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Friday, February 23, 2007Few moms plan to become lactivists. I know I sure didn't. I don't think Emily Gillette did. Somehow, I doubt that Leigh Bellini planned on it either.
And yet...an incident involving Bellini has sparked yet another firestorm of activity within the breastfeeding community that will culminate in a nurse-in that's expected to draw more than 100 moms to the Berkshire Mall near Reading, Pennsylvania on Saturday, February 24th at 1pm.
From the Reading Eagle:
Bellini gave this account of the incident:
She was breast-feeding her son Saturday on a bench near a tree in the mall area outside Sears when a male security guard asked her to cover up with a blanket.
“I said I didn't have any breast exposed,” Bellini said. “I never stopped for a second.”
Bellini's husband, Dr. Tony G. Bellini, asked the security guard to stop the conversation.
“The guard told us he could have us removed from the mall,” Leigh Bellini said. “The security guard threatened to call the police.
“A second security guard who was female told me to stop breast-feeding.”
The guard offered to provide her with a blanket, but she didn't want to use one that was not washed. Another guard then asked her to breast-feed in the bathroom.
There's also an excellent video of WFMZ-TV's coverage of the story.
For Bellini's full account of the story, you can check out Angela's coverage over at Breastfeeding 1-2-3. Her post includes the following:
But now due to this argument everyone in the area was staring. During this interaction I was enraged by the suggestion of going into a bathroom to breastfeed, that I took it upon myself to draw more attention by yelling “I REFUSE TO FEED MY BABY IN A BATHROOM” over and over. The security guards brought up the police again in an attempt to scare us into compliance. My husband informed them again that they would have to call the police if they wanted us to leave before my son was finished his meal. The security guard gave up and stated that if he got one more complaint he was definitely calling the cops. My husband said that that is what they were going to have to do. My son then continued and finished his meal. After we returned our purchases and explained to the store associate why we were never going to return to this store or this mall again we went home.
I'm with Angela in thinking that while there's nothing funny about the situation, I've got smile at Bellini's shouting. I think it's exactly how I would have responded and in reality, she probably did more to embarrass the security guard than anything. I also applaud them for taking the time to return their purchases and for explaining why.
As I mentioned in a previous post about my own experience breastfeeding in public in Pennsylvania, there are no laws on the books in that state that give nursing mothers protection. If you are a Pennsylvania mom that lives anywhere near the Berkshire Mall, I'd encourage you to attend the nurse-in. If you're a Pennsylvania mom that doesn't live close enough to attend, I'd encourage you to contact your local representatives to share the need for new legislation that protects the rights of children to eat when and where they are hungry.