As I write this post, World Breastfeeding Week has just ended and National Breastfeeding Month has begun. I will admit, normally I wouldn’t care. Frankly, I don’t like breast-feeding, but that is a whole other post. I still do it because it’s good for my baby, but I’ve never loved it. Sorry if that offends any Mamas out there. Even when I nursed my first child (and as I currently nurse my six week old) I’ve never been one to promote breast-feeding rights when they flare up in the media. To each their own – whether you breastfeed your four year old, or kick things off with formula – whatever works.
But recently I was faced with a circumstance that put me on the other side of the boob, if you know what I mean. I was invited to a media event at a local family-friendly restaurant chain to chat and learn about their family-frendly menu and service. These days, when I am invited to an event that appears to be family-friendly (e.g. sky diving wouldn’t be one), I inform the event organizer that I have a nursing newborn, and inquire if it is okay to bring her with me. I never presume it is okay, I always leave it to the discretion of the organizer, and I only inquire when it seems appropriate. Since most of the Blogger events are geared to Moms and their families, children (especially infants) are usually welcome, so I haven’t had a problem. It’s hard not to welcome children when you’re asking Bloggers to write about your kid-friendly business.
In this case, however, the PR person stated I couldn’t bring my nursing baby. There wasn’t even a response, such as ‘Sorry, we cannot accommodate you, but if you are able to make childcare arrangements, please let me know, as we would love to have you.”
I admit, I was taken aback. Since this event is about the chains’ family-friendliness, it seems odd to me. Yet, putting on my attorney hat, I can respect the decision. At times, it is important to keep a professional tone to an event, even if it is about families. However, when you are breastfeeding, there are unique circumstances. When you are breastfeeding a newborn, it is even more challenging because of the frequency in which they need to eat. Furthermore, while I can pump and provide milk to a caregiver to enable me to attend the event without my baby, I probably would be uncomfortable at some point during the event without access to a breast pump. It is in those circumstances that event organizers should be a bit more accommodating. Otherwise, I may not be able to attend any blogging event as long as I am breastfeeding. This would put me at a professional disadvantage, because I chose to breastfeed.
So if you are a PR firm or an event organizer, there are ways to provide accommodations to nursing mothers when you are targeting Moms for your business, and maintain a professional atmosphere as well. For example, stating only non-mobile babies (i.e. developmentally not crawling or walking) or only babies under three months (since three months and older is when they can start going to daycare or nurseries) can attend, would provide a strong parameter. Then us Moms need to make appropriate decisions about whether to attend with a child.
However, at the end of the day, I still have the concern about perception and about support. As I mentioned in my pre-BlogHer post, having my baby with me at an event, am I looked at differently? By having a baby at all, am I at a disadvantage? What about breastfeeding? Even if there are accommodations to bring my baby to an event, what image am I setting when I have to sit down in a corner and nurse? Why do I even have to worry about this? At what point will this issue be a non-issue? It appears, in this country, breastfeeding babies are still considered unprofessional, unlike in other countries. (Remember this picture?)
So during this National Breastfeeding month, I think there should be more discussion about what happens in business when you chose to breastfeed and what may happen to your public professional persona and aspirations when you nurse your baby.
What public perceptions have you had to face?
Please note that these are my personal thoughts and worries. It should not be taken as a statement about breastfeeding or other choices people may make in this subject area. I also chose not to name the PR agency or restaurant in this post as I respect their decision at this current juncture.
For me, I think your professional persona gets bumped up a notch. I think anyone willing to get out and about in the first three months deserves some applause. To put on clothes and makeup *and* bring your biz cards makes you superwoman to me.
I think that the PR and the restaurant will spend some time on this decision, as they should. If it wasn’t an event about family friendliness we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Oh the irony. And shame on them for not being at least polite about it.
At the end of the day it’s their event, their rules. I don’t agree with them, but I don’t have to.
Also, all infants, nursing or bottlefed, are welcome anywhere I am.
I read this earlier this morning and thought about it a little bit throughout the day. My guess is that the PR person has never breastfed or has been around someone on a daily basis who is breastfeeding. I don’t think I realized what a commitment BFing was until I I had my son. I breastfed him for a year and I loved it for the most part, but I was freaking on the inside whenever I was away from him for more than a couple hours. So many things could go wrong- a dwindling milk supply, mastitis, etc. I also have a condition (that’s not the right word, but I can’t think of how else to describe it) where I had a high amount of lipase in my milk and couldn’t freeze any to build up a supply for other people to give to my son.
Anyway, these are issues that are probably not top of mind for someone not familiar with breastfeeding. Maybe they just thought it would set a bad precedent if they let you bring your baby and others were not allowed to bring their older children.
Love that photo of the woman who brought who baby to vote, but the comments on that site are unbelievable!
Sorry we didn’t get a chance to bump into each other at BlogHer- so many people!
I agree with Viola. Professionalism is not based on whether or not you are nursing an infant. I have had the pleasure of being seated next to you at events both with baby and without (being pregnant counts). You are always professional.
Too bad – this was a missed opportunity to showcase a family friendly place.
Wow, I am shocked. Good for you for asking but seriously we are in the 21st century right?
I took my 6 month old to an American Academy of Pediatrics conference in 2004 in Seattle. There were strictly no children allowed including breastfeeding infants. I almost left the conference on principle alone. I am happy to report the American Academy of Family Medicine does allow breastfeeding infants into their conferences. All the more reason to choose a family medicine doctor as your primary physician 😉
I haven’t had to face any public perceptions in regard to BF and business aside from the above. I will relay this story so maybe this the PR agency and restaurant can have some food for thought. As you know we currently live abroad in a Muslim country. I flew our daughter to Dubai (part of another Muslim coutry: the UAE) and polled the Muslim women in the Dubai Mall’s BF room within in the bathroom and the response was unanimous: It was ok to BF in public as long as you covered. I happily fed our daughter through Dubai including the Dubai International Airport.
One last story, a father and PHd on a flight form Frankfurt to Seattle (11 hours) held my daughter so I could pump as she decided she no longer wanted to BF in public. He was accomplished but it didn’t phase him in the least bit about my persona as a doctor and a mom and needing to pump in public.
I agree there is a need for discussion.