Milk, Milk, Lemonade

Breastfeeding mothers can’t catch a break. Today’s tale of a woman being harassed for using her knockers as nature intended comes to us from Louisiana. Nicole Guillory, mother of 7-month-old Kaden, claims she was asked to stop breastfeeding while visiting a water massage store inside her local mall. The store owner, who was not present at the time, says the mommy was just asked cover that shit up. Nicole says she already was covered.

Mom should have known better. Heaven help the woman who interrupts the serenity of the water massage with her partially exposed breast. Evacuate the building! Someone may accidentally observe a useful nipple! Doesn’t she know that breastfeeding women are supposed to stay in the house? All day? Every day? I, for one, think we women should have our nipples removed. That way we can all go to the beach topless, just like men. And Barbie dolls.

Both the mall’s manager and the store’s manager claim breastfeeding is allowed. So who is lying? I have no idea. All I know is that the link is worth checking out for the rhyming flame war in the comments. Amazing.

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  1. Meg, I’m not sure what sort of freaky men hang out at your local beaches, but most of us have nipples. :)

  2. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    The flame war was excruciating, but this comment, I’ve been waiting to hear for a long time: “Why is it that people don’t make such a fuss about the half dressed people who walk the mall on a daily basis? And they ARE doing it for attention! “

    Yes, thank you. While I was never harassed by a store manager for breastfeeding, I was ogled by plenty of plain-old jerks, to whom I always wanted to (and somtimes did) say, “Hey, look at HER, in the asscrack pants and belly-shirt. She wants you to, and I’m busy!”

    Breastfeeding is also not something you can do while distracted, unless you want to get bit. >_

  3. Jimmy M says:

    … around the corner fudge is made.

    It’s a duet.

  4. “Both the mall’s manager and the store’s manager claim breastfeeding is allowed. So who is lying? I have no idea.”

    A guess: Low-level employee is complained to by another shopper about the shameless hussy with the baby (she not only flashes her boobs around but she’s obviously HAD SEX to end up with one of THOSE things!) showing her boobs while feeding the baby. Poorly-trained low-level employee has neither the balls nor the initiative (nor the training nor the expectation that he won’t be fired if he follows the law) to stand up to the angry puritanical anti-boob shopper, so goes and tells mom to put those dirty boobies away.

    Then lies like a rug when the manager asks about it so he can keep his job.

  5. Mary Marsala is my breastfeeding-retort hero!

  6. Hawkins says:

    Water massage store? What? I knew I was at least a little out of touch… but what the heck’s a water massage store?

  7. jb says:
  8. isla says:

    Thank goodness for Consumerist.

    And Mary Masala for being the voice of reason.

    Talk about annoying–breasts on every conceivable corner, breasts in my face on TV and in the movies, naked breasts on magazine covers and pages, boobs hanging out of clothing–all acceptable. Seeing a baby nurse (or a sliver of nipple or whatever it is people are so freaking uncomfortable with) is obscene? I will never understand this.

  9. Isla: “Seeing a baby nurse (or a sliver of nipple or whatever it is people are so freaking uncomfortable with) is obscene? I will never understand this.”

    A lot of people are reaching adulthood these days without a lot of exposure to babies. My husband was an only child without cousins and not raised in a very kid-centric community; he NEVER saw a woman breastfeeding growing up. I was raised in a huge family, with a huge extended family, in a community with kids everywhere; I’m accustomed to and comfortable with public breastfeeding. My husband is not. He supports it in theory, but in practice he feels awkward about “accidentally” seeing a woman’s breast, the same as he would if he accidentally walked in on someone in the bathroom. Not that it is obscene, but that he has blundered into seeing something private.

    I’ve noticed that most men whose wives/S.O.s breastfeed who are uncomfortable with public breastfeeding pre-baby get desensitized to it post-baby because now they know “what it’s all about.” I don’t think people who feel awkward about it — and express that awkwardness in non-aggressive ways but rather in pleas for modesty or in confessions of embarassment — are bad people. They’re just uncomfortable with something they’re not used to seeing and culturally unsure of how to react to.

