I am planning to be part of a group of breastfeeding mothers demonstrating this upcoming Saturday. I'm very excited about this, glad to have a chance to stand up for what I believe in.
Well, probably sit down for it, with a lapful of hungry little girl, but you know what I mean.
I originally found out about this at the Lactivist's blog:http://thelactivist.blogspot.com/2007/08/applebees-ticks-off-nursing-moms.html
that's a pretty good overview of how it all started and what the issues and problems are.
It has gone national. Here's a page with a lot of the information gathered together:http://mothernurtureky.com/pages/Applebees.php
and a short UPI news article about the upcoming protest:http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2007/09/05/ky_breastfeeding_protest_to_go_national/8897/
To answer any questions about why are we doing this, what's the issue, or "why don't you just cover up?", I'm going to share here a few quotes from flyers we plan to have, and discussions that have come up on the mailing list for the people who are planning this. (And it is people, not just nursing mothers - anyone supporting breastfeeding mothers and children is invited - my whole local family will be there.)
The planned "Why are we here" flyer:
We are here today as a result of Applebee's recent discrimination against a breastfeeding mother and baby at an Applebee's in Kentucky.
The nursing mother was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby, in direct violation of Kentucky law.
We sincerely hope that Applebee's will encourage and welcome all families, regardless of their choice of food, into their establishments. If Applebee's is to truly be a family restaurant then all members of a family should be welcome.
This protest is not against this specific location but is part of a national effort to send a loud message to the corporate office that their actions and statements are unacceptable and even break the law in many states.
Then there's the questions of "why don't you just cover up with a blanket?" or "well, just be discreet!" I don't want someone else deciding what's 'discreet' for me when I'm breastfeeding, or for any other mother. If those teens in bikinis waving carwash signs and flashing cleavage are fine, hey, that's way more than we show. Here's some more culled from the email list, that I agree with wholeheartedly:
Why can't a breastfeeding mother just cover up with a blanket?
From another woman on the list: If I *had* to discuss blankets, I might say something like, "Well, certainly some women prefer to use a blanket or cover, and that is fine. But women wear revealing/immodest clothing all the time, and no one asks them to put a blanket over their cleavage. I wish they would! I don't want my husband or children seeing that."
- It's impractical. Many babies (and all the adults I know!) won't tolerate a blanket over their heads while they eat. The baby tugging and pulling the blanket off actually draws more attention to the nursing pair. Plus, it's inconvenient to add one more thing to lug around in the diaper bag.
- It's hot! Even in an air conditioned room, having the baby's head under a blanket is hot for mom and baby.
- It's dangerous. Re-breathing the air under a blanket can be dangerous for a baby. Recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS include making sure your baby's head stays uncovered during sleep.
- It's unnecessary. Breastfeeding is a natural, healthy part of parenting. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and need not be covered up. The only definition of discreet" that should matter is that of the mother herself; mothers shouldn't feel they need to hide themselves or their babies while the baby eats nature's perfect food.
And here's some points on how we feel things ought to be - and again, I'm right on board with all of this:
- All babies have the right to receive nourishment on an as needed basis.
- All mothers have the right to provide nourishment to their babies in a manner that suits the mother and the baby.
- All nursing mothers have the right to nurse their babies in any place where they are otherwise legally allowed to be.
- No nursing mother shall be approached to cease nursing, cover-up, move, leave, or be more discreet in any fashion. To approach a mother in such a way is to imply that the activity she is engaging in is shameful, wrong, or undesireable when it is in fact none of these.
- All nursing mothers have the right to nurse their child at any time or any place without fear of harassment.
- Anyone found guilty of approaching a nursing mother to cease nursing, cover-up, move, leave, or be more discreet in any fashion will be subject to penalties consistent with harassment laws in their state.
- All nursing mothers have the right to nurse confidently, freely, and openly regardless of their ability or desire to be "discreet".
- Nursing mothers are not responsible for the comfort of the general public.
No, this isn't how it is. But it's how it should be. It's how I want it to be for us now, and especially how I want it to my for our children now and in the future.
Not all of the Applebees are in our bad books. Women on the list have been contacting various locations and franchises around the country. Many have had bad responses, or ones that just clearly show that they don't get it. One, however, did get it - and sent a letter back to the mother showing it. I'd like to quote briefly from it:
Whit-Mart, Inc., the Applebee's franchisee for the greater Louisville and coastal South Carolina areas, acknowledges and supports the benefits of breast feeding for developing children. I have attached a copy of our (Whit-Mart's) current company policy where we adopted the Kentucky language of "non interference" for use in all of our Applebee's restaurants regardless of the local state law permitting breastfeeding. This policy has been distributed to all of our Area Directors and in turn, they will ensure each of their assigned restaurants observe the policy to the best of our ability.
While I was disappointed to hear of an incident occurring so close to our market in nearby Lexington, where the franchisee ownership group is Thomas & King, Inc., rest assured we will not be acquiring or requiring cover-up sheets or blankets in our Applebee's restaurants in your neighborhoods surrounding Louisville. We recognize that if a nursing mother wishes to use a discrete cover, she will most likely be carrying her own along with all the other necessary child care items.
For reference, here's the Texas law on the subject
. Most relevant bit:
Sec.A165.002. RIGHT TO BREAST-FEED. A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.
If anyone would like information about the DFW area event, let me know. For information in other areas, I recommend going to the email list and asking - http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/bwb_lactivist/