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Nursing Mom Booted from Massachusetts iParty Store

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lactivist reader Cori sent me a late night email to point out the story about Massachusetts mom Melissa Tracy and a run in she had with management while nursing at an iParty store in Weymouth.

From the Boston Herald:

"He stood over me and said you can't do that here," Dr. Melissa Tracy recalled of the party-pooper manager. "I've never felt that badly before."

Tracy, 40, a cardiologist practicing in Brockton, was shopping on Friday for her daughter Isabell'’s 4th birthday party when she said 2-month-old Tristan got hungry and began to cry. "Rather than let him become hysterical, I sat down on the floor and breast-fed him," Tracy said.


The Enterprise reports:

Within five minutes, the store manager, identified only as Dave, came up to Tracy, a mother of two.

"He said, 'You have to stop doing that. You can't do that here in the store. I don't think it would be good for children to see you," Tracy said.


Oh yes, we wouldn't want children, who have no yet learned that breasts are only ok if they're being used to sell something, to see breasts being used for one of their natural purposes. Oh the emotional scarring that would produce! Besides, if children recognize breastfeeding as a natural function as breasts, how will marketers use them to entice purchases down the road?

The entire world as we know it would come to a screeching halt!

The story goes on to say:

Tracy later spoke to the regional manager and again to the store manager, who apologized for the incident, she said. The company offered her a $25 gift card, which she refused.

"We regret that this happened, really," Dorice Dionne, founder of iParty Corp., said Monday.

"It's not what we would have liked (the manager) to have said, and we're sorry, we're disappointed that he did," Dionne said.

Dionne said the company "will make our managers aware that women might need to have some private space and to see how that can be accommodated."

"This is something that we need to include in manager training, to have more sensitivity, how to handle this more courteously and sensitively," Dionne said.


Hmm...apparently the going rate for being publicly humiliated is $25. That sounds about right...

On the other hand, I am glad to see that iParty says it plans to educated managers about breastfeeding, though I'd am NOT pleased to see the line about how women need some "private space" as those types of things imply that the private space is the ONLY place to nurse. Additionally, there is no need to "handle this" in any way, courteous or not. How about just doing nothing, the same way you would if mom pulled out a bottle in the store?

Let's continue on with that "private space" issue for a moment though since the coverage from WHDH-TV includes comments from the mother on that topic:

After being asked to leave the store, Tracy called the corporate office, which apologized and offered her a gift certificate. Tracy refused however, saying that what they want is for companies to provide areas for breast-feeding if it is a problem.

I have to admit, I was reading along with all these stories nodding my head going "right, right..." and then I saw that line and went "aww crap!"

Now, I think there's a very good chance that Ms. Tracy was misquoted or at least her quote is misrepresented, but I don't know her from Adam, so maybe it's not. Add in the fact that the iParty corporate response seems to address this issue as well and I'm thinking that their statement might be in response to this phrase.

(ETA: Just heard from Tanya at the Motherwear blog. She's spoken with the mom and has clarified that this is NOT what she meant when she spoke to reporters. Tracy wants to fight for legal protection for breastfeeding mothers, not have businesses create a private space to banish them to.)

Ok, it's fine and dandy (and actually fantastic) if a company wants to provide a nursing mom's room that mothers CAN go to. The problem with these types of rooms is that store management and even nursing moms often end up assuming that mothers MUST go there.

Can't say that I think that's going to push this movement ahead. I mean sure, it's better than nursing in the bathroom, but we're still acting like it's something that HAS to be hidden. Like with nursing covers, I have no problem with a mother going someplace quiet and private to nurse, if they want to.

Motherwear's Tanya points out that this is why Massachusetts needs some positive breastfeeding legislation.

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  1. Anonymous radical mama | 7:47 AM |  

    I love your response to the article! And you are spot-on with the "private space" issue. It should be a mother's choice to nurse in private or public. I personally will nurse in public unless it is too distracting an atmosphere for El.

  2. Blogger sara | 8:12 AM |  

    I'd think that since Ms. Tracy was comfortable nursing on the floor in the store she wouldn't be suggesting private space...

    but who knows...

  3. Blogger Eilat | 10:05 AM |  

    Sometimes, when Im out and about and my son wants to nurse, I notice that there are no chairs to sit on. That was probably true for this woman, since she had to sit on the floor. A bench or a chair would be nice, and maybe that's what she meant (Id like to think so). Anyway, it would be nice for stores to have a chair or bench somewhere, not just for nursing moms, but for tired people too ;-)

    One time I even resorted to sitting on the display glider at Target to nurse. I seem to live in a bf-friendly town because all I got were sweet smiles.

