s why they choose to never nurse in public, because they just can’t go through that stress.
But there are other incidents that are more extreme that I hear where people are actually physically putting their hands on the mother and the baby, or throwing items at them and hitting them so hard that it causes damage-the baby to be hurt.
So you know, it ranges from minute to extreme.
Robin Kaplan: And it definitely-you had mentioned that your little guy was covered up while you were nursing-and this seems to be the hot button controversy on this topic, is actually covering up. Yet most laws don’t actually state that a mom has to cover up while nursing in public, so do you have recommendations on what a mother should do if someone walks up to her and asks her to cover up?
Michelle Hickman: The issue of a mom covering up or not covering up is kind of irrelevant when it comes to law. When the law says that a mom has the right to nurse in public, she has the right to nurse in public, period. So even if there isn’t a specification within the indecent exposure laws- breastfeeding from indecent exposure-then the right to nurse is the right to nurse, period.
So in the states that simply say “right to nurse,” but they don’t have the definition further describing that indecent exposure is not considered breastfeeding, then you don’t really have to worry about that. But as far as moms, I say “Do what you’re comfortable with.” Every mom is comfortable doing whatever she is doing, and whatever works for you works for you. There’s been times when I don’t cover, and there’s been times when I have to cover because my baby’s been so distracted by the outside world; that’s the only way I could get him to nurse. So really, it’s up to the mom.
Robin Kaplan: And you mentioned these laws, so are there federal laws that protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, or are there just state laws?
Michelle Hickman: As far as nursing in public; there is a federal law that says that a mom has a right to nurse in public on federal property. So that would be places like postal offices or a federal park or just anything that is owned by federal government property. Outside of that, there is no federal law on nursing in public. There is some on pumping, and requirements for employers as far as employees and providing them time to pump, but as far as nursing in public, that’s just it. Just federal property only.
Robin Kaplan: OK. So what about these then? Where can moms find they’re state laws that protect their right to breastfeed in public?
Michelle Hickman: The best resource that I’ve found for finding out what your breastfeeding laws are is www.breastfeedinglaw.com, I absolutely adore her site because it’s really, really easy to read and it’s really easy to understand, and not only that but I also clearly explains the lack of the enforcement provisions that there is.
Robin Kaplan: OK. And we’ll be talking be talking about enforcement provisions later in this episode.
I want to open it up to our panelists in the studio now. Ladies, can you briefly describe what happened to you when you were harassed while nursing in public, and how did this incident make you feel? Whitney, do you want to start?
Whitney Thomas: I had a family emergency back in Texas; and being out her in San Diego, the easiest way for us to travel is by plane. So, having a two month old baby at the time, it was already a huge struggle; and I did not know that breastfeeding was going to be that much more of a struggle, and I did not know that I was going to come to such a barrier on the airplane.
I was covered, you couldn’t tell because I had extra blankets around, and the fact that the-how much of the-it just, I’m sorry. The reason for such an upstart for me breastfeeding and trying to explain, you know “My husband’s not here. She’s…I don’t have any other choice.” Being a first time mom, already scrambled-and being told to go somewhere else with that disgusting act. You know, “you are a disgrace to women; you should not be doing that anywhere near other men.” And not one person standing up for you-it’s just disheartening. So, so much. And being told, “If you don’t stop, I’m going to get an Air Marshal and you will be kicked off this flight, no matter how close you are to your destination.”
It’s just-I broke down. I couldn’t believe that just because one man did not like that I was breastfeeding, the whole plane didn’t like that I was breastfeeding. I was in the back, I was closest to the bathroom; and then after that huge argument, me being told that I need to go into the bathroom to feed my baby or I would be kicked off the plane, just set me off. I don’t eat in a bathroom, why would I put my baby in a bathroom?
Just-and being covered-the thing is, I was covered. You couldn’t even tell what was going on, unless you saw like a little hand coming through and you knew it was a hand-just-I couldn’t handle it and being told that American Airlines does not allow breastfeeding is a lie. I asked the flight attendant if there were any specific guidelines, any rules; she said “no, but since you have threats on you right now that you will be kicked off the plane; you do what you feel is best.”
