Thursday, December 3, 2009

Here We Go Again....

Breastfeeding has been in the news a lot lately and unfortunately, not much of the news has been positive. First, there was the tragic story of a woman whose baby died of unknown causes while she held her on a transatlantic flight. The headline from the Daily Mail read, “Tragedy as breastfeeding mother smothers baby after falling asleep on jet.”

Now, the autopsy results were not even in and police were calling the baby’s death “unexplained,” yet the headline is clearly blaming the mother and for some reason breastfeeding as well. If this mother fell asleep while nursing her baby on a flight and smothered her, what does breastfeeding really have to do with it? If the baby was smothered, that could have happened whether the mother was bottle feeding or even just holding the baby at a bad angle.

In addition, there are some elements of the story that make me very uncomfortable, including the fact that this was the second time this woman has a lost a newborn baby under similar circumstances. Still, the take away from this is that breastfeeding was not to blame in this baby’s death.

More recently, a woman was kicked out of a Target near Detroit for breastfeeding her four-week-old baby. Mary Martinez was nursing her baby in the electronics section when a security guard asked her to stop or leave and told her that breastfeeding in public is illegal. Breastfeeding in public is not illegal in Michigan, although there is currently no law protecting a woman who is asked to leave by an establishment because she's nursing.

Ms. Martinez’s husband, who is a police officer, was with her and informed the security guard that his wife was not breaking any laws. Unfortunately, the exchange escalated and Target employees ended up calling the police. The lame statement Target released said in part that police were called to “ensure the safety of other guests” and that Target supports breastfeeding mothers who are “nursing discreetly” in their stores.

Honestly, when will it stop? When will mothers no longer have to fear being harassed for simply feeding their children? When will corporations, airlines, restaurants and malls create official written policies to protect breastfeeding mothers? I am tired of hearing about moms being asked to leave community pools, department stores, airplanes and parks for breastfeeding. I am tired of the stupid caveat that moms must be "discreet." That is not supporting breastfeeding mothers.

Why is it that the Chicago Children’s Museum can get this right and no one else can? If you need a reminder, Target, this is how you do it.

It’s simple, really. You invest in some window clings or other signs featuring the international symbol for breastfeeding that state “Breastfeeding is welcome here.” Then you create a policy and put it in your employee handbook. When you have orientation with your new hires, you explain the policy to them. You train your managers and security guards on how to handle the occasional complaints from customers that will be inevitable until breastfeeding in public is considered normal. If you want to go above and beyond, you might even create a nursing mother’s room for those moms who like a little privacy or a comfortable chair to nurse in. That’s it. See how easy that was? This is not the first time I am giving you this information for free. Please use it. You’re welcome.

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