breastfeeding mom harassed in tennessee public schools

For those who think breastfeeding women are not harassed, or that women who are harassed about nursing in public are "flaunting it" in some way, read this e-mail from a friend of mine today.

Her baby is 5 months old. She has three older children in public elementary schools in Middle Tennessee, and this is the third time she's been harassed while feeding her baby on school property:

On Wednesdays I take Ella to speech class at (School X). It's from 8-8:30 and Andrew usually watches the other kids but today he is in Chicago so I had to take William and Sarah with me. Anyway, we were waiting for Anna at the school entrance because they have chairs there and I started nursing William. He was on my left side closest to the outside door and there was no way possible anyone could see anything. I even put Sarah's jacket over me and he was hidden by the front pack. During this time I don't think any children walked through the hall.

Lady #1 comes up to me and tells me that I would be more comfortable "doing that" in her office. I said, actually I wouldn't. She said, well, there are kids that wouldn't understand what you are doing. I interrupted her and politely whispered that she probably wasn't aware of the Tennessee law that allows me to nurse in public. She immediately changed the subject and started saying how cute my kids were and tried chatting with them. She was very uncomfortable.

We pick up Ella and we start to head out the door (I am no longer nursing William) and Lady #2 comes up to me (she must have been someone important because she introduced herself in a self-important kind of way). Anyway, she then tells me that if I need to breastfeed again, I am really going to need to do it in a private office. I told her that I didn't want to be confrontational but there really is a law that allows me to breastfeed in public – this is my right. She said that schools are not like other public institutions and she needed to be concerned for the safety of the children and she could tell me never to enter the building if she wanted to …pause, pause, "but of course, I am not saying you can't come back". I said that the law is very clear and perhaps she should consult with her attorney. She said that she spoke to her superintendent and he told her that she needed to protect the children. I again said that I didn't want to argue with her but in fact, I am a lawyer and I know the law and it is quite clear and perhaps your superintendent should call the school's attorney. Even after this she persisted! She kept emphasizing the children. I finally told her that this was clearly not about the school children seeing me but about the other adults that felt uncomfortable and that really wasn't my problem. I tried to end it on a polite note but I doubt I was effective since I could feel myself rolling my eyes (I am unable to control that bad habit of mine).


Katie S. said...

When I read you friend's story I was gitty. You GO GIRL!

Then quickly it turned to nervousness because we are thinking of moving from Colorado to Tennessee. And I would be breastfeeding.

jehu said...

You must protect the children from those vicious breasts!

Oh my goodness! I just noticed that half of the adults in America have breasts!

That's a breast for every person in America!

Is it too late to protect the children?

ekortlund said...

Good for her! She really stood up for her rights!

Anonymous said...

cry me a river. the woman offered her her office. had it been me (and yes I have been in this position although perhaps from the sound of it this woman should learn about what birth control is for and use it) I would have just used the office. no scratch that: I wouldnt have been ASKED to go elsewhere because I would have had the sense to BE elsewhere already.
I had an older kid in karate at the time my son was nursing and let me tell you I NEVER sat there giving a classful of preadolescents, many of them boys, an eyeful. I ALWAYS went out to my car. I enjoyed the privacy, listened to the radio. But then again I am not an attention seeking victim like this woman apparently is.
unfortunatly the bitch and those like her are protected by law because they have raised such a stink about it and bullied everyone else into having to put up with them. (they call it "lactivism"; more properly it totally fits the parameters of bullying).
so next time I see one of these ding dongs...oopsie daisy, I didnt see your purse there on the floor, SOOOOO sorry to have spilt my diet coke all over you, your brat and your ever lovin titties.

Anonymous said...

Anon, you`re just jealous b/c to this mom nursing is no big deal.Why should she leave? Why should she have to go anywhere?

Its the chicks like you that are "attention seeking victims".
" Oh look at me everybody, I`m going to be breastfeeding now!! Since I am so embarassed about my bare boob (that doesn`t even show b/c there is a baby`s head blocking it from view) please everyone, stop what you are doing & accomodate me! Give me an office and some privacy, waah, I`m so embarassed!!"

Guess what, nursing is no big deal, nipples are not showing & so what if they are? You know, they have therapy for people with issues like this!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous from Anonymous...