Robin Kaplan: Who threatened to kick you off the plane?
Whitney Thomas: The man that did not like that I was breastfeeding.
Robin Kaplan: Oh, I get it. So it was one of the other passengers.
Whitney Thomas: Yes, and he was-in the beginning of the flight he was pretty far up in the front, and by the time we were getting off the plane he had moved closer to the back just to keep “checking on me” to make sure I was not in that “disgusting act.”
Robin Kaplan: That’s amazing.
Whitney Thomas: But, I would have gladly gotten off the plane, I probably would have gotten some legal into it-just being told to go in the bathroom to feed is just disgusting, I don’t think anybody wants to sit on the toilet and eat a meal. And I will not do that to my daughter. And the fact that we were about forty-five minutes before landing, he comes back to the bathroom; you could tell that he didn’t have to go, he just wanted to see if I was still breastfeeding. I was still breastfeeding, and he started yelling. He kept saying, “This is disgusting. Are you serious? You need to go somewhere else with that. Get the eff off my plane; I did not pay $250 to be around this act.”
I just, I couldn’t take it; and I did not leave the house for a long time after that. If I had any errands, I made sure that my baby was fed and she wouldn’t have to be fed all the time I was out-and it’s just-it’s depressing.
Robin Kaplan: Absolutely.
Whitney Thomas: Being a first time mom and wanting to give the best for your baby and then all these things you’re being told to make you feel like, “Should I be doing this?” It’s just-it’s really hard to talk about sometimes, just remembering and having all of those words coming back at you-you just feel it all over again.
Robin Kaplan: And I think that-and I want to ask Daisy as well about her experience-but the thing that I want to point out is; I think that people, when they hear about nursing in public harassment, I don’t think they realize the repercussions on the mom who is hearing this and the devastation and the way that it makes her feel. And so, I really appreciate you telling us about your experience, because I can tell that it’s still really fresh in your mind.
Daisy, can you tell us what happened with you?
Daisy Dweik: Sure. So, my experience was actually much less than what Whitney went through; very mild. I was out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in Jula Vista with my husband and my daughter, who was probably about five or six months old at the time. We were in a booth, I honestly can’t remember if I was using a cover or not; I go back and forth with the cover because my daughter just likes to pull it and kick it off and play peek-a-boo, and I find that it brings more attention to me nursing her if I have the cover.
But I always have on two shirts, so I pull up a T-shirt and then a camisole on underneath; so there really is nothing that you’re going to see, and my baby’s head is covering any side cleavage or anything. To the side of our table was a family; it was a mom and dad probably in their mid forties and their two teenage daughters. And one of their daughters saw what I was doing and pointed-actually pointed, you know, extended her arm to point at me-and I saw it and I just kind of chuckling to myself, and then her sister was just, they’re jaws dropped. And then the parents began turning around in their seats to look at me; and I just kind of started giggling and I’m kicking my husband under the table, and I’m still trying to be polite and not point back but it was like “Look at what these people are doing! They’re pointing out that I’m nursing my daughter. That’s all I’m doing is just nursing my daughter in a restaurant-who’s calm and not throwing a fit.”
The waitress came, she took our orders, she didn’t skip a beat; I mean it was just “Do you want fries?” [Laughter] It was no issue to her.
So the family had-they were close to finishing their meal and it was clear that I wasn’t going to stop nursing and that I wasn’t going to change anything; and they called a manager over. And the manager came out and turned to look at me, and I’m just still breastfeeding away. And he just kind of had this look on his face like, “Really? This is what I got called out for?” Not because the food was an issue or because they had a bad server experience. So he knelt down, we couldn’t hear what he said to them; they promptly got up and left the restaurant.
He never said anything to us; nobody ever pushed the issue. It was a great way to end it because you know I didn’t-I wasn’t asked to cover up, they didn’t embarrass me with any kind of-just furthering what they were doing. I think them pointing and the facial expressions were bad enough; and it was just such a bad example that the parents set for their teenage daughters, because they-
Robin Kaplan: They’re going to be at a childbearing age at some point.
