Illinois restaurant asks breastfeeding mother to cover up with a napkin and suggests she go to the bathroom, nurse-in scheduled

A breastfeeding mother reported an incident at a Wilmington, Illinois seafood restaurant in which the staff asked her to cover up with a napkin or suggested she leave her table and go feed her child in the bathroom due to customer complaints.

Kristal Snow Tomko shared her side of the story on ‎Big Fish Bar & Grille’s Facebook page yesterday.

“I’ve been to this restaurant several times and the food is always great! Seriously, everything on the menu! I recommend it to everyone! 
Sadly, I didn’t even get to eat at all, and my husband had my meal boxed, where it remains in my fridge.
Went there today to celebrate my baby brother taking a tech job in Denver, and won’t be seeing him again for quite some time. We were seated and ordered and sure enough, my 6 month old threw a tantrum and was ready to eat. Naturally, I began feeding my baby as I always do, everywhere. I breast feed.
Really not ever been an issue.
Until today. Your hostess came by and asked if i would like a napkin to cover up. I replied no thank you. She said ‘well we need you to cover up if you are going to do that here.’ I said thanks but we are OK. She then informed me its offending a customer. And again asked for me to cover up. (Mind you I am not a large busted ‘floppy’ woman, meaning I was discrete and mindful of my dreaded nipples- even so, should not matter.)
I informed her that there are laws in Illinois that I don’t have to cover. And she got snarkey and said please cover up. I said no. He will pull it off anyway.
Shortly after that the chef/manager/owner came out and addressed my husband, asking that I cover. My husband said I’m sorry she already said she’s not covering. Chef then recommended the empty banquet room or the bathroom.
**At no time was I told to stop nursing- or ‘told’ to go to the bathroom. It was however a poor suggestion.
All before the appetizers hit the table.
I was made to feel embarrassed and shamed, as if I were doing something wrong. I went quietly and quickly to my van where I cried and nursed. 
My husband came out to see if we were leaving, and I said no, we are here for my brother. Although my stomach was so knotted up I couldn’t eat, so as I went back in again and dinner came. My baby was OK for a few minutes, but wanted to eat again. So, as my plate sat there in touched, again, I went outside.
I feed my baby as many do. Its not for attention. Not a ‘hey look @ me’. 
A ‘cover’ in fact draws more attention, and is pulled down if baby isn’t a newborn, besides being hot. I do it to feed my baby. Any where. Any time.
Aside from that, the laws are clear. 
The host and other staff need to be made aware and trained on how to handle future instances properly. To inform the ‘offended’ table of two, a simple ‘Illinois law prohibits asking a breastfeeding mother to cover or move, I can seat you differently if you’d like’ would be sufficient.
I understand you can’t please everyone, but I also wouldn’t think that risking losing a table of 7 for a table of two by abiding by laws would be good for business.
I truly hope that this is one area that can be put to rest and you can continue with the kind of service people look forward to, instead of the treatment my family received today.”

The restaurant responded to her:

They also responded to a concerned citizen, Sara, when she messaged them about the incident.

It is unfortunate that the business chose not to politely inform the offended customers that they will support breastfeeding families, the law, and ask the offended if they’d like to look the other way or move to a different table.

Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 740 § 137 (2004) creates the Right to Breastfeed Act.  The law provides that a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.

2011 Ill. Senate Resolution 170 recognizes the unique health, economic, and societal benefits that breastfeeding provides to babies, mothers, families and the community and resolves the state of Illinois to work to ensure that barriers to initiation and continuation of breastfeeding are removed and that a women’s right to breastfeed is upheld.

Illinois also has an enforcement provision to protect the Right to Breastfeed Act.

Elizabeth Grattan‎ responded to the incident, saying, “That’s the same argument used against homosexuals displaying affection and PoC sitting at a counter. No, businesses do not have a right to arbitrarily discriminate in violation of state statutes regarding public accommodation. The owner is mistaken.”

I have to agree with Elizabeth on this. It’s not okay to harass a mother and her family just because the restaurant is getting some heat from sadly uninformed patrons. The law is clear. And babies have the basic human right to eat as well, without something on their head or breathing in polluted water vapor with fecal matter while having some milk. The federal government deems a bathroom an unacceptable place to breastfeed or pump and no health department in the world would clear it as a safe place to consume food.

What do babies eat? And when?

Perhaps some people are wondering why Kristal needed to breastfeed at the restaurant. The norm for our species is this: Babies eat human breast milk from their mother’s breast on cue. It really is that simple. Babies do not eat at scheduled times and since breastfed babies process milk faster than formula fed infant, they need to eat more frequently. It makes perfect sense to feed a baby where others are eating and it shouldn’t be offensive at all. How long do babies breastfeed? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the about first six months of a baby’s life with no additional food or water or substitutes for the short and long term health of the baby and mother. The AAP, along with the World Health Organization and UNICEF, recommend breastfeeding for at least 12 months and then continuing breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. The WHO and the AAFP recommend breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for at least two years of age, and as long as the dyad feels appropriate.

