Tell Starbucks to Enact and Publicly Announce a National Corporate Policy that Mothers will Not be asked to Leave, Cover, Move, or Hide when Breastfeeding their Babies
Nursing in Public in the Newsrichard mille replica
Why Does it Matter?
Breastfeeding is the healthiest choice a mother can make for her child, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and many research studies. Some women cannot breastfeed for medical reasons. For many women who can breastfeed, it can still be a difficult choice. Society reflects mixed ideas about women’s bodies – moralistic messages about shame mixed with Hollywood/Madison Avenue messages about sex and eroticism. Therefore, many women feel that even when their bodies are nourishing the next generation, they should hide what they are doing and might feel shame. This is reinforced by others around them (family members, store employees, general public) who also receive mixed messages about women’s bodies and also struggle with what it means to see a woman with a baby at her breast.
The unfortunate result is that women find themselves squatting in bathrooms trying to nurse, fumbling under blankets, trying to cover a baby’s head with the baby struggling with the blanket. (The reality is that when most women breastfeed, those around cannot see much of her breast at all because the baby’s head is covering it.) Other women feel like they can’t leave their homes with their babies, whether on a series of errands, or to social gatherings with friends and family, if they want to breastfeed.
The long term effect is that many women choose not to breastfeed or choose to breastfeed for a shorter period of time than they otherwise might.
All of society benefits from babies being breastfed – the long term health benefits save money, the psychological research shows that it supports healthy, happy babies and children. Society should have policies and laws which support women to breastfeed their children.
Some women choose to breastfeed in private only. Others choose to use a blanket, to pump their milk, or to use formula when in public. This is their choice. Women must be supported to make this choice. And women who choose to breastfeed without blankets should be supported to make this choice also.
Finally, some people suggest that breastfeeding is a “bodily function”, like urination, defecation, or sex, which, no matter how natural, should not be done in public. The difference is that urination, defecation, and sex, create health risks in public. There is no health risk to breastfeeding in public. Every society in the world has taboos against defecation and sex in public because of these health risks. Most other societies accept breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding is a baby eating and drinking. The baby is joining the rest of us in our meal or snack.
A mother was asked to breastfeed in the bathroom or cover her child with a blanket at a Maryland Starbucks store in violation of Maryland law which protects the rights of mothers to breastfeed in public. In response to a letter and the threat of public action, Starbucks has agreed to advise all Maryland store employees that Maryland law prohibits any person from limiting or restricting a mothers’ right to breastfeed in public. Compliance with state law is a wonderful first step.
Unfortunately, Starbucks does not have a national policy which prevents staff from asking nursing mothers to leave, cover, move, or hide in response to a customer complaint. Instead, Starbucks’ policy is that in response to a complaint about any behavior, the staff will ask the person who is being complained about to change their behavior.
Some states have laws which support mothers’ rights to breastfeed in public in some way (for details see http://www.lalecheleague.org/LawBills.html). In those states without statutes, breastfeeding in public is not illegal, but it is not protected.
The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding as the best nutrition for a baby. Mothers should never be shamed or told to hide as they make this healthy choice regardless of where they are when their babies are hungry.
This Campaign is Asking Starbucks
1) To make a clear national policy that mothers have a right to breastfeed in their stores without being asked to move, hide, cover up, or leave.
2) To train all employees that breastfeeding is different from other behaviors that customers might complain about (such as loud music, offensive language, etc.), and that employees are never to ask a breastfeeding mother to move, hide, cover up, or leave. Instead employees can advise the complaining customer to avert their eyes or move to a different part of the store.
3) To make the public aware of this policy.
For more information on breastfeeding go to:
www.lalecheleague.org or www.breastfeeding.com