Daisy Dweik: Yeah! And when they-when I was pregnant with my daughter, I had such rough pregnancy and such a traumatic childbirth that I never expected to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. So I didn’t have any goals and you know-I didn’t plan to do this. You know, I don’t enjoy wearing bathing suits in public and I don’t enjoy showing cleavage, but I do enjoy that I am giving my daughter the best nutrition. It is always available, it’s always the perfect temperature, I don’t have to mix it, I don’t have to measure it; it’s just-it’s the most healthy way to feed a baby and I don’t understand why it’s such a source of anger because it’s just that. Like what the people were saying to you-or what the man said to you on the plane-it’s something that should be shamed and publically shunned. No! You’re just feeding a baby. Babies have to eat from a nipple, that’s it. Sometimes the nipple is made of skin, sometimes it’s made of silicone, but they have to eat from a nipple.
Robin Kaplan: That’s such a great point. Thank you for sharing your story, by the way. Michelle, one of our Facebook followers, Kate Garcia, and it was “What is the best thing to say to someone who says something negative to a mom nursing in public?” and she actually requested, which I love, “Do you have something short and non-confrontational?” Kind of a couple liner that we can all keep in our back pocket if a situation arises?
Michelle Hickman: Well, you know, first of all I recommend that most moms keep their state law printed out like on a wallet-like a business sized card in their wallet or their diaper bag. But you know, really simply because most states do give you the right to nurse in public; you know “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to cause a scene. I’m not trying to cause a problem. I’m just simply feeding my baby. I’ll be done rather quickly, I’m not hurting anyone. So please if you can go about your business so I can go about mine. You know, it is my legal right to do so.” You know, just something along those lines. Where it’s just saying, “Please just respectfully leave me alone, and I’ll respectfully leave you alone.” You know? [Laughs] Without being rude.
Robin Kaplan: Absolutely, and obviously Whitney with your incident, I don’t think no matter what nice thing you would have said that would have helped you in that situation. Because clearly, as Daisy mentioned, this man was very angry. Did you do anything after your incident occurred? Did you say anything to him, or when you got off the plane? I know right, in retrospect.
Whitney Thomas: I did because I felt like I needed to leave with some kind of-
Robin Kaplan: Goodwill. What did you do?
Whitney Thomas: I did tell him that I felt that he was a hypocrite, because to my knowledge I didn’t think that they had baby formula when he was a baby, and how did your mother feed you?
Robin Kaplan: That’s awesome.
Whitney Thomas: Did they bring a cow out from the farm and put you under it, because there’s only one other way, and you’re being a hypocrite. I’m sure you were fed that way, why can’t my daughter be fed that way?
Robin Kaplan: That’s awesome. And Daisy, I know the family never actually came up to you, but were you concocting any snarky things in your mind or just something that you would want to say to them if they came up to you?
Daisy Dweik: I am never composed in the moment [Laughter], so it just would have been-it would have been bad. But I can definitely see-my husband has never really, up until that point, had a stand or a position on it, but I could see it click with him, like “Really?” You know, I had shared stories with him from the Facebook group members, and you know some women are even told by their best friends, “You’re not going to breastfeed in front of my husband!” or their mother-in-law, or their own mother wants to send them off to a back room. And so I think for that, that was definitely when it clicked for him, it was like, “This is just not something that should ever happen. You can’t see anything.” You know? And so what if you can? First time moms-we’re kind of going through enough; we’re trying to get our bodies back, and hormones and temperature elevated and regulated, and just to figure out what you need in a diaper bag to get out the house. [Laughter]
So being judged for feeding your child is the absolute last thing we need.
Whitney Thomas: And if you’re covered, why take that time out of your day just to point it out? Are you mad that you’re not seeing what they’re doing or what? [Laughter]
Daisy Dweik: I just don’t understand where the anger comes from, because it’s deep. It is so deep in society.
