Mom Told Not to Breastfeed in Public at McKenna Children’s Museum, TX

25 Jun
breastfeeding
UPDATE: Please see the end of this post to read a statement from the museum. I think they responded to this situation quickly and very well. Good for them.
My friend Amy Nylund was breastfeeding her baby at the McKenna Children’s Museum in New Braunfels, TX yesterday. She was told to remove herself and go to a private nursing room instead because someone felt “uncomfortable.” According to the laws of Texas (and the laws of human dignity and respect), mothers can breastfeed babies whenever and wherever the Mother is legally allowed to be. Here’s what she did:
A letter to the director of the McKenna Children’s Museum in New Braunfels.
Anyone who feels inclined to write one of your own (please do!!), the email address is info@mckenna.org. Please make your subject line BREASTFEEDING RIGHTS AT THE MUSEUM. Their phone number is 830-606-9525.

June 24, 2009

To Whom it Concerns:

Earlier today at the McKenna Children’s Museum, I was with my two children, two of my friends, and their four children. As the older children played, we sat with the younger kids near the toddler area. I was nursing my daughter, and my friend Jodi was nursing her son. We were approached by a representative of the museum (I’m not certain if she was a staff member or a volunteer). She asked that we move to the nursing room, because someone had complained and felt “uncomfortable.” We expressed to her that we felt it was within our rights to feed our children wherever we were. She asked again that we move to the private room, and then she left. A few minutes later we were approached by another member of the staff (I regret that I neglected to get her name). She reiterated the sentiment that nursing should only take place in the private room. She said she had to take the other person’s complaint into account, and that since there were three of us mothers, we could take turns watching one another’s children if one of us needed to go nurse.

I am so sad and upset about the way this was handled today. I would encourage you, as an organization, to read the State of Texas policy on breastfeeding, which states:

Tex. Health & Safety Code § 165.001 et seq.
1995 Tex. ALS 600; 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 600; 1995 Tex. Ch 600; 1995 Tex. HB 359

Chapter 165. Breast-Feeding
Subchapter A. Breast-Feeding Rights and Policies
Sec. 165.001. Legislative Finding

The legislature finds that breast-feeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurture that must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. In compliance with the breast-feeding promotion program established under the Federal Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. section 1771 et seq.), the Legislature recognizes breast-feeding as the best method of infant nutrition.
Sec. 165.002. Right to Breast-Feed
A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.
I am saddened that in a lovely space like your museum, you would discourage and shame a woman who seeks to feed her baby naturally. On your organization’s main web site (www.mckenna.org), it states on the home page “Imagine living in a community where improving people’s well-being is a common goal…Where parents have the resources to nurture and raise children who are strong in both mind and body.” For an organization that seeks to improve the health and well-being of your community, I find it shocking that you would discourage a mother from easily giving her baby the absolute healthiest food: breastmilk.

To ask a woman to go to a private room just doesn’t make sense, especially in a setting where most mothers are watching their older children as well. The fact that I was there with friends has no bearing on what your policy SHOULD be: to allow a woman to feed her child wherever she deems fit.

It is disappointing that you see breastfeeding as offensive. The health benefits of breastfeeding, for both mothers and babies, has been so well established that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all babies be breastfed for at least one year. The World Health Organization recommends doing so for at least two years. In the United States, our national average length of time for a baby to be breastfed is six weeks.

The fact that we deprive American babies of the best possible nutritional and immunological support can be attributed directly to the attitudes of people like your two staff members today, who attempt to make women feel that breastfeeding is something to hide.

I was too upset today to ask for my money back on my way out. I paid for three admissions. I will not return to your museum until you develop a written policy supporting the rights of breastfeeding mothers, and until you educate your staff and volunteers. I will tell every mother I know about this incident. Word is already spreading. What happened today gives off the strong impression that your museum is NOT a family-friendly destination. I hope that this isn’t true. I look forward to hearing from you about this incident.

Sincerely,

Amy Nylund
UPDATE!
Amy just got this letter on July 1… yeah!
Good morning Amy,

Thank you for your email and for speaking with me regarding breastfeeding at the McKenna Children’s Museum. I wanted to let you know that the Museum’s breastfeeding policy is now in writing and states that under Texas law, a mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be. McKenna Children’s Museum welcomes mothers who want to breastfeed in the Museum. McKenna Children’s Museum has a privacy area available or mothers may breastfeed in any public location of the Museum. If a patron complains about a mother who is breastfeeding, Museum staff will kindly explain that breastfeeding is permitted in the Museum pursuant to Texas law and suggest to that customer that he or she relocate to another section of the Museum. All staff have been informed and educated about this policy.

We hope you will visit us soon.

 

Sincerely,
Alice Jewell, Director
McKenna Children’s Museum

9 Responses to “Mom Told Not to Breastfeed in Public at McKenna Children’s Museum, TX”

  1. laggylife June 26, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    Why is it that you cannot just go into the other room and do it? It is not something that should be done in public. If you like that is fine but if the great population doesn’t then the rules of society say you go with the flow. There would be no harm in you going into the room you were asked to go into. I for one feel that brestfeeding is not required in public. I also feel it is not required at all never mind when the kid is three years old! I think that this breastfeeding rage and extended breastfeeding movement is simply women who require the feeling of being needed. Professional Mom is not a career or an occupation. Children grown up. That is what nature intended. Let them grow up and if that means growing away from you and growing independant again that is what nature says is supposed to happen…. Really see it from everyone elses view. If I was to stand up and change my child’s diaper on the table next to where you were eating in a restaurant you would want me to go into the changing room right? Well technically I can change a diaper any where I am legally allowed to go. However as a logical human being I know it is offensive to some and do it where it should be done!