As for those that say the mom should have had a bottle ready, not every baby takes bottles and frankly, they’re not necessary and can be damaging for the mother and child, interfering with her supply and the baby’s jaw development and bonding. Pumping also costs a significant amount of money and time and can be painful and sometimes leads to early weaning. Formula for an otherwise exclusively breastfed baby can cause health problems.

Why is supporting breastfeeding mothers so important?

Breastfeeding provides a protective effect for the child against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis. The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by over a third in breastfed babies, and there is a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity in breastfed vs. non-breastfed infants. Not to mention the benefits for the mother. It is our basic human right to breastfeed and for our children to have their mother’s milk and comfort.

Kristal was doing exactly as she should as a responsible, caring mother, following the recommendations for her baby and meeting his needs. Yet she was asked to cover up and publicly shamedIt isn’t up to strangers to tell any mother how she can feed her baby, from bottle to breast.

How can you help?

I have asked Family Friendly Business to contact the restaurant. I sincerely hope Big Fish Bar & Grille’s management steps up and makes amends, as many restaurants in their position have done in the past. They could take a tip from the coffee shop in Austin that went above and beyond earlier this year. If you feel compelled to speak to restaurant, please keep your comments respectful. Write on their Facebook page wall or send them a message on their website.

If you’re outside of Illinois, please check to see if your state has an enforcement provision and if not, ask for one.

Take a stand

It’s up to everyone to help stop the mistreatment of women and children. If you see a woman breastfeeding in public, give her a thumbs up. If you see someone shaming a breastfeeding mom, making fun of her, asking her to cover up, move, or stop, stand up for what’s right and talk to them. Be respectful but honest. It’s not okay to harass moms for taking care of their children. It’s time to stand up for women, babies, our future.

How does this incident make you feel? Have you ever breastfed at a restaurant? 

Join the conversation on TwitterFacebook, or comment below.

**Update 5.4.2015 1:29pm**

I have sent the restaurant this message and posted it on their Facebook page. I hope they do step up soon!

The business posted this on their Facebook page: “John Mathias, owner of Big Fish Bar & Grille is live on WJOL addressing the breastfeeding issue that occurred this weekend.”

The public did not appreciate the owner’s lack of apology. Mike Martin said simply, ”A restaurant is where people eat. That human being was eating the only food it can eat. That simple, the end. Breastfeeding is only obscene if you are a weirdo, who wants to starve babies instead of risking seeing a nipple (which every human has by the way…).”

A nurse-in is set for Friday, May 8th at 6pm. Join the event page for details.

**Update 10:41pm**

Kristal Snow Tomko responded to my post, to the thousands of comments supporting her and asking the business to support breastfeeding.

The Daily Journal reported on the incident. I found it disheartening that the owner, John Mathias, didn’t seem to understand how supporting breastfeeding would be important, even when others complained, instead of asking a mom to cover up or move. He said the backlash was getting out of hand and asked who the nurse-in on Friday was going to hurt. “My staff who are mostly single mothers trying to raise their kids.” My question is, who are his actions hurting? He can end it by making amends. A nurse-in isn’t going to hurt those mothers. Nurse-ins are peaceful protests, usually held outside and if they’re inside, the mothers usually order food. A nurse-in is held to raise awareness of the importance of supporting breastfeeding, in turn helping normalize the act for the community.

 

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Breastfeeding in the morning

It’s not even noon and I can’t count how many times my toddler son has “asked” to nurse. Of course he doesn’t use words I can understand yet but he either points and grunts or helps himself. He breastfed when he woke up, then while we were in the shower, and here he is breastfeeding while reading a book before his nap and then nursing to sleep.

[Breastfeeding while reading]

[Nursing to sleep]

Of course my big girls did their own thing while I was busy, and thankfully I didn’t need to moderate any disagreements until after my son woke up from his nap. They cut out cardboard and other things from the recycling for craft projects, played with Legos for a bit, did some play pretend under the kitchen table while eating frozen mango, and fed the chickens. They are really into the Catwings series right now by Ursula K. Le Guin and much of their play pretend involves being cats with wings.

I started going through photos from the weekend while my baby napped, thought about what kind of tortilla soup I am going to make tomorrow for Cinco De Mayo, and got my mopping robot working on a couple rooms in the house.

Just another day in the life here.

What do your mornings look like? How many times a day does your toddler breastfeed?

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below.