I am truly sorry you seem so angry at life and you need to seek out blogs that you don;t agree with and give your two cents in an ugly manner. I am hoping you are just feeling overwelmed with life and someday you will realize that its way to short to be this angry. If there is a God I hope he/she will give you some happiness.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1: About the only good point you made was that K's friend was offered privacy and should have accepted it graciously. The mean-spirited comments you made in addition to that only make the otherwise good point you were trying to make appear vicious and petty.

Anonymous 2: Nice job of shifting the blame to women who are trying to be sensitive to the sensibilities of others (particularly children) by suggesting that the "real exhibitionists" are those who seek privacy before breastfeeding. Perhaps you should also go lecture smokers who seek privacy for smoking to protect others from seconhand smoke. After all, sensitivity to the needs of others is a vice that must be ruthlessly crushed, right?

Katie: "Flaunting it" when it comes to breastfeeding isn't limited to skin exposure. It can also refer to refusing a kind offer to relocate to a more private area, especially when the private area offered is someone else's private space that is being offered politely to a stranger who appears to be in need of it.

If your friend literally had no place to go and was doing her best to discreetly breastfeed, she would have my sympathy. But refusing to accommodate to the concerns of others by maintaining Her Rights at the expense of others -- who just happen to be charged with protecting the rights of other children and their parents -- dries up the milk of human sympathy in my bosom.

--Mia Storm

P.S. Sorry about the anonymity. Google/Blogger is not recognizing me today.

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't like looking at disabled people. Or really old people. I find them disturbing to look at. Really, to accomodate my sensitivities, they should be kept hidden away from public view. And if they refuse to take themselves to a more private location, well, they are just not being sensitive. I mean, do their rights trump mine? Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

if I feel self conscious about nursing in public, is the school obligated to provide me a place to nurse in private, or does the law making it acceptable to nurse in public absolve them of any responsibility?

Anonymous said...

"After all, sensitivity to the needs of others is a vice that must be ruthlessly crushed, right?"

Anon 2 here- what a crazy way to interpret what I meant. Of course there is nothing wrong with being sensitive to others needs, but my point is that nursing is NORMAL. Having a problem with someone nursing is NOT NORMAL. In fact its truly weird to be a woman who is upset about another woman nursing. Look away & keep walking. If others` needs involve not seeing nursing, then perhaps they NEED therapy.

I do think that woman who remove themselves to nurse or who nurse under blankets are being obnoxious about it. Its drawing way too much attention to a completely normal way to feed a baby. Just casually do it, people rarely notice. And those who do notice are usually unhappy, bitter women with WAY too much time on their hands. Get a hobby breastfeeding phobics!

Anonymous said...

oh give me a break. comparing nursing women to the disabled???? this is a common courtesy matter. I dont get the drawing attention to myself? I quietly walked out of the karate dojo to my car. I dont think people ever missed me based on some things my husband said.
maybe I shouldnt have said what I did about spilling diet coke down ding dongs cleavage. I just get so pissed off "lactivists" acting like what really amounts to common courtesy is just some big anti breastfeeding conspiracy and a personal affront to "their" rights to boot.

lcreekmo said...

So I'm curious here. Are men and women who feed their babies with bottles also supposed to remove themselves from public view? Because I find that strange. I had to feed my son with formula [after breastfeeding my daughter] since he was adopted, and I didn't have a long enough maternity leave to try to establish nursing....and it always felt odd. So, I would have LOVED someone's private office to feed him. I'm hoping all you anonymous folks out there are offering your offices to bottle-feeders, too.


The point being, why on EARTH is anyone making a negative comment to ANY parent who is not actively harming his or her child? Let's all learn to live and let live, peeps.

ekortlund said...

If anyone needs to have breastfeeding normalized, it's children. If they grow up seeing women nurse as if it's the most natural thing in the world, that's how they'll think about it! The more it's hidden away, the more we perpetuate the idea that there is something shameful about it.

emily smith said...

It doesn't sound like Katie's friend was being indiscreet at all. And she certainly wasn't acting like a victim. Regardless of whether anonymous #1 and those like her think breastfeeding discreetly in public is offensive or insensitive, the law says that anywhere a woman has a right to be, she has a right to breastfeed. That is the bottom line. Bseides, how could anyone think the sight of a nursing mother could somehow harm or damage children?
(By the way, I know the woman in question, and she is the most discreet nurser I've ever seen. Only a person with a hangup about nursing would have a problem with her level of discretion.)

Anonymous said...

