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Ronald McDonald House Sends Breastfeeding Mom to Her Room

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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

(Note: this is the start of some serious serial posting...)

Chris over at The Reluctant Lactivist has done a great job of spreading the word about this story.

Jessica Swimeley, mother of a 17-month-old twin undergoing surgery on a brain tumor, thought she had found a safe and welcoming haven at Hollcombe House, a Ronald McDonald House near the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, but was shocked when asked by an RMH employee to leave a common area of the house, where she and her children normally eat, and nurse her son in their room, three floors up (where, by the way, the family is not suppose to eat).

When Jessica pointed out that Texas law protected her right to nurse in public, the Director of Operations replied that families that were not able to "acclimate to the environment at RMH should find somewhere else to stay."

Nice, huh?

Jessica's husband is in the military, so her sister Melanie is staying with her at RMH. Melanie has posted to the Mothering forums to share more on the story.

Today I find out they may be kicking us out of the RMH because we refused to comply with what they call their "interpretation of the law". Their interpretation is that if they provide somewhere else for us to nurse they don't have to let us nurse in public places. Since when do laws get to be personally tailored to an organizations needs?

You can read the full story at the forums, but basically, RMH claimed that there were some complaints and that the nursing made people uncomfortable, so they needed to do it elsewhere.

I wonder...what happens if someone is offended by the black family that's staying there. The Asian family? The white family? The gay family?

I mean come on...does being offended mean that the person has to hide? Or that someone has to learn to deal with their own issues?

Anyway, an update has been posted to Mothering by Melanie this morning. It's a start, but barely...

After a very lengthy conversion with many twists and turns the RMH is allowing us to stay. We are from now on allowed to breastfeeding in the communal areas if we follow some rules they have set forth and not too many people complain about it. They said if just one person complains they will tell them they support breastfeeding and discuss with them why they are concerned. If many people were to complain they will have to deal with that as it comes up, they could not say how as they have not encountered the situation.

The rules we are to follow are that we are to be discreet, this is at our discretion, meaning we choose what discreet means but they said they will obviously know if we are not being discreet if people are complaining that they are uncomfortable with us nursing.

We are also being asked to inform the people around us before we begin nursing if we think there is anybody that may be uncomfortable with it. We are to tell them nicely that we are going to breastfeed, in case they want to leave or look away.

There was a lot of discussion about what discreet meant, but after some pretty silly possibilities for discretion they decided it would be up to us as to what that meant. They said they would not bother us about nursing again unless many people complained, which nobody felt was likely to happen.

The RMH wanted us to tell everybody that the RMH supports breastfeeding moms...they were VERY adamant about it. You can decide for yourself if that is true, I am only passing on what they said to us.


So let me get this straight...they insist that she meet some undefined form of "discreet" but they also insist that she read people's minds, determine who might be offended, and the publicly announce that she is about to nurse.

Now that's just insane troll logic.

There are some claiming a "small victory" here because the mom is not being kicked out and she's technically allowed to nurse in public.

Oh, I'm sorry, so they're letting her do what she's legally allowed to do anyway except they're placing a ton of restrictions on it? That's not a victory! That's called "let's try to do just enough to make sure we don't have to deal with a PR nightmare.

So what can you do to help?

Well, since they are technically making strides to consider a national policy change, we need to encourage them to follow through. While it's a start to see that they are "allowing" (anyone else rolling their eyes?) breastfeeding now, I think you can decide for yourself whether this is an actual policy change or an attempt to head off a national media firestorm. So what I'd suggest is that you contact them to explain that you've been following the situation, that while you are glad that the mother has been allowed to stay, that you feel they still have a LONG way to go in terms of their breastfeeding policies. Explain to them that with breastfeeding in public being explicitly protected by law in the majority of states, they need to get with the program and get a policy in place that allows breastfeeding anytime, anywhere with zero restrictions.

Update: All of the postings from Melanie have been combined into one post so that you can see exactly what is going on. Check them out at Mothering.

Here's who you can contact:

Naomi Scott - Executive Director of RMH Houston
Susie Richard - Director of Operations, RMH Houston
Arlene Whatley - Director of Operations, Hollcombe House

You can also call the Ronald McDonald House headquarters:

Ronald McDonald House Charities
One Kroc Drive
Oak Brook, IL 60523
Phone: 630-623-7048
Fax: 630-623-7488

Or, the local Hollcombe House at:

1907 Holcombe Boulevard
City : Houston, TX (1) 77030-
Phone : 713 795-3500
Fax : 713 795-3557

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  1. Anonymous radical mama (venessa) | 9:31 AM |  

    She has ANNOUNCE that is breastfeeding? Wow. So, other people's irrational sensitivies has become her problem to battle? That is no victory. Thanks for the contact info.

  2. Blogger The Curries | 10:14 AM |  

    "We are to tell them nicely that we are going to breastfeed, in case they want to leave or look away."

    So, broadcasting it to the world is being "discreet"?

    ~Sheridan

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 4:50 AM |  

    What really irritates me about this is that this is exactly the experience that the law is supposed to protect women against. Even if she is allowed to stay and they leave her be now, she's already been harassed, inconvenienced, and probably embarrassed. Why should she have to fight, argue, get a lawyer, etc. to be a law-abiding citizen?! I just hope this lets others be more aware of the laws before they break them. Is there a penalty for breaking this law?

  4. Blogger Heather | 10:26 AM |  

    The mothering post is in an area I can't access, just so you know.

  5. Blogger Heather | 10:27 AM |  

    Nevermind, I found the reason why:
    http://www.mothering.com/discussions/showthread.php?t=657702

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:27 AM |  

    The woman should if given another place to breast feed should go there. I do not wish to see her nor here the child nursing, this is a family matter and should be treated as one, in other words keep your matters to yourself and don't push them off on me!

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