  4. Blogger Cori | 12:21 PM |  

    I don't think Dr. Tracy meant a private nursing room in her interview (which I saw), but rather a place to sit down that is not in anyone's way.

    Thanks for posting about this, Jenn!!

  5. Blogger Jennifer | 12:46 PM |  

    Thanks Cori! I hadn't seen a TV interview yet, so it's nice to have clarification.

    I wanted to think that what she said was being written out of context, but you never know. Glad to be corrected. :)

  6. Blogger tanya@motherwearblog | 4:01 PM |  

    I actually talked to the mom twice today, and she was clear that what she wants is for MA to *finally* protect nursing moms from this kind of harrassment - not to require that businesses set up private spaces for nursing.

  7. Blogger KMN2003 | 10:56 AM |  

    I am also a breastfeeding mom. I do breastfeed in public, but would never sit on the floor in a store. This woman's behavior is an insult to consciencious moms. If she was sitting on the floor feeding a bottle to the baby, that would have been insulting as well. When is it ever appropriate to sit on the floor in a store and feed your children. I am very familiar with this IParty store. It's fairly small, very congested, and the parking lot is immediately out the door. If she waited too long to feed her child, which she obviously did, she could have stepped out the door to her car so that she wouldn't block the aisle, and then return to purchase her party supplies.

  8. Blogger Jennifer | 12:05 PM |  

    While I disagree with you on whether or not it was ok to nurse in the store, I'll say that at least you are consistent in your views.

    I can disagree with, while respecting, the views of someone that at least gives breastfeeding and bottle feeding moms the same rights, or the same lack of rights.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:02 PM |  

    I want you to know that I work for iParty and I am a breastfeeding mom. I want you all to know that the response that iParty has given is a bunch of crap. Employees received an email today saying the situation is being exagerated. They are full of it, and I am now looking for other employment. They have not heard the end of this one. By the way, I made copies today of the email.

  10. Blogger Jennifer | 7:18 PM |  

    Anonymous,

    The last I heard, nursing mothers in the area were partnering with the iParty corporate headquarters to have a nursing rally to show support for their quick turn-around and their new plans to educate management about the rights of moms to nurse.

    If you know something different, please feel free to drop me an email. I'm happy to look into it.

  11. Blogger Jennifer | 8:20 PM |  

    Stephanie, any chance you can email me?

    jennifer at thelactivist dot com

  12. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:10 PM |  

    A woman's right to nurse in public ends when it affects my right to shop without having to see your breast. There are plenty of people out there that due to their religion and or up bringing that would be offended or embarrassed at seeing an exposed breast.I do not believe there is anything wrong with a woman's breast...I happen to have two of them myself...I do have something against my children being exposed to something before I deem it appropiate. That goes for commercials also. I my opinion it was totally inconsiderate of that mom to do what she did.

  13. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 3:42 PM |  

    @anonymous12

    Good heavens, we wouldn't want a child (or adult for that matter) to become aware of what breasts were actually created for, now would we.

    Do you get upset when people breathe through their noses, eat with their mouths or listen with their ears?

    Mouths have a sexual purpose, just as breasts do and yet somehow, we seem to be able to distinguish that just because a mouth CAN be sexual doesn't mean it should never be seen, especially when being used for its designated purpose.

    Perhaps someday the world will understand that breasts were created to nourish children and that breastfed children should have the right to eat when and where they are hungry, just as any other baby does.

  14. Anonymous SD | 4:07 PM |  

    It's a store filled with people of all ages, young and old. When you are in an environment like that, you draw attention to yourself that shouldn't be. If I was the manager of the store I would have done the same exact thing. Finding a mother sitting on the floor nursing a child in your store would bring down sales due to the fact that some people would leave the store. If your child needs to be nursed in a store simply go to the bathroom where is it private.

  15. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:40 PM |  

    i worked at i party in avon and seriously they dont know anything there just worried about there sales trust me seriously that manager had no right so i just got fired but i did nt find out from the manager i found out from a teen employee

  16. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:26 PM |  

    breastfeeding is so natural,,,,so is sex,,,,can we start having sex in a store and tell them this is how children are born.... i bet she wouldn't like her kid to see that. she is starting her own business and found a good way to do it....with out spending money.I will start having sex in Iparty and say "we are trying to have a kid..which is natural..like breastfeeding...please don't ask me to leave. we can go in the bathroom if you want...like she was asked

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