I also know this mother and can assure anyone who doesn't that she's a great mother, wife and person. She has nursed all of her children, always discreetly, but not as though she's doing something "nasty" requiring her to go into a private place to do it. We use bathrooms for private things. Should nursing mothers go into bathrooms if it is on a par with urinating - something others shouldn't watch us do? Her other children think nursing a baby is as normal and natural as sitting down together for dinner at night. All children would feel that way if it weren't treated as something shameful. The odd thing is that in the area where this woman lives, these children grow up watching calves and baby horses nurse and think nothing of it. If there were more parents as involved as this one, we'd sure have a bright future. And,I am proud that Tennessee's legislature was wise enough to enact a law that encourages the healthy practice of nursing babies.

Anonymous said...

give me a break re: the bathrooms. Most stores I know of at the very least have a chair for nursing mothers in the restrooms. the nicer ones have a separate "ladies lounge" with couches, changing tables and trash cans for used diapers. So I guess anyone who would prefer to use these rooms so as not to make a spectacle has some big hangup? So I guess the stores by providing these areas must be shaming women or something. GIVE ME A BREAK.

Anonymous said...

I never breastfed my children but I see no good reason why anyone else should be made to feel ashamed to breast feed their baby.The operative word is "baby." I think it's a little weird to see a 3 year old or older child breastfeeding (but maybe that's because of the lack of promotion and support for breastfeeding by our illustrious government.)

Anonymous said...

In Addition,I think that it is gross and disgusting to expect a nursing mother to feed her baby in a public bathroom.I wouldn't eat my lunch there so why should my baby?The thought repulses me-and I was not a breastfeeding Mom.

Anonymous said...

Let's be honest here. The ONLY reason breastfeeding in public is even discussed is because the milk comes out of the mother's boob and men get turned on by boobs. If the milk came out of a mother's pinky finger, nobody would think twice. So do you ladies really want the fact that men lust for your boobies to dictate where your child may eat?

There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public. There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in private. There is nothing wrong with bottlefeeding. There is nothing wrong with babyfood feeding.

djuggler said...

I am a man and I admire breasts! However, I find nothing sexual or a turn-on about breastfeeding. As a matter of fact, breastfeeding typically looks like the mother is just holding a sleeping baby and IF the nipple is exposed, it is only briefly in fact that I would wager to say it would be hard to seen at all.

The whole breastfeeding needs to be hidden concept is absurd. Feeding in a bathroom just sounds unsanitary and absolutely unnecessary. The people that raise an argument over public breastfeeding really should find more productive things to do with their time. If you make something taboo, it becomes exotic. If you really want breastfeeding to be not seen, then let it be seen everywhere; take any mysticism away.

Anonymous said...

I never had a problem with using hte nice convenient chair in the ladies at target. it didnt feel "gross" at all.\
get over it bitch.

ekortlund said...

I prefer not to use nursing lounges, because again, it gives the idea that breastfeeding needs to be hidden away, like other bathroom activities.

If I eat my lunch on a bench in the mall, why can't my baby?

djuggler said...

"I never had a problem with using hte nice convenient chair in ..."

Your insecurities with yourself should not be the basis for denying others the ability to do something that is natural and good. If you don't like breastfeeding in public then look away.

You may not have a problem with the restroom feedings but I am very uncomfortable with my children being fed in a bathroom where ammonia and bleach and industrial cleaners are used, and people who may or may not have washed their hands touch the same surfaces that the baby may reach out and grab.

Anonymous said...

Ok Anon,I don't know how you choose to live but I prefer not to eat in my bathroom or anyone elses bathroom. That's my choice.If you believe that eating close to numerous toilets (that are spewing bacteria into the air you breathe) is a healthy choice for you or the delicate immune system of your baby that's ok too.You are the mother.As for me,it's just not something that I would do if given the choice.

Anonymous said...

oh riiight....I guess I am insecure because I went into the lounge at target instead of just plopping down on a bench. and you say you dont flaunt it. it ISNT about convenience then, it IS about flaunting and publicity and making sure everyone sees you. maybe not so they get an eyeful but so that they know that you HAVE THE RIGHT AND THEY DAMN WELL BETTER NOT DO far as the public area, wherever you plop down probably had a bunch of germy toddlers wiping their hands on it. give me a break. in one breath you are bitching about the probable germs in the bathroom then you are bitching about the bleach. the bathroom is probably cleaner than the bench in the store if its cleaned so much. Guess if you just cleaned your house you dont nurse in the kitchen either because then you can smell the clean.
stupid bitch. if I see someone like you out there I will DEFINATELY trip and spill my drink on you. OOPS!!!!!Or maybe I will get stuck in line behind you and make sure I pass some silent but deadly gas in your brats face.

katie allison granju said...

