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 News
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Aired August 11, 2004 – 19:00 ET
COOPER: As protests go, the one that took place over the weekend in Maryland wasn’t particularly large. But the issue seems to have struck a chord.
Lorig Charkoudian, a Maryland mom, organized what she called a nurse-in at a Starbucks near her home. Last month, a Starbucks manager asked Charkoudian to cover up or to go breastfeed in the bathroom. Charkoudian complained to Starbuck’s headquarters.
They apologized, saying, quote, “While Starbuck’s does not have a formal policy regarding mothers breastfeeding babies within our stores, we welcome nursing mothers to our stores. Starbuck’s complies with all applicable state and local laws regarding breastfeeding.”
Charkoudian says she wants to rally mothers across the country to ensure breastfeeding in public is permitted everywhere.
She joins me from Washington. Also joined by syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams, who has some strong opinions on the subject as well.
Appreciate both of you being on the program.
Lorig, let me start off with you. When you were in the Starbuck’s, you were breastfeeding your baby, the manager basically said, Look, could you either cover up or go into the bathroom. Why was that an unreasonable request?
LORIG CHARKOUDIAN, ORGANIZED NURSE-IN: Well, just to be clear, he meant put a blanket over the baby’s head. He didn’t mean cover my breast. My breast was covered. And my — no one thinks it is appropriate to eat in the bathroom. You wouldn’t eat in the bathroom. So it’s not right for a baby to eat in the bathroom.
But primarily the reason it was unreasonable is because what it reflects is the shame that people associate with breastfeeding. And the more that either the general public or companies think that they can tell women to hide their breastfeeding, the more they sort of reinforce that there is something wrong with what they’re doing, or that it’s shameful, rather than encouraging women to breastfeed, which is, in fact, the healthiest thing that they can do for their children.
COOPER: Well, Armstrong, why do you think it is perhaps unreasonable not to make accommodation to other people who are, who don’t like the idea of breastfeeding in public?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You know, I’ve traveled the world, from Africa to Israel, and I’ve seen breastfeeding on numerous occasions. And they have things now where you can absolutely breastfeed your child and no one ever knows exactly what is going on. It is very natural that a mother want to calm her child down by feeding her immediately if the baby is crying.
But I just think that it is more of a statement from some people. I don’t even think it is an issue of shame. I just think they’re very — you know, there are many people, including mothers, who are very uncomfortable with the idea of exposure. I think there are areas where you can go, not necessarily the bathroom, or other areas where you can go in a more — in a area where it is not obvious as to what you’re doing if you don’t have anything that is available to you to disguise exactly what you’re doing.
I just think it is an issue of being comfortable. And I had — I talked to someone today about this, and they were saying to me, their daughter was out in the public exposing herself. But a lot of people, especially older people, are very uncomfortable with it. And whereas the parents were uncomfortable too, they just asked her to not do it, because of how uneasy (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people around them.
COOPER: Well, Lorig, to, I mean, to those who are uncomfortable, what do you say?
CHARKOUDIAN: Well, I think it is a larger picture than that. The issue of breastfeeding is that because it is as healthy as it is for babies, it has long-term health effects on babies, children, and then as they become adults, there is positive externalities that come with breastfeeding. All of society benefits because of health care cost savings down the line when women chose to breastfeed.
So for society to benefit from the breastfeeding, but then to turn around and have policies and attitudes that tell women, Hide what you’re doing, figure out a way so I don’t need to know what it is that you’re doing, go to the bathroom, stay home, pump first and then bring a bottle with you, all these things that either make it difficult logistically for women to breastfeed and have a life, leave their home, or things that imply to women that there is something shameful or wrong or that should be hidden that they’re doing, those kinds of policies and attitudes have the effect of having women breastfeed less time than is recommended.
CHARKOUDIAN: So at this point, 14 percent of women breastfeed while up until six months of age, which is the absolute minimum…
CHARKOUDIAN: … and…
COOPER: … I’m sorry, I — we’re just…
WILLIAMS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I don’t, I don’t, I don’t…
CHARKOUDIAN: Sure, go ahead.
COOPER: … (UNINTELLIGIBLE) running out of time. Very briefly, Armstrong.
WILLIAMS: … think, I don’t think anyone is discouraging breastfeeding here. I think that is definitely not the point. The point is how you do it, and the kind of dignity and self-respect that you have for you and your child as you do it. And I think you can do it in a way where you can accomplish both.
COOPER: OK, we’re going to…
CHARKOUDIAN: Well, it’s like saying to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)… COOPER: … we’re — I’m sorry — I’m really sorry…
CHARKOUDIAN: … (UNINTELLIGIBLE)…
COOPER: … though, we, we are going to have to leave it there.
COOPER: I, we, I’m glad you both got your points in. Lorig Charkoudian and Armstrong Williams, thanks very much.
CHARKOUDIAN: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
COOPER: Today’s buzz is this. What do you think? Does it make you uncomfortable to see a mother breastfeeding in public? Log onto CNN.com/360, cast your vote. Results at the end of the program.
1) 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) Starbucks MustTrain 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) Make the public aware of this policy.
For more information on breastfeeding go to:
www.lalecheleague.org or www.breastfeeding.com
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