 

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Child Protective Services will NOT take a child away for breastfeeding past infancy

Breastfeeding past infancy may seem unusual but it’s actually not. As much as those confused by it think it’s possible, a child will not be taken away for breastfeeding past infancy. Breastfeeding for 2 or more years is actually healthy, in the best interest of the child, and is recommended by the WHO & AAFP, and other major health organizations.

For more information:

I banned a member on my Facebook page today because they felt the need to attack breastfeeding past infancy. This was their comment:

Norway follows the World Health Organization’s recommendations for breastfeeding and I see no proof of children being taken away for breastfeeding. The Norwegian Government is trying to get their breastfeeding percentages up, not down.

I noticed the user decided to try to comment on my blog page, saying, “you should not block people for submitting different oppinions on your fb-page. and certainly not delete the opinions you don`t like. that tells me you`re realy not all that grown up.”

How sad. On one hand, I feel like I’ve missed an opportunity to reach out and educate someone but on the other hand, I know that this person isn’t ready to hear what I have to say, no matter how respectful I am about it. After searching this person’s name and location, I noticed they seem to like to tell people things are illegal in Norway.

So I banned them. And I decided to write this post in the hope that they’ll read it and understand where I am coming from, the actual recommendations, and why supporting breastfeeding is important.

Why do I ban people that disparage breastfeeding? Because this blog and my Facebook page is about providing breastfeeding support and creating a positive community. I cannot spent the time I need to sharing heartwarming, empowering, honest pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding photos and stories, and nursing in public harassment incidents if I let every troll have a field day at my expense. This blog is what I’ve spent the last 3 years of my life on and I’m proud of it. If someone wants to hop on my page or blog and spew some nonsense, pretend their opinion is fact for the sake of being negative, fine, but it’s not going to stay up. Opinions that are damaging to everyone that reads them are not allowed. I, nor anyone else, should have to defend themselves here. No seeds of doubt should be seeded in the minds of breastfeeding mothers. It’s hard enough to meet our goals without seeing some of the hurtful things people like to hurl against moms.

To Bjørn and anyone else I’ve banned, I recommend taking a moment to reflect and perhaps look up the international recommendations or anthropological age of weaning before being upset and insulting me. If you’ve learned from your mistake and would like to join the discussion, support women, children, humanity again, let me know and I’ll give you another chance.

Until then, best wishes on your journey through life. We only have one. Let’s live a life we’re proud of.

 

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What nursing a toddler looks like

Nursing a toddler is…interesting.

They have their own ideas. They want milk when they want it. They don’t care how they’re positioned and actually, the more ridiculous, the better. They could be standing on the counter and decide it’s a good time for milk.

[Facebook]

They could see their mom sitting on the toilet and just go for it. We all saw that viral photo this month, right? A mom in the shower? Perfect time for milk. Mom’s not awake yet? Grab a snack. Mom’s making food in the kitchen? Grocery shopping? Gardening? Let’s do this. Mom’s sitting on the couch, minding her own business? Milk time! They could see their sibling nursing and decide they want some, too!

[Tandem breastfeeding my 14-month-old and 3 1/2-year-old]

Toddlers!! Thankfully, his big sister didn’t mind. She just laughed. My middle child was a crazy nursling toddler herself not too long ago. I have a photo of her breastfeeding while in my husband’s office, standing on his desk.

I couldn’t even list all the funny, real, honest places my crazy toddlers have decided were good places to have milk over the last few years. What I do like about breastfeeding a toddler is they take care of it themselves. They can pull down a shirt and latch on all by themselves. So if I’m busy with something and they’re hungry, or thirsty, or just need that comfort, they can get it without waiting for me.

I will continue to the breastfeed him until he’s ready to stop. I know that I am supported by the major health organizations. The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” The AAFP states in their breastfeeding position paper, “Health outcomes for mothers and babies are best when breastfeeding continues for at least two years. Breastfeeding should continue as long as mutually desired by mother and child.”

What’s your funniest toddler nursing moment?

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below.

 

Brelfie of the day: Nursing my toddler in nature

We spent the afternoon in Clayton, California today. It’s a beautiful little town at the base of Mount Diablo. Here I am breastfeeding my son under a tree by a stream while my girls played in the water with their friends.

There is a lot going on in the world that weighs heavy on my mind but during moments like this, I know I need to appreciate these sweet times, my children, my life while I can.

Where did you NIP today?

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Alabama dentist office apologizes for contradicting the law, telling breastfeeding mother she’s not allowed to feed her child

Taylor Chaice Buzbee shared her mistreatment at her dental office in Alabama this week. She was bullied at her dental office just because she was breastfeeding her child. This is one of a few recent breastfeeding incidents at dental offices that I’ve reported on – two in California and one in Washington.

What happened?