    One of my friends was the first in our circle to have a baby, and she was breastfeeding discreetly at a dinner party, and all the men were looking awkward and trying to find somewhere to look. She finally said, “Oh, quit that, it’s not a sexy boob, it’s a food boob!” and her husband chimed in, “Yeah, I haven’t seen the sexy boob in weeks!” Everyone laughed and it became much less awkward. I think the fact that she acknowledged the potential sexual overtones and their discomfort, and diffused them by saying she was comfortable with breastfeeding in public and not offended by them seeing her do so, went a long way toward making it not-weird. Not that everyone’s magically comfortable now, but by acknowleding their discomfort, she did make it less discomforting for them.

    Obviously her strategy works much better among friends at a dinner party than among random aggressive anti-boob strangers at the mall.

  10. Anonymously says:

    It makes me feel kind of weird because I don’t have much/any experience with it, like you said McGee.

  11. The Bans says:

    They can breast feed in public but a store isn’t a public area but a privately owned business which means it’s their policy that she must accordingly. If you were to go to someone’s home and do that you would kindly stop if they asked you to, and not make such a fuss.

    I have no problem with women breast feeding in public cause I’m a creep and I’ll look and giggle like I’m 10. But this senseless entitlement that some of these women have with no real idea of what the law is mind boggling. There is a woman currently suing Toys R’ Us for the same thing and they have a breast feeding area to keep creeps like myself leering at them.

  12. Bans, you are wildly incorrect and have “no real idea of what the law is.” Illinois law, for example, specifies that: “Breastfeeding Location. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding” (740 ILCS 137/10). That’s a fairly standard protection. “In public” in the discussion about this post does not mean “in a Constitutionally-defined public forum” but in the more colloquially-accepted “where other people might possibly see you.” Illinois clarifies this by stating it is any place the mother is OTHERWISE AUTHORIZED TO BE — such as the private property of a store.

    Louisiana goes further. Louisiana states in its law code that “The Legislature does hereby declare that the promotion of family values and infant health demands that our society put an end to the vicious cycle of embarrassment and ignorance that constricts women and men alike on the subject of breastfeeding, and that in a genuine effort to promote family values, our society should encourage public acceptance of this most basic act of nurture between mother and baby and should take appropriate steps to ensure that no mother is made to feel incriminated or socially ostracized for breastfeeding her baby.” (L.R.S. 51 § 2247.1 para A3)

    Louisiana then makes it not just a legal right for a woman to breastfeed in “any place of public accommodation” – that’s stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and so forth (ibid., para B) but makes “Any direct or indirect act or practice of exclusion, distinction, restriction, segregation, limitation, refusal, denial, or any other act or practice of differentiation or preference in the treatment of a mother breastfeeding her baby” legally actionable discrimination. (ibid., paras C and D).

    You may read the text of the applicable law at http://www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?doc=104292 . Louisiana’s state laws are readily available on the internet. Next time you go to accuse others of ignorance of the law, it would be useful for you to refresh your memory of it and ensure you are not talking out of your ass.

  13. DeeJayQueue says:

    I love the idea of mothers breastfeeding their children. I don’t even mind so much the public part. I think the problem lies in the fact that it IS a private act. It’s a mother feeding her child. We’re predisposed to see that as a level of vulnerability, tenderness, love, etc. It’s not really something we’d expect to see while in line at starbux or the water massage store.

  14. Morgan says:

    I think you’re a bit off the mark there, DeeJayQueue. Do you honestly think there would be the same problem if the mother had been feeding the child from a bottle?

  15. gte910h says:

    I think the problem lies in the fact that it IS a private act

    While I may wish the lady with the kid who’s got hands covered in chocofudge cookie filling was eating at home, rather than in line next to my white trousers, eating is a very public act.

    While you personally may be uncomfortable with a boob being involved, you are plain wrong on the fact about it being private. I’m sure you wouldn’t hesitate to eat a pretzel while strolling a mall, or a hot dog at a baseball game.

    Let the tike get his snack, and don’t complain about the nozzle. Just like me in line next to the kid messily eating his cookie goop next to my white pants, you’re reacting emotionally to this.

    –Michael

  16. I don’t know. La Leche League is clear that it feels that breast feeding is more than just food — it’s the best, most loving bonding available for mother and child. Breastfeeding advocates and just plain moms who enjoyed breastfeeding talk about how it’s transformational, how it connects them to their babies, etc. (I feel obligated to insert here that for some mothers breastfeeding is NOT fun, NOT bonding, and NOT transformational and that’s okay. Everyone’s experience is different.)

