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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
Alice Jewell, Director
McKenna Children’s Museum