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Mother Who Bottle Feeds Booted from Breastfeeding Cafe

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, July 10, 2007

Seeing as how it's been a few weeks since I originally received this story from Lactivist reader Anna, I'm actually surprised that I haven't really seen much mention of it elsewhere.

From EDP 24:

A distraught mother was told she was unwelcome at a café for nursing women - because she was not able to breastfeed her baby.

The woman went to the breastfeeding café in Attleborough, one of several run by Norfolk Primary Care Trust, to join friends but was advised not to visit again because she had to bottle feed her four-month-old son.

She has bottle-fed on the advice of medical professionals because of difficulties breastfeeding which resulted in her son going into hospital after losing weight.

One of her friends, who uses both bottle and breast for her baby, was given the message for her and said she felt so under pressure herself that she nursed her child even though he was not even due a feed.

The pair had gone to the café to meet other women with whom they had just finished a baby massage class.

The friend explained to staff what the situation was and was told it would be "inappropriate" to bottle-feed there and asked if the visit was a one-off.

Wow. Just wow.

Of ALL the people who should understand what it's like to be judged and mistreated for the way they feed their child, I would never expect breastfeeding supporters to treat someone this way. I thought this movement was about gaining respect for mothers and protection for their right to feed their children when, where and HOW they need to.

I guess some within the movement feel that discrimination is ok, as long as it's not directed at them.

I wonder...would they have kicked me out before Emmitt was born? Remember...Elnora was bottle fed expressed milk for 13 months. I didn't nurse her.

What strikes me even more is the comments I've heard from a handful of people in response to this article.

One responded by pointing out that the news often misrepresents the truth and that we should, by default, support the breastfeeding cafe because chances were strong that the bottle feeding mom really was at fault and was trying to make a scene.

Yep...that's right.

I wonder, when she reads a story about a mom being tossed from a plane, a gym or an amusement park for nursing her child...does she give the company the benefit of the doubt and assume the mom is a crazy radical trying to make a point by nursing topless?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Funny how the shoe feels tighter when it's on the other foot...

What do you guys think?


  1. Blogger Nevanna | 10:53 AM |  

    Totally out of line. Totally. The point is for women to be provided with all information, as accurately as possible, for them to then feed their child as is best for their situation, and not be harassed no matter their choice.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:57 AM |  

    This just blows my mine, J. BLOWS my mind. Both the cafe' and the ignorant other defending them.



  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:17 PM |  

    I'm with you. Wow. I am stunned that such seemingly progressive thinking people would, in fact, be so narrow-minded as to ban someone for 'not comforming' to the standard. Both the cafe and the twisted comment putting blame on the mother. These are things you would see coming from 'the other camp', but not from those supposedly fighting for the rights of every child to feed and every mother to feed their child without judgement and without limitations. Do these people not know how much they in fact hurt 'the cause' rather than help it?

    I'm a bottle feeder, but not for lack of trying to nurse. My nursing stories sound a lot like yours with Nora. Pumping was the only way to make it work. I pumped for 5 months with DS but with DD, I had to go back to work at 4 weeks PP. Supply wasn't established well enough yet and I did not have the time during the day to pump enough to maintain it and didn't have the energy at night. After almost killing myself trying, I finally made the switch to formula. And I'm a less stressed, more attentive, more healthy Mama because of it. And to think I would have been kicked out 'because I made the feeding choice that was best and healthiest for me and my child'.

  4. Blogger RedSpiral | 12:20 PM |  

    There's room for everyone at the table. No mother should be kicked out of ANYWHERE for how she fees her child, what a waste of time and an asinine response. I'm angry for that mother.

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:29 PM |  

    why can't people just let moms take care of their kids? grrr...

    We need a bit more compassion and a little less black and white. As a breastfeeding woman, this makes me sad.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:42 PM |  

    Here's to hoping your blog gets to the cafe', just as it did to the pork board. Cheers. -Megan

  7. Blogger Kelly | 2:51 PM |  

    I am SHOCKED.