    There IS something deeply personal about seeing a mother breastfeed her child, just as there’s something deeply personal about seeing a parent lovingly tuck a child into bed and go about that family’s bedtime rituals, or seeing two people in love share an emotionally intimate (but socially appropriate) tender look or caress.

    Yes, our discomfort is FOR SURE mixed up in societal messages about boobs as objects of sexual desire, but I think there is an emotional difference between watching a toddler mash cookies into his mouth or watching a baby drink from a bottle (seems a little clinical/medical even though it’s still sooooooooo cute), and watching a baby breastfeed.

    Maybe we’re biologically hardwired to see a mother breastfeeding as an intimate, personal act. Maybe we’re conditioned by 2,000 years of Madonna-and-Child imagery. But for whatever reason, it is a very personal act and seeing it does often feel like an intrusion on a private, beautiful moment.

    Now, that intrusion can be a moment of illumination of beauty, where you feel moved and quietly observe and withdraw (or whatever), or it can be a moment of awkward embarassment at having accidentally intruded on something so private. I think it’s often the later in our society because we’re so mixed up about boobs and sex and we’re never sure how the other person will react.

    But breastfeeding advocates can’t have it both ways … it can’t BOTH be a very personal, emotionally moving, bonding act between mother and baby AND a clinical detached action that’s “just another form of eating.”

    Even watching a calf suckle on a cow’s teat induces that “awwwwwwwww” factor (and awe-factor, I think), and as anyone who’s ever milked a cow knows, udders are not that emotionally interesting and cows are not that cute.

  17. red says:

    I visited a friend earlier this year. He wasn’t quite available, arriving in 10 minutes, but his partner, with whom I am friendly, was, and after deciding to wait and sitting down, out comes the baby and the tit. Now, that’s not public embarassment or indecent display; that’s private, and we’re friends. Nevertheless I didn’t know what the fuck to do.

    So I can’t blame people for feeling uncomfortable. If it’s in a store, people can’t just walk on by and ignore it, it’s there in their face; and I think a lot of people are going to feel threatened, because to them it’s actually an aggressive act. Someone doing something outrageous in your vicinity and they feel pressured. I know, it shouldn’t be that way, and it’s a poor reflection on our society, but there it is. There’s no point theorising and rationalising and saying ‘well we SHOULDN’T do this’ and ‘but it’s natural’ and so forth. That’s like saying ‘well we SHOULDN’T get rich at the expense of the poor’. No duh, but that’s just the way it is around here.

    With my friends partner? Soon as it became clear what she was doing I said how awkward it was, and she told me it was OK to look but she wasn’t moving the baby out the way just for me. Cue laughter, and OK a bit of staring, then it suddenly wasn’t a problem. It hasn’t been a problem since. Frankly, I’d probably stare at the next mother nursing a baby for a few seconds too. I’d also look at that guy with the pink hair, and the girl eating a danish, and the fat security guard wheezing up the stairs, and the couple having a hushed argument. You look around and see people. Until the walls are lined with women breastfeeding, they can expect to get looked at by passers by.

  18. Kat says:

    Yeah, I was at the Field Museum in Chicago last week and some lady was sitting there breastfeeding her kid, and I was SOOOOOOOO offended.

    /major sarcasm

    I didn’t give it a second thought…heck, I didn’t give it a first thought. A baby has to eay… who cares how?

    You make a good point… men are allowed to walk around without t-shirts, with their nipples hanging out… and no one gets offended…

  19. acambras says:

    Yeah, we see men’s nipples (sometimes attached to big swinging man-boobies) all the time, but they’re completely useless. It’s pretty cool that chick boobs can be both “sexy boobs” AND “food boobs.”

  20. Claire Winstone says:

    Point of information, men’s nipples are not “completely useless”, acambras. In times of dire need (e.g., the absence/death of the mother) and prior to the invention of formula, man boobs can be stimulated to lactate and produce adequate food for babies!!! Ewww!, you say? Mother Nature doesn’t mess with the survival of the species and builds in back-up plans. Sometimes I wonder if there are actually “equal opportunity” fathers out there secretly ditching the formula and latching the baby on when mom isn’t around . . . I doubt we’ll ever hear about it if they are.

    Oh, and men, if you don’t know where to look when a mother is nursing her baby–try looking at her face, that would be refreshing!!!