In an illuminating post today on The Root DC, a mother provides a first-person account of being forced to stop nursing her hungry baby at D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters.
Two guards and their supervisor told Simone Manigo-Truell dos Santos to button up and move along because the law prohibited her from nursing in a public building. The guards were wrong.
There are city and federal regulations that allow for breast-feeding in public buildings wherever mothers and children are allowed.
The guards were also messing with the wrong mother for at least two reasons: The first, she was a lawyer and quickly determined that the law is on her side. She was also savvy enough to spread word of the incident on several of the city’s listservs as well as writing about the experience herself.
Now hers has become one of the several high-profile incidents like this, where an uninformed official forces a nursing mother to stop feeding her child. Earlier this year, a similar case at a Smithsonian museum inspired a nurse-in.
But these publicized cases are the select few — when a mother has the time, inclination and ability to out the injustice. Imagine how often this happens and the mother buttons up and moves along.
Herein lies the problem with breast-feeding laws: They only work if people know about them.
Public service campaigns tend to target mothers and focus on the importance and the nutritional value of breast-feeding. That’s a crucial message.
But it seems that we need to target a different group too: those who find public breast-feeding troublesome and who use their powers to disrupt it. We need to tell them that their behavior, not a nursing mother’s, is offensive. They’re the ones who should button up their wrong-headed opinions and move along.
Have you ever been told to stop nursing in public? How did you react?
What’s the best way to spread the word that it’s legal?