Right to Breastfeed in Restaurants

Interview Regarding Mother’s Right to Breastfeed in Restaurants (we have a long way to go, but applaud Yasmin, a SAIT journalism student for addressing the issue)

Breastfeeding in Restaurants

by Yasmin Mayne, SAIT journalism student

Mothers who breastfeed in restaurants make some people uncomfortable, but that does not mean they should forsake the health of their babies to placate others.

In a Facebook post in September, of 2013, the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton reported there was at least one incident in 2013 where an Edmonton woman was asked to cover up because she was breastfeeding in a Chili’s restaurant.

“Breastfeeding is crucial for a baby’s development and growth and mothers have the right to breastfeed their babies anytime anywhere,” said Jennifer Peddlesden, a volunteer spokeswoman for INFACT Canada, a political action group that advocates breastfeeding.

While the Health Canada website says breastfeeding is the “normal and unequalled method of feeding infants,” there are some who argue that a restaurant is not the place for such an intimate act.

Breastfeeding in restaurants is different than breastfeeding in public, because servers have to interact with the mother while she is breastfeeding.

“I think a lot of people don’t like talking to someone who is breastfeeding and servers are put in that situation,” said Chris McDonald, the assistant general manager at Market Mall’s Moxie’s Classic Grill.

“The word awkward comes up a lot,” he said, in reference to comments made by servers who attend women who are breastfeeding.

However, Peddlesden argues that a lack of awareness about the birth process is at the root of why people, like servers, feel uncomfortable when having to speak to a mother who is breastfeeding.

“People are not accustomed to seeing a mother breastfeed, so when they do see it, they think it’s abnormal,” she said.

“By educating the public as to how breastfeeding is a natural process and important for the health of the baby, we can reduce the awkwardness that people feel when they see a mother breastfeeding.”

Not only that, some mothers find breastfeeding to be the easiest way to feed a baby.

Sandi Sykes, a mother who has breastfed her children in restaurants, said,” breastfeeding is much less of a hassle than a bottle, because you don’t have to worry about how much milk to bring or where to store it so that it doesn’t become spoiled.”

“Really, breastfeeding is the most user-friendly method out there,” said Sykes.

However, Sykes only supports breastfeeding in restaurants so long as the mother covers up.

Rikki Steinkrauss, a second-year hospitality and management student at SAIT said, “It is not acceptable for mothers to breastfeed in restaurants, especially without a cover, because it’s indecent.”

In McDonald’s 15 years of working in the restaurant industry, all the mothers he has seen breastfeeding have always used a cover, but if he were to see a mother breastfeeding uncovered, he would ask her to cover up because then she would be acting inappropriately.

But Peddlesden said, “It is a mother’s prerogative to breastfeed with or without a cover.”

“Breastfeeding is not an obscene sexual act and there is no harm in showing a tiny bit of breast…especially when there are women on television in over-tight costumes doing lewd and crude things every day.”

“Yet people can choose what they watch on television, but in restaurants customers and servers cannot avoid seeing a mother breastfeed,” said Steinkrauss.

An alternative for mothers who are set on breastfeeding without a cover, and which Steinkrauss believes is a solution that is acceptable to both restaurant-goers and mothers, is the creation of more private breastfeeding rooms.

In Calgary’s Market Mall, there is a “mother’s room” located in the ladies washroom near the food court, as well as a private family nursing lounge in the hallway next to the Disney Store, where mothers can go and breastfeed their babies in private.

However, Peddlesden does not think these private breastfeeding rooms are a good idea.

“By asking mothers to use these rooms, we are alienating them.

“We are telling them they are not like everyone else and what they are doing must be kept hidden,” she said.

For Peddlesden, the only solution to this issue is to continue to educate the public about breastfeeding and have mothers breastfeed in restaurants and other public areas, so much so that people will begin to see it as a natural and ordinary act and cease to be offended by it.

But until that happens, people like Steinkrauss will object to mothers breastfeeding in restaurants.

“Luckily I haven’t had to serve a mother who is breastfeeding, but if I ever was put in that situation, I would totally get my manager to serve her for me,” said Steinkrauss.

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