Dear Frequent Anonymous Poster:

(And I know who you are from your IP address and your unique writing style) - You scare me. You really do. You are one of the angriest people I've ever encountered. And you are gross, threatening to fart in people's faces, etc. Yet, you are so strangely amusing and entertaining that I hesitate to set up the tool to actually ban you from my blog.

So keep on a-postin'. And we'll keep on a-laughin'

Over and Out-


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of the anonymous freak feeding her child at the toilet. It somehow seems appropriate for her. I'll bet she eats in there too to take advantage of the sanitary bleach environment and the free-farting atmostphere that only a bathroom could provide.

Anonymous said...

"if I see someone like you out there I will DEFINATELY trip and spill my drink on you. OOPS!!!!!Or maybe I will get stuck in line behind you and make sure I pass some silent but deadly gas in your brats face."
and I`ll give you $5 to put towards some therapy, wow do you need it or what?

Anonymous said...

um yeah. and I'll bet you all have thoughts like that too but you'd sooner eat your own shit than admit it.

Anonymous said...

I also find it interesting that you think I am "one of the angriest people you have ever seen" dont know me. All you know is the little slice that comes out in here. The little slice that admittedly needs to get over the fact that militant lactivists pushed me over the edge into full blown post partum depression and nearly ended my marriage. Yeah I had other factors making me at risk but it would have been so different if I didnt have these bitches from LLL in my face telling me what a shitty mother I was because I wasnt breastfeeding, accosting me in the supermarket to enquire as to "why I wasn't nursing" and peddling a ton of half truths about what breastfeeding actually was capable of doing. No, you werent actually one of them but I remember seeing you on AOL and what a nasty bitch you were to anyone who didnt agree wtih your "lactivist" goals. I read your book (in the store, I wouldnt have shelled out hardearned cash for such a piece of toilet paper)and was just incensed at how unbelievable judgemental you are to any parent who doesnt make the same decisions you do in a very small narrow area (interesting you get all agog over people who you percieve as judgemental about some other issues). I am not sure I see this as any different than YOUR pleasure at seeing former cheerleaders not aging particularly well.
Yeah, now that a lot of the damage that has been done has been healed, I AM a better, stronger person and maybe I need to move on past harrassing attachment parenters for vindication.
whatever. Hope some day you come to your senses about how much this parenting philosophy you are peddling has hurt a lot of lives. Yeah I bet you get a lot of positive mail from people it "happens" to work for. but the people you hurt probably dont bother to tell you.
Yeah, maybe its immature taking pleasure in your divorce, your custody battle, your miscarriage but you do the same thing with all your celebrity gossip. Its human nature. At least I admit it. At least I admit maybe its not the most productive way of dealing with the damage done by parenting mistruths.

CJ said...

Did you see this?

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous of the long screed,
You're repeating yourself. You've made these same comments before. Please find another way to spend your time!
And, I find it so revealing that though Katie's book horrified you, you stood there in the store and read it! And saying you wouldn't shell out cash for something you stood in the store and READ is....well, it's borderline stealing. You aren't supposed to read a whole book in a bookstore! If you want to read it free, check it out from the library.

And as for this part.."Yeah, now that a lot of the damage that has been done has been healed, I AM a better, stronger person and maybe I need to move on past harrassing attachment parenters for vindication." Duh. And it doesn't sound as though you are healed. Instead of fantasies about farting on people, why don't you find a good therapist?

Anonymous said...

and how do you know I HAVENT been dealing with anger issues? as for reading in bookstores: why do you think they all have comfy chairs in there? If they really didnt want people reading in there they would shrink wrap the books. I dont do it very often, just for shit I am curious about but dont want to support with my hard earned dollars.
And havent YOU ever read something just to see how bad it truly was?
No, I guess not. You're super human, right????

Anonymous said...

and how do you know I HAVENT been dealing with anger issues? as for reading in bookstores: why do you think they all have comfy chairs in there? If they really didnt want people reading in there they would shrink wrap the books. I dont do it very often, just for shit I am curious about but dont want to support with my hard earned dollars.
And havent YOU ever read something just to see how bad it truly was?
No, I guess not. You're super human, right????