    A mom in our LLL group started off at least partially BF, but the baby had CP or something like that and by four months she was completely weaned to formula, and she kept coming to LLL "just for the support, I don't want to leave you guys!" She was always welcome.

    That, in fact, is one of the first rules in this game...being a lactivist, that is. If you come across as some higher-and-mighter-than-thou SOB, a bottle-feeding mom will NEVER find a reason to listen to you, no matter how much science is on your side.

    You MUST make a good impression, which means that mom should have been welcomed into the cafe and been able to sit and observe the relationships going on around her. So WHAT if she bottle-fed her baby while she was there? If she had been treated properly, she may have been impressed with the moms and babies, and had good feelings toward them, which she would remember should she ever have another baby. Now she will likely view the entire breastfeeding community as a bunch of nuts/jerks who don't deserve her attention and certainly not her respect.

    You can never force someone to do something you think they should. You can only force yourself to treat people with decency.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:38 PM |  

    While I agree whole-heartedly that IF this is true, it is wrong, I do have to wonder if it is true. Call me paranoid, but with some of the other tactics being used lately by the pharma companies, would it be so shocking to learn that this whole story is untrue? Creating a media blitz around bottle-feeders being asked to leave a cafe fits so nicely with their 'grassroots' web page to keep formula samples in hospitals...

    Again, I am not defending the actions. If the story is true, I feel terribly for this woman. But I'm not jumping on a 'bash the breastfeeding cafe' bandwagon just yet either. I'm one of those party poopers who checks Snopes.com before forwarding emails too.

  9. Blogger Alexis | 4:56 PM |  

    As a exclusively pumping mom myself -- my son started refusing to breastfeed at 2 1/2 months and wouldn't resume it, despite the help of a LLL leader and a LC -- I find this very upsetting :( What a way to rub salt in the wound of a mom who is unable to BF.

  10. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:04 PM |  

    Ugh, I am disgusted. This is why no one takes lactivists seriously...they envision us all as "crazy topless hussies" (as you so accurately described *wink*) who go around berating any mom with a bottle in her baby's mouth. People like this give the rest of us a bad name...but then again, it would be like thinking all Christians are like (the late) Jerry Falwell. Some people can't see in shades of gray no matter what the issue is.

    I did a mix of formula and breast with my son. He refused straight breastmilk in a bottle, so I mixed it with formula. When he was 7 months old, my nipples became badly cracked and would be literally sucked raw whenever he nursed. I couldn't take it. I put him on formula for about a week and pumped on a low setting to allow my poor mangled nips to heal. I wonder if I, too, would have been shunned from the cafe if I had visited during that week of formula...or would they have rathered to watch me cry in pain while my son nursed and then gotten to see me sitting with my bra flaps open while my bleeding nipples air-dried?

    If this post makes it to the cafe owners (and oh, how I hope it does!) I say a vigorous BOOOOO!!!! on them! What if she had been feeding her baby expressed milk because she is shy about exposing her breasts in public? What if the baby was adopted? What if for whatever reason she couldn't nurse, but was thinking about doing it for her next baby? I am appalled that "one of our own" could treat someone so callously.


  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:39 AM |  

    Mothers trying to nurse in public have been mistreated so often, maybe they were just releasing a little pent-up resentment. But to be fair, all they should have done is ask that the mother bottle-feed her baby in the bathroom.

  12. Blogger Anna | 6:40 AM |  

    Jennifer (not Jennifer the Lactivist, Jennifer the commenter): I understand your point, and I not only check Snopes before I forward emails, I "reply all" with whatever evidence I find that debunks what just showed up in my inbox. :-)

    However, I find it interesting that, if a nursing mother is harassed, the breastfeeding brigade is immediately called to arms and there is outrage and action. But if it's a bottle-feeding mom... well, maybe she's lying, or maybe she's a plant from the formula industry. Let's give the business the benefit of the doubt.