Taylor got a last minute appointment at her dental office and didn’t have a chance to get childcare for her infant son. They told her it was okay that she brought him. When her son became fussy and needed to be fed halfway through her appointment, Taylor did what any good mother would do and started nursing him. She was worried about it, telling the news that it the first time she had nursed in public, but she said she didn’t have any other options. She said the hygienists didn’t seem to mind and offered to come back when she was finished breastfeeding. Then things took a turn for the worse. The dentist came into the room with another employee and they told her she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed in the office, despite the law that allows it.

Alabama Code § 22-1-13 allows a mother to breastfeed her child in any public or private location.

They left her alone and she continued to meet her child’s needs until she was harassed by the same woman again and was told it wasn’t allowed.

Thankfully, the dental office apologized. According to the interview, Kasey Pickett, Aspen Dental Management Inc’s director of communications, said she “called Ms. Buzbee this evening and personally apologized to her for her experience — no nursing mother should ever be made to feel uncomfortable while feeding her child.”

She continued, “We at Aspen Dental Management, Inc., and the Aspen Dental practices we support take this matter very seriously. We are reviewing what happened today and will take appropriate steps to ensure every patient who visits an Aspen Dental practice feels comfortable during their visit.”

What do babies eat? And when?

Perhaps some people are wondering why Taylor needed to breastfeed at the dentist. The norm for our species is this: Babies eat human breast milk from their mother’s breast on cue. It really is that simple. Babies do not eat at scheduled times and since breastfed babies process milk faster than formula fed infant, they need to eat more frequently. How long do babies breastfeed? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the about first six months of a baby’s life with no additional food or water or substitutes for the short and long term health of the baby and mother. The AAP, along with the World Health Organization and UNICEF, recommend breastfeeding for at least 12 months and then continuing breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. The WHO and the AAFP recommend breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for at least two years of age, and as long as the dyad feels appropriate.

As for those that say the mom should have had a bottle ready, not every baby takes bottles and frankly, they’re not necessary and can be damaging for the mother and child, interfering with her supply and the baby’s jaw development and bonding. Pumping also costs a significant amount of money and time and can be painful and sometimes leads to early weaning. Formula for an otherwise exclusively breastfed baby can cause health problems.

Why is supporting breastfeeding mothers so important?

Breastfeeding provides a protective effect for the child against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis. The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by over a third in breastfed babies, and there is a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity in breastfed vs. non-breastfed infants. Not to mention the benefits for the mother. It is our basic human right to breastfeed and for our children to have their mother’s milk and comfort.

Taylor was doing exactly as she should as a responsible, caring mother, following the recommendations for her baby and meeting his needs. Yet she was criminalized and shamedIt isn’t up to strangers to tell any mother how she can feed her baby, from bottle to breast.

How can you help?

Thankfully, this business stepped up and made amends. Unfortunately, not everyone does. And because there is not an enforcement provision in Alabama, people cannot be held accountable for their actions against women and children. Please contact your Alabama state representative and ask for an enforcement provision. If you’re outside of Alabama, check to see if your state has an enforcement provision and if not, ask for one.

Take a stand

It’s up to everyone to help stop the mistreatment of women and children. If you see a woman breastfeeding in public, give her a thumbs up. If you see someone shaming a breastfeeding mom, making fun of her, asking her to cover up, move, or stop, stand up for what’s right and talk to them. Be respectful but honest. It’s not okay to harass moms for taking care of their children. It’s time to stand up for women, babies, our future.

How does this incident make you feel? Have you ever breastfed at your dental office? 

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below.

 

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Beijing considering a ban on infant milk formula advertising

BREASTFEEDING NEWS: Beijing announced earlier this week that it was considering a ban on infant milk formula advertising “in hopes of changing the country’s dire nursing statistics.”

Why? Their breastfeeding rates are abysmal. “Fewer than 16 percent of urban Chinese women exclusively breastfed their babies through the World Health Organization’s recommended period of six months. In rural China, the rates were higher — around 30 percent. But in both cases, they continue to decline.” [Read more on the Bloomberg View.]

Think we’re on top of it here in the US? Think again. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months in the U.S. is a paltry 18.8%. (Read the CDC’s 2014 Breastfeeding report card to see where your state stands.)

According to the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, advertising of baby formula should already be banned. Beijing would just be following the code, doing their part to help reduce the negative effect of formula marketing Following a code that is already there doesn’t seem too hard.

When are we going to support moms instead of shaming them for nursing in public and not giving them the help the need when they ask for it? When are the formula companies going to really help struggling moms instead of sending them formula in the mail, telling them to wean at 9 months, and undermining their goals? When are we going to offer real maternity and paternity leave for parents so they can establish breastfeeding, support their partners, and get that irreplaceable bonding in during those first few months? We’re hurting our babies, our communities, the world, by not helping families.

Do you think Beijing should ban formula ads? Did you formula feed, breastfeed, or both? Do you think formula companies are sabotaging moms? 

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below.

 

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