Robin Kaplan: It is. Absolutely-alright, when we come back, Michelle will discuss what a mother can do after a breastfeeding in public harassment incident and the new Best for Babes Nursing in Public Harassment Hotline. We’ll be right back.
Robin Kaplan: So we’re back with Michelle Hickman, who is the Director of Activism for Best for Babes, and we are talking about ways to combat nursing in public harassment.
So Michelle, what can a mother do to remedy a nursing in public harassment incident, and are there ever times when an attorney should actually get involved?
Michelle Hickman: I’ve actually constructed several pointers and tips that are on the Best for Babes website, if your go to the “Take Action” page, and then you go to “Facing Discrimination,” there are some pointers on there on what to do; like remaining calm and just sort of explaining your rights. First of all, knowing what your rights are is very important. Reaching out to the establishment, whether it’s an owner or the corporate office, letting them know what’s going on, and giving them some time to respond. And then also you want to make sure that all of those avenues are done before you try and go to the next route of a nurse-in, or media, or whatever the mom prefers.
Robin Kaplan: OK. And are there times when an attorney should be called in?
Michelle Hickman: Yeah, actually attorneys can get involved in cases when there’s non- breastfeeding related violations; like somebody throwing something at you and your baby, or an employee grabbing your arm as he’s trying to make you move out of the store or wherever he or she’s trying to make you move. So, there are some non- breastfeeding related violations that you can hire a lawyer for. In most states in America, there is not and enforcement provision; however in the states that do have enforcement provisions outside of a lawyer and related to breastfeeding violations that are not an assault charge, you would normally typically have to go through the attorney general’s office and do a civil claim.
Robin Kaplan: Oh, ok. And Michelle, you had actually mentioned a nurse-in. So when do you recommend-when are nurse-ins actually the most appropriate way to handle something like this?
Michelle Hickman: Well, we all know how the media can be for breastfeeding moms; and after a mom has already faced discrimination, and she’s already been a victim of all of these things, the last thing that we want to do is just throw her to the wolves of the media and allow her to be further victimized. So the media and most mainstream people are going to want to see that the mom did make attempts to try and rectify the situation privately between themselves and the establishment; by giving them the proper time to grant a response, and apology and a promise to train employees according to breastfeeding laws. Because I think apologies are just apologies; and they kind of aren’t so good for me anymore, because my incident in Target was not the first, and whenever you research things that there’s so many organizations out there who have come out with and incident, said “I’m sorry, this won’t happen again,” yet it still happens over and over again. So in order to properly combat that, I think that an apology with employee training would be the most appropriate thing for them to do.
And if all of those things have been exhausted, and they’re just not going to participate and be friendly and try and work with you-at that point a nurse-in can serve purposeful as far as getting your story out there and hopefully putting some pressure on getting them to do something.
Robin Kaplan: Absolutely. And Michelle, besides the obvious embarrassment a mother feels after one of these incidents; what do you think are the societal implications of this type of harassment if it continues?
Michelle Hickman: You know I really don’t think that society really pays attention to breastfeeding harassment as a true form of harassment. And you know, the caller or the person that you had earlier on the air with us talking about her airline incident; you can hear in her voice-to all of the people listening to us today-the types of things that are still there. And it’s a real victim mentality that these people go through, and it’s disempowering them and it makes them fearful, you know? And it really holds with them, and it’s something that is really sad that people don’t recognize this as a form of discrimination when every other form of discrimination in society is recognized.
So I think that letting it continue to happen over and over with media coverages and nurse-ins, whatever-helps to raise awareness that this is a real situation that’s happening to real moms. But where society takes it, time will tell.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah, and so-actually Whitney and Daisy, I’d love for you to kind of answer this question as well: After your harassment incident-Whitney, you mentioned that you had a really tough time leaving the house when it was feeding time because of this incident-so would you say you’re pretty nervous about breastfeeding in public after this?