    This is exactly why seasoned breastfeeding advocates said we should wait, get the whole story, and give the business time to respond and make things right before there was a nurse-in at Elitch Gardens, and people scoffed at their advice.

    I agree with you: one news story does not the truth make. There are always a variety of sources that should be considered before forming a response. I just wish such consideration were universal, and not applied only when it's a bottle-feeding mom.

  13. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:59 AM |  

    Anna - you are right, the calm, get-all-the-facts approach should go both ways and for all situations. I've been looked at cross-eyed many times for trying to point out a different view in a heated situation, and was only trying to say "what if". I'm just as quick to say "what if" when the situation involves a breastfeeding mother.

    I'm looking forward to hearing what the accused Breastfeeding Cafe has to say, just as I looked forward to what RMH and Elitch Gardens had to say, before making any judgement towards any party.

    So, I repeat, IF this story is true, it is terrible and unjust, and the Breastfeeding Cafe should make an apology. If it turns out not to be true, it needs to be brought to media attention just as quickly.

  14. Blogger Eilat | 10:17 AM |  

    I agree with Kelly. Support is key. There are *lots* of reasons why moms choose to bottle-feed. While I firmly think that all babies deserve to be breast-fed, kicking a woman out of the cafe does nothing to further that aim.
    I know *so* many woman, friends of mine, who said while pregnant that they will breast-feed. A lot of them had problems and not enough support and switched to formula. You hear it all the time. Are they bad mothers? Not at all. What is needed is more support for such mothers from the breastfeeding community, especially in the beginning when things are rough. Support means spend time, don't judge, offer help, be patient. Always be encouraging. Im happy to say that by doing that I helped some of my friends get bf-ing going well. Many friends were across the country and didnt have enough support.
    What Kelly said was so wise, and rings true of the LLL group I belong to as well. We have moms who ff during the day because pumping is not possible. We welcome these moms as openly as the rest of the moms -- no judgments.
    For whatever reason this mom didn't breastfeed, being welcomed at such a cafe and seeing other moms breastfeeding openly may have had a deep positive impact. She may try again with her next kid, and maybe even succeed. Now she will certainly harbor resentment toward bf-ing and "those crazy women".

    As for whether this story is true... Well, I did go on the feeding freedom website (the anti-band-the-bags blog thing) and I have to admit that some of the testimonials sounded totally bogus. But I think that even if this were not true, it is a good hypothetical to put out there. Its an important discussion to have in the lactivist community.

  15. Blogger Unknown | 2:14 PM |  

    My first thought was: OH COOL, there's a cafe for breastfeeding moms?!?! Seriously, that itself blows my mind.

    My second thought was: WTF? Of course there are plenty of women who give their children ebm in a bottle. I'm shocked that the staff would want her to leave. How do they know what's in the bottle?

    And, why would they talk to her "friend" and not her directly? That makes me wonder. Also the "friend" felt pressured to nurse her baby even though the baby didn't need to eat. Peer pressure to breastfeed. I've never felt that before!

  16. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:27 PM |  

    Totally wrong and infuriating! Discrimination and judgment is wrong in EVERY direction!

    You know what else bothers me about this article? This: "She has bottle-fed on the advice of medical professionals because of difficulties breastfeeding which resulted in her son going into hospital after losing weight." I hate that you have to justify WHY you bottlefeed and it better have some long sob story or else it isn't legitimate. Really, her reason for bottle feeding is her own personal business and she shouldn't have to justify it to anyone. I think lactivism should go this far and be accepting of ALL sides of the baby feeding issue!

  17. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:36 AM |  

    No offense, but, is this a really "true" news story. I just find it so hard to believe. Oh, and I have never heard of a "breastfeeding cafe." Does anyone know of one in Chicago? I'd go, but not if it were the one that discriminated against a mom for choosing how to feed her child.

  18. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 1:39 PM |  

    Breastfeeding Cafes are popping up in England and yes, the story is true, it's from an actual real news source, I didn't just get it passed via word of mouth or email.

