A breastfeeding mom was “stunned into silence” after a female staff member at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum requested she “cover up a bit” while nursing her child.
Following this incident, the mom tweeted a pretty brilliant response.
She tweeted photos of statues in the museum that show women’s breasts, including one of a breastfeeding mother. “Flashed a nanosecond of nipple while
#breastfeeding and was asked to cover up in @V_and_A courtyard. Am perplexed....” she wrote. The tweet has received over 14,000 likes.
The mom, who asked her real name not be revealed, told HuffPost via email that she was initially taken aback by the request. “I had been attempting to be discreet and to feed under a cardigan, but with a distracted 1-year-old it can be challenging,” she said. “The staff member was friendly and polite, but obviously asking me to cover up was still intrusive, unpleasant and embarrassing for me, as well as obviously ludicrous.”
The museum-goer said she quickly saw the absurd side of being asked to cover herself while breastfeeding in the museum. She tweeted several pictures of art in the museum that shows women’s breasts.
“I actually had an interesting time going round the museum looking at different depictions of the naked female form and thinking about our social reaction to them,” she explained. “Obviously social attitudes towards breasts are contradictory and confusing and that doesn’t help women who are breastfeeding.”
The mom said she decided to tweet what had happened and respond in order to draw attention to the stigma that exists around nursing in public. Though it was her first negative experience in over three years of motherhood, she said she believes this kind of attitude sometimes squashes women’s attempt to breastfeed.
Following the viral tweets, Victoria and Albert Museum director Tristram Hunt replied with an apology on Twitter: “V sorry. Our policy is clear: women may breastfeed wherever they like, wherever they feel comfortable & shld not be disturbed.”
A representative for the museum also shared a statement with HuffPost:
We’re sorry for this incident, which was an isolated occurrence. Women are welcome to breastfeed wherever they feel comfortable at the V&A, and quiet spaces are also available for those who prefer more privacy. We are retraining V&A staff on our policies to welcome and encourage breastfeeding in our public spaces.
The mom told HuffPost she very much appreciated the apology. “I am sure this was a well-meaning but misguided member of staff and not indicative of the museum culture,” she said, adding that she hopes this incident leads to better understanding of breastfeeding policies among museum staffers.
At the end of her tweetstorm, she noted, “On the upside, I had a lovely day at
@v_and_a exploring depictions of breasts thru the ages and making lovely mammaries. I mean memories.”
The mother said she runs a theater company, and one way she tries to get families in the audience is by putting on shows where mothers can bring their babies and nurse them if needed. “Appreciation of arts and culture starts at birth and it’s vital that our cultural institutions understand that,” she explained.
Praising the beautiful breastfeeding, related art in the Victoria and Albert museum, she added, “Perhaps the V and A would consider an exhibition exploring the depiction of this bond through the ages?”