Whitney Thomas: Extremely, it makes me want to pump more. My daughter never drank breast milk from a bottle, it was straight nipple to mouth, and I know that my backbone is stronger in breastfeeding-and that’s why I was so-that’s why I changed my plans to speak on this today-you know my next child or children, I will stand up for myself in a better sense. Nobody will run over me on that again; it is their right. My husband fights for the right to talk trash, well I’m going to dish it right back to you. And I will better myself next time.
Robin Kaplan: Well, it’s definitely a learning experience. Unfortunately it had to be coming from a negative place. But um-and I appreciate you changing your plans to be here today.
Daisy, how about you? What was your comfort level after this incident? Did it change you at all?
Daisy Dweik: Uh, I breastfed at a company picnic.
Robin Kaplan: You did?
Daisy Dweik: No cover. It was like, no problem. [Laughs] It definitely empowered me more to not even worry about a cover, because: A, it’s not something that has to be covered up, I think, and B, my cover is polyester and it adds about thirty degrees to us, so in August or September, come on, you know? [Laughs] But it definitely just made me feel that much stronger about doing what I know is best for my daughter no matter where I’m at; if it’s Trader Joes, if it’s a library, I breastfed her in church on Mardis Gras without a cover- I will not consider feeding her in a bathroom. Absolutely will not, and I don’t know how anybody can propose that as a safe or healthy solution.
Robin Kaplan: As a valid change of scenery.
Daisy Dweik: Yeah. But it’s-if anything I feel like in certain circumstances, “OK, I’ll try…” At the fabric store, to me that-I don’t know, apparently I don’t need to cover in church but at the fabric store I feel like I need a cover, just to show that I have one and I’m not doing it on purpose. But it definitely draws more attention with my kid to try and cover it up.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah. Michelle, can you explain to us-what is the Best for Babes Nursing in Public Harassment Hotline, and why was it established?
Michelle Hickman: The Best for Babes Nursing in Public Harassment Hotline, which the number is 855-NIPFREE, or (855) 647-3733.
And basically, I started having so many moms sharing their stories of incidents with me to the point where I was getting almost one a day of a mom who was just so distraught and “What do I do? What are my options? And what did you do in your situation?”
So I decided, you know, I see all of these incidents everywhere being reported all over the place-wouldn’t it be great if next time I called Wal-Mart or Target or whatever it is-restaurant place, and I’m talking on behalf of these moms; rather than them saying, ”You know, I know we could do something. It would be very simple to just add one more sentence in our employee training on discrimination that we already have in our corporate policy, but this is just one mom that you’re talking to me about.” Wouldn’t it be great if we had one place where all of the moms could call, and we could have this massive database, no matter if it was Best for Babes, or if it was mothering.com, or if it was Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, or whoever it was that was going after-seeking-to either improve legislation and give examples to legislators, or to contact the corporate office, wouldn’t it be great to say, “Hey! YMCA, I know you told me know when I had only one mom, but now I have thirty-eight. Don’t you think you should re-visit your breastfeeding policy by now?”
Because it really adds a lot of weight to it, but not only that; most importantly just to be here as a voice for moms, and to have someone who can relate with their incident and someone who can just be a shoulder to cry on and to help them migrate their way through their situation, according to what their needs and their desires are.
Robin Kaplan: And Michelle, you mentioned an enforcement provision several times during this interview, so can you explain what an enforcement provision is and why do you think this would be helpful to prevent this type of harassment?
Michelle Hickman: Well, in Texas-where I live-I am granted the right to nurse in public wherever I am, pretty much. Period, that’s pretty much what it says in a nutshell. However, when someone comes up to me and does not allow me to nurse in public, then there’s not much that can be done. But there are a handful of states-like Massachussetts is one- where if you have a breastfeeding incident, you can report your incident to the-typically it’s the attorney general’s office- and you can file a civil lawsuit against the person or corporation or whoever it is, and you can get paid. And the fines and the fees range; typically you’ll be reimbursed any legal fees and court fees, and then $500 or whatever it is.