  19. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:45 PM |  

    I have seen that type of attitude with many parenting decisions. It's sad. But it's one thing to do it on a personal basis, it is another to do it in the name of "lactivism".

  20. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:26 AM |  

    Since when does 2 wrongs make a right? To me this is the equliviant of having 2 five year olds and one smacks the other so somebody tells the child that was smacked to smack the ohter child back. It doesn't work like that and to me that would be an extreemly immature action on the behalf of the staff at the breastfeeding cafe. Now if in jest they said to her while she was bottle feeding "could you put a blanket over that child some of the moms here think that is offencive" or "could you feed that baby in the bathroom please" Just to make a point I'd still say it was wrong but at least that would have been funny. I think the point of having a breastfeeding cafe is so that nursing mothers would feel comfortable there not so bottle feeding mothers would feel uncomfortable there. And was it formula in the bottle or expressed milk? Not like that would excuse anything but if she can't nurse what is she suppose to do?

  21. Blogger Brandy | 3:02 PM |  

    I think that's just wrong. My 4-mont-old son nurses and is bottle fed because I have to work. He receives a bottle when I can't be with him and nurses when I can. There are times that we are in public that it is easier to use a bottle (such as during church, when I don't feel comfortable nursing) and sometimes in restaurants when he is too distracted to nurse but will take a bottle. He receives only my breastmilk - so why does it matter how he ingests it? Why do we have to be so judgmental of other women's decision. I think that whole situation is just sad.

  22. Blogger liz | 4:09 PM |  

    I was moved to comment on this blog entry as a breastfeeding mum adn someone who used to live on the norfolk/suffolk border. The EDP was my local paper. I searched the EDP database for breastfeedign stories going right back to January 2005 and there was no mention of the blogged article.

    I did find this however:

    I remember it well because of the heavyhandedness of it.

    That's not to say that I disagree with anything that has already been said. Discrimination is discrimination. But if it was a Sure Start breastfeeding cafe I'd be very surprised at a bottlefeeding mum being excluded.

  23. Blogger Claire | 10:45 AM |  

    As the peer supporter in question I must make you aware of your complete lack of knowledge in this case. I set the Cafe up...(along with other mums) nearly 1 year ago, we are nothing to do with Norfolk PVT, other than they pay our rent on the Church....I am a mother of 2 small girls who got approached by a local midwife saying i would be good to set a support group up, well i did just that. We formed a committee, got our rent paid for, plus raised a substantial amount of monies, i then trained as a peer supporter, am there every week plus provide all refreshments for our ladies/families. We are all volenteers, and i do it, as i belive not enough support is given to post natel women who have problems feeding.This 'lady' was told by me that she could come along to support her friend whenever she came along....This lady showed nothing but contept initially when her name was asked ...(by me also)...."Whos asking "....strange attitude?.... The lady in quesion also sat there for nearly 40 minutes eating my home made chocolte fudge cake plus drinking coffee....where then did she get thrown out?...what you failed to report was the numerous appologies issued by tre local papers who wrongly reported?...Not the first time hey?.three testimonials were also written by different mothers who had nothing but praise for our support group, who we have helped all three...and if it wasnt for us would have given up feeding!! 78% of our mums are feeding for longer!!>>>A real success i say!!!not as the papers reported it.....

  24. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 6:49 AM |  


    So were the newspapers wrong in reporting that you asked a bottlefeeding mother to leave and told her she was not welcome to spend time there if she was bottlefeeding her child?

  25. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:54 AM |  

    Yes the newspapers were wrong. I was there that day and no one was told to leave. I have been going to the cafe for 6 months and have only ever seen mums be treated with respect and support. Just this week someone sat and botttle fed her baby and many of the mums are mixed feeding. I can only assume that the bottle feeding mum in question had some agenda which the newspapers were happy to run with. Very sad as the cafe does a fantastic job of supporting mums in the town.

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