    • hooplamedia June 26, 2009 at 8:23 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. I respect your opinion, but I do think there is a big difference between feces and nurturing, sterile milk. This is a hot topic and perhaps a chance for everyone to confront whatever their beliefs are about this. If it makes you uncomfortable, why is that? I’m not saying it should or shouldn’t, but if it does, I believe that could merit taking the time to probe this questions for yourself. It’s hard not to judge people, especially other mothers who choose to parent in ways that they believe are the most loving, nurturing and respectful ways. I support that.

  2. laggylife June 26, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    I don’t need to probe the question with myself. I don’t feel children need to be coddled. I also don’t feel that women should use the excuse that it is “natural” or “easier” if you are going to have children then the consequenses are that it is a hard thing to do. Publicly feeding your child it not unacceptable, however doing it with your boob which the majority of the public feel are sex organs is unacceptable. PUMP, FILL A BOTTLE, FEED THAT WAY! It is simply that easy. Or go in the room provided for you. I don’t want my children seeing it. It is not acceptable to me. My children should not be subjected to it.

    • hooplamedia June 26, 2009 at 11:32 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll find that I strongly support attachment parenting without the need to berate, judge or condemn other people’s parenting, styles though I certainly have very strong opinions about those, just as you do. I suggest you read a friend’s blog post on the subject of babies at http://www.earlyparenting.com/2009/06/rethinking-babies/. American popular culture has sexualized breastfeeding and that is something I find offensive and disappointing, but it is changing. We teach children that something is wrong when we have done nothing to investigate the origin of that conclusion. Again, thanks for your comments and I hope you have a chance to read other blog entries here. I have a feeling you’ve not read what I’m about, and that’s OK. Perhaps we will never see eye to eye on this issue, but the vast majority of legislators in the huge and very conservative state of Texas agree with me.

  3. laggylife June 26, 2009 at 11:50 pm #

    Attachment parenting is really what is wrong with a whole generation of children that cannot function without their parents, without praise and when faced with dissappointment. I am sorry I don’t feel you are helping your child unless you are bringing them up and keeping them till the end of their time in a community where that is the practice. In the outside world your child will have attachement issues and it is not good for them when they HAVE to breakaway from you. It is a fine balance in nurturing your child and coddling and smothering it! I am sorry!

    • hooplamedia June 27, 2009 at 12:59 am #

      Thanks again. This is a worthwhile conversation. I believe there are many misconceptions about what attachment parenting is. The name itself is somewhat misleading. From what you have expressed, our goals are exactly the same. The moms I know are interested in supporting a child’s inherent interests, talents and abilities with the ultimate goal being to release a child to the world who is an emotionally intelligent, independent, stable, confident young person. In Montessori philosophy, this begins very early on where children as young as three are empowered to learn through play and interaction, clean after themselves, dress themselves, make clothing choices, clean and prepare food, help in the garden and any number of other activities that most typical mothers don’t even do for their 10 year olds. Helping kids to be independent is at the center of the attachment parent philosophy and the belief is that they can do so more readily if their emotional supports are firmly in place. Studies confirm this. This means an emphasis on emotional intelligence– allowing them to experience a full range of human emotions so they can integrate their experiences fully. Coddling suggests constant doing for the child or preventing negative emotions when the child is perfectly capable of doing for themselves, and they should experience emotions in order to develop fully. Coddling and excessive pacification goes against conscious parenting. In attachment parenting, there is discipline without punishment or shame which prevents tantrums, meltdowns and other theatrics. I know this works. I have a toddler. But never is the parent at the mercy of the child. I also do not believe in the constant “Good Job!” way of encouraging a child. If you are constantly telling a child “Good Job!” you run the risk of creating a people-pleaser and an unhappy adult. I want my son to know that he is valued for who he is, not just what he can say or do. His self-confidence will come from within himself, not constantly seeking the approval of others. Children who are encouraged to pursue their interests from an early age are hard workers because they love what they do and take pride in a job well done. As parents, we work in their emotional, developmental, physical, psychological and spiritual best interests. We are their loving, conscious guides and it works for me and for millions of other families with successful, intelligent, emotionally sound adult children. We focus on our children, and pray that others focus on theirs. Thank you.

  4. bigmamamorgan July 22, 2009 at 2:05 am #

    I love this topic! In the 8 short months my DD has been around, we’ve needed to nurse in Alaska, Utah, Montana, Idaho and Colorado. I am *always* nervous that someone will confront me, mostly because I tend to respond to invasions of my privacy with extreme hostility. I am so encouraged by your civil and “get-things-done” response. I only just discovered that I am an “attachment parent”. I didn’t know there was a phrase for what I am, and how I raise my DD, and I’m so excited to read about (and meet) other people who believe the way I do! I’m looking forward to learning how to respectfully and confidently enlighten people who have outdated ideas.

  5. gnatalie78 March 9, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    First of all, I realize this article is several months old. I have to wonder how ‘laggylife’ intends to raise her kids never seeing a boob. You can’t even walk through the check out line without seeing them on every magazine cover and the average woman walking around the store is going to show more cleavage than you would see on most woman breastfeeding. I was a breastfed toddler and while I don’t remember it, I did grow up seeing breastfeeding as natural and normal. I think it is sad that some kids grow up not even knowing you can breastfeed. I do want my kids to see it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mom Told Not to Breastfeed at McKenna Children’s Museum « mamaTRUE: parenting as practice - June 25, 2009

    […] 25, 2009 Check out my friend Jennifer’s blog post about her friend who was just told not to nurse her daughter in the public area at McKenna […]

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