Which, it is a lengthy process to go through for most moms, but it does give them some sense of-that there’s something there to protect me. Otherwise, in most states-which it’s really sad that most states don’t have an enforcement provision-like here in Texas where I am. Here I am as a mom who, seemingly, feels protected; that I know my state law and I have the right to nurse in public. So I go and I nurse in public, feeling comfortable that I have this legal right and that the law is on my side, and then when an incident occurs-lo and behold, I find out, oh no, there’s nothing they can do. It’s like telling people, “We really want you to go twenty miles per hour in a school zone, and pay attention so you don’t run over kiddos; but if you don’t, we’re not going to give you a ticket because we don’t have any way of enforcing it.”
So it’s kind of like: why do they even have that law in place if there isn’t a way to enforce it?
Robin Kaplan: That’s-Oh man-that is such a good point. Well, and I do want to mention that, California: we are doing our best to try and start and enforcement provision as well, thanks to the help of Michelle and her team at Best for Babes. After a pretty significant incident in San Diego at a courthouse-where a bailiff had some pretty significant nursing in public harassment to another mom here in Sand Diego-we have started to go through the legal process to start an enforcement provision here. Because like Michelle mentioned; if there’s no way to enforce the law, what’s the point of having it on the books?
So I’m super grateful to have you on our show Michelle, just to share your insight into the ways to combat nursing in public harassment and also just to bring light into the fact that this is really significant. It’s a woman’s right issue, and I think that it gets glossed over, like you said in the media: “Oh, just another breastfeeding mom having a problem.” But it really is much deeper than that.
So thank you for being here, and for our Boob Group Club members, our conversation will continue at the end of the show, or after the end of the show, as Michelle discusses airline policies for nursing aboard a plane.
For more information about our Boob Group Club, please visit our website at theboobgroup.com.
Robin Kaplan: Before we end today’s show, here is Johnnarose Feinberg discussing tips for breastfeeding multiple babies.
Johnnarose Feinberg: Hi Boob Group, this is Johnnarose Feinberg, editor of breastfeedingtwins.org. I’m a mom of twins, and a Board Certified Lactation Consultant in the Seattle area.
Today, we are going to talk about positioning options for breastfeeding twins. In the beginning, you may find it easiest to focus on feeding one baby at a time, but once you and the babies get the hang of things-you may want to tandem nurse for some or all of your feedings. Many moms find that using a special twin nursing pillow helps them comfortably support both babies in the football position: this is great for babies when they’re younger, and continues to work for many people as their babies grow because it gives each baby their own space.
For smaller babies, you may need to add rolled or folded receiving blankets, washcloths or other props to help position the babies and keep yourself comfortable. As the babies get bigger, you can adjust the number of props, or add some pillows behind your back or under the pillow for extra support.
You can also tandem nurse while reclining. You may want to experiment with feeding in a recliner or leaning back on some pillows with one baby resting along each side, supported by your arms. This position is good for babies who are latching well and have good head control, and it’s a nice way to feed babies and let mom rest a bit.
Once your babies are older, you might want to experiment with more upright positions. Babies who are sitting on their own can straddle your leg and lean in to nurse. This position is especially nice when you’re out and about because it doesn’t require any nursing pillows or props. It can be easier on your back.
Whatever position you choose, remember that as your babies grow, new options will be available. So please keep experimenting to figure out what works out best for you.
For pictures of breastfeeding positions, and to read more tips and personal breastfeeding stories, please visit breastfeedingtwins.org, and keep listening to The Boob Group for more twin tips.
Robin Kaplan: Thank you so much to our expert, panelists, and to all of our listeners. If you have any questions about today’s show or the topics we discussed, please call our Boob Group Hotline at (619) 866-4775 and we’ll answer your question on an upcoming episode.
If you have a breastfeeding topic you’d like to suggest, we’d love to hear it. Simply visit our website at theboobgroup.com and send us and e-mail through the “Contact” Link.
Coming up next week, we have Rose deVigne Jackiewicz, discussing “Inducing Lactation: Breastfeeding Without Giving Birth.”
Thanks for listening to The Boob Group: your judgment free breastfeeding resource.
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