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Breastfeeding Week Exists Because Moms Are Still Shamed All The Damn Time

No, we will not cover up on an airplane, thank you very much.
Airlines were some of the worst offenders for breastfeeding shame in 2019.
yaoinlove via Getty Images
Airlines were some of the worst offenders for breastfeeding shame in 2019.

Once again, it’s time to celebrate an advocacy week we shouldn’t still need, but clearly do.

The first week of every August is World Breastfeeding Week, the goal of which is to empower parents and enable breastfeeding. By now, most of us know that the world’s top health experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding until a child is six months old, with continued breastfeeding to age two and beyond.

But those who choose and are physically able to breastfeed still face a slew of practical, social and physical barriers. Moms are still fighting to be able to pump at work. Breastfeeding parents are still being asked to cover up. And somehow, they’re still being asked to leave the premises for feeding their babies in public.

WATCH: Breastfeeding mom asked to cover up on flight. Story continues below.

Although breastfeeding in public is a legal right in Canada and the U.S., not everyone is on board. A 2018 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 10 per cent of respondents disagree that women should have the right to breastfeed in public spaces, and another 21 per cent are on the fence.

Another survey found that 66 per cent of working moms experience “frustration or embarrassment” at work, due to their need to pump (Again, employers are obligated to allow women to express milk at work).

It’s 2019, and breastfeeding moms deserve better than hiding in closets to pump or being asked to leave swimming pools because they showed some flesh, don’t you think?

Still don’t think we need a World Breastfeeding Week? Read on. Here are some of the major places breastfeeding and pumping moms were shamed this year.

1. Airplanes and airports

Flights definitely take the prize for worst offenders this year. There are so many blood-boiling stories, it’s hard to narrow them down.

There was the U.S. mom who says a gate agent tried to take her TSA-approved breast pump away, then shamed her for flying with a pump but no baby (oh, dude). Then there was the Dutch KLM airlines debacle, where a woman was told to cover up while breastfeeding, and then the airline tweeted that their policy is to ask mothers to cover up “should other passengers be offended by this.”

There’s reason to be offended, alright, and it’s not the breastfeeding mom.

And if you think we’re so much more progressive in Canada, think again. In March, a mom tweeted that an Air Canada rep told her she’d have to breastfeed her infant in the plane bathroom (the company later clarified that this wouldn’t be the case, but sheesh).

More of this, please: Remember last year when a flight attendant on a Philippine Airlines flight breastfed a passenger’s baby because the mother had run out of formula? Now THAT’s support!

2. Work

Just because women are supposed to be allowed to pump at work doesn’t mean it happens. An Alabama mom lost her job at a small company this year over her request for breaks to pump when she returned from leave (apparently there are variations in accommodation rights there when a company has less than 50 employees, a lawyer explained to WHNT News).

In July, an Idaho mom asked a judge to reconsider dismissing her lawsuit against her employer, Home Depot, for not allowing her request for unpaid breaks to pump. While the judge did find that the store director made derogatory comments about her requests to pump (including that it was just her “diet plan to lose weight”), he didn’t agree that she was “constructively discharged,” ie. had no choice but to quit.

Her lawyer argued that “no reasonable working mother would stay in a job that did not allow her to pump enough milk to feed her baby or stay in a job where she had to work in physical pain because of engorged breasts leaking milk,” according to the Idaho Statesman.

Sakan Piriyapongsak / EyeEm via Getty Images

More of this, please: Not everyone is the worst. In January, an Arizona mom received such a refreshing response from her manager about her request to pump at work that she posted it on Reddit.

Now, if only this wasn’t so rare that it makes headlines, eh?

3. Pools, schools, or just everywhere

You name a public place, a mom has probably been shamed there for breastfeeding in the last year alone.

In July, an Indiana mom said a local water park told her she couldn’t breastfeed in public there. In June, a Texas mom was told to cover up or leave while breastfeeding at a public pool. When she refused, the manager called the police, and the mom had to leave the pool. Cool, cool.

That same month, a Pennsylvania mom took to Facebook to complain that she was told to cover up while nursing her baby in a pizzeria, with the manager going as far as to bring her an apron.

Another mom in Detroit says she was threatened with a call to the police in July if she didn’t stop breastfeeding in a local restaurant.

“I have my four-year-old sitting next to me scared asking me ‘Is Mommy going to jail?’” the mom told WXYZ News.

In April, an Arizona mom was bringing snacks to her daughter’s first-grade classroom when her baby needed to nurse. She was nursing outside during recess when the assistant principal asked her to move to a private area, People reports. In March, a Kentucky mom, who was helping out with school picture day at her childrens’ school was asked to move to an office when she started nursing her baby.

Good. Lord.

More of this, please: In June, moms were once again singing the praises of Target after a Texas store posted a note that moms are “free to nurse wherever and whenever you like while you shop because we think #momsrock.”

And in a historic first, India’s picturesque Taj Mahal is getting a baby-feeding room. It will be set up this summer to help “millions of mothers who visit with their babies,” Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, a top official at the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), told Reuters.

See? It’s possible to be supportive.

Be more like the Taj Mahal and Target.

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