Mom Berated for Breastfeeding in Cafe Is a Parenting Issue for Us All


Lisa Willis, a mother in Essex, UK, had quite a traumatizing experience when the owner of The White Coffee House reportedly screamed at her, accused her of being an exhibitionist, followed her out to her car, and threw in the trash from her table all because she was breastfeeding her 10-month-old daughter. Willis says she was wearing nursing clothes and was being discreet, even without using a cover.

While that's a shockingly aggressive example of how breastfeeding women are treated when trying to feed their babies in public, women being harassed for nursing is horribly common, and has even happened to multiple writers here at The Stir, myself included.

What gets me is whether or not you feel a woman should be able to nurse where she wants, or have to use a cover or not, the issue is much bigger than that. It should be considered by ALL moms as it's not just about breastfeeding -- it's about the right to not be harassed for parenting.

The fact of the matter is that it is completely legal for a mother to nurse her baby wherever she has the right to be, and in many states, she is specifically protected from being charged with indecent exposure as well.

Everyone parents differently, for better or worse. Sometimes situations arise that make people have to parent differently than they'd otherwise want to, such as a mom who wanted to nurse having to bottle feed. Imagine if that bottle-feeding mom was approached in public and told that formula was disgusting, so she needed to go sit in the bathroom or leave. Ridiculous, right?

Breastfeeding is no different than many other parenting choices we make that have nothing to do with anyone else. It's my job to talk about my opinions here, where you have a choice as to whether or not you want to read them. Still, I certainly would never walk up to a mom in a restaurant and declare that her baby was too little to eat solids, even if I had internal dialogue of ranting and fact-spewing. Frankly, it's just none of my business unless she's doing something illegal or something that outright harms someone. Breastfeeding in public should be treated the same way -- a mom who is nursing and being harassed for it should no more be treated like "she deserved harassment" than, say, someone walking up to a bottle-feeding mom and declaring she's feeding her baby "poison" (which she isn't, obviously). It's just not acceptable.

No matter your stand on public breastfeeding, put yourself in the mom's shoes -- what if it were you? Choose one thing you do in public with your kids -- giving sippy cups with juice. Giving a toddler a pacifier. Letting them go without shoes in the summer. Letting your kids nibble on cookies at the grocery store. Now imagine being treated like you're disgusting or criminal for it. No one deserves that.

We need to stand up for moms who are just taking care of their babies, and their right to do so, no matter what method they're using. If you're ever in a situation where you see a mother who is just caring for her children being treated like Lisa Willis, stand up for her, even if you're not a nursing mom or don't love what she's doing. After all, what goes around comes around.

Have you ever been attacked by a stranger for your parenting choices? Ever defended a stranger?


Image via Jennifer Fisher

breastfeeding, natural parenting


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Eco_M... Eco_Momma

clapping Bravo! I think you hit the nail on the head: we do not need to be harassed for our parenting styles!

 * and LOVE the picture! <3

Katie Hines

I would defend a stranger breastfeeding their child in a heartbeat!

momav... momavanessa

Of course I would defend a mom for being a good mom. Bottle or breast!

Elizabeth Cook

I wish I could breastfeed.  The first 2 times were unsuccessful.. first daughter wouldn't latch on right even with me going to a specialist for help.  The second daughter refused breast milk even when I pumped.  Third time is a charm I guess.  I understand it not being a choice for some people, but to cut them down?  Give me a break.  I applaud any mother that can try or try and be successful.  

Kayla Still

i would also!! i was never brave enough to nurse in public without a cover and i would FURIOUS to witness such behavoir from adults let along be a victim.. those who did this to this mother should be ashamed!!!

Xakana Xakana

Yes, I was thrown out of a store for nursing my 10 month old firstborn after she banged her head on a shelf. I was initially told I could purchase my items, but when the asst manager who had told me to leave said that I was being obscene and breaking obscenity laws (not an inch of skin was showing), even after having been quoted our state breastfeeding law that trumps all nudity laws (though, again, the pregnant teenager across the aisle from me was showing twice as much skin as I was--absolutely NOTHING was showing), I got angry and corrected her on the law, again. She told me to leave and that she was calling security.

CoolR... CoolRelax

*Sigh* I really wish sometimes that we as moms would fight stupidity with more teeth.  I promise you the random ass who tells me when/where/how to feed my girls won't be approaching anyone else for a very long time.  For some of us that's really just not your personality and that's cool. But I'm a fiery Aries and it's very much in my personality to start more drama than you really wanted to deal with.  A lot of people who do that are bullies, and for some reason they think that they can bully a woman because she's "vulnerable" trying to feed her kid.  Usually she is, but then she'll go back and whine about it then 2 days later 15 chicks have to come and breastfeed in your store/restaurant to get the point across.  I'm not that girl.  The exchange that we will have at that moment will be enough to stop you from ever doing it again.  I'm fully prepared to cuss your dumbass out and blame it on hormones, lol.

nonmember avatar MrsQriist

First of all, it's so nice to see a toddler nursing picture! I'm nursing my 14 month old (still, for some people) and we just had our first "cover up or leave" experience the other day AT THE HOSPITAL! It really bugs me that people feel that they have the right to treat someone like that (the article). It's kind of like fat jokes. It's taboo (and wrong) to make fun of someone for race, gender, etc etc etc, but it's ok to make fun of the fat chick.

And CoolRelax, I wish I had your attitude :) All the lady at the hospital did was bring me a towel and say 'You have to cover that up' and I was so startled and caught off guard (I've been nursing in this clinic twice a week for about 10 weeks since I started therapy there) that my only real response was "He's done now anyway."

Heidi Cardenas Weaver Doula

Nice job on this article. Very well said and unifying. It's hard to care a lot about different options and we need the encouragement to unify over the basic principles of parenting choice. Ironically, many countries are moving toward Convention on the Rights of the Child that will eventually negate Parental rights. The state will eventually decide how long we can do such things as breastfeed and it actually will be illegal. This may sound far fetched, but think about it. The U.N. is coming up with a consensus on what children "need" (i.e. public education). It will not be long after that someone says, "breastfeeding after age X is psychologically detrimental". Or "in public" is detrimental. Just projecting into the future for a minute...

nonmember avatar Jessica

I absolutely agree with your post! I think you explained it very well and appreciate you posting this! I pains me to know that such horrible things are happening all across our country. It's just down right disgusting. I feel that any woman should be allowed to do what they feel is right for their children and if someone has a problem with it I believe that they should be hit with harassment charges. This is just going too far... How dare they throw things at a woman and scream at her in front of everyone. This is so disrespectful. I feel so bad for her and wish I could have been there to take on the argument for her instead of her having to go through it alone. I don't think any of us should have to go through this at all for just taking care of our children. I hope things get better for her. *hugs*

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