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Breastfeeding Roadblocks

A. Perry Heller

Despite the cheerleading and awesome work of groups like La Leche League and Best for Babes, and celebrity breastfeeding endorsements like that of Gisele Bundchen, nursing mothers still face tremendous roadblocks. 

After some early struggles, I was able to nurse relatively comfortably even in public (thank you, Hooter Hider!). And although I may have gotten some dirty looks from a few select strangers, it wasn’t until my son was around seven months old that I was actually asked to stop nursing or do it in a bathroom by a flight attendant on a plane. Never mind that nothing was exposed, my son was quiet because he was nursing, and I had every right to nurse him there, I was so surprised and embarrassed by the encounter that I was literally speechless. Unfortunately, I know that my story is just one of many.

Recently, via Heather Cushman-Dowdee’s blog “Mama Is…” we learned that an Italian pharmacist and new mom, Chiara Pozzi Perteghella, was barred from breastfeeding during a five-hour-long exam to be certified as…wait for it…a lactation consultant. Pozzi Perteghella was told that only test-takers and proctors were allowed in the room, and that she could leave the room to breastfeed or pump (but wouldn’t be able to make up the time), or that she could express her milk and give it to someone caring for the baby outside of the room, but that the baby could not be present out of consideration for the other examinees. Her request to take the exam in a separate room was also denied, and she ultimately chose not to sit for the exam.

Closer to home, in a story we learned of via CafeMom’s The Stir, a mom, Elizabeth Gomez, was recently asked to stop nursing her 3-month-old in the “Child Watch” area at a YMCA day care in Woburn, Massachusetts. The reason given was a “no eating within Child Watch” policy, which the staff argued applied to breastfeeding, and that the mom would be “exposing [her] self” and that “kids would see it.” Sigh.

Moms, have you faced discrimination because of breastfeeding? Have you been asked to stop nursing anywhere? Do you feel that there are times/places where breastfeeding is inappropriate?

It's World Breastfeeding Week through August 7. Stay tuned for a daily post on breastfeeding and be sure to share your thoughts, experiences and opinions on each post of the day.