Breastfeeding in Public: A Right or a Privilege?

Jenny Erikson

private propertyLast Tuesday, Nichole Eidsmoe was breastfeeding her 11-month-old daughter Izrael in a resale shop in the Chicago outskirts called No Strings Attached. The shop owner, John Rapp, reportedly suggested that she not breastfeed her child in his store in the future.

Cue the crunchy nurse-in. About 40 parents (with babies and toddlers in tow) calling themselves Crunchy Moms of DeKalb congregated in the Chicago suburb outside of the store where Miss Eidsmoe was asked to cover up her nursing daughter or breastfeed elsewhere.

Through the Illinois Right to Breastfeed Act:

A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding…

From what I can tell, this mama was not denied the right to breastfeed her child on the premise. It was simply suggested to her that due to the clientele of the shop, it might be a better idea to nourish her child in another location. The owner stated for the record, “I support breastfeeding but I just think there’s a time and place.”

As a passionate advocate of both nursing mothers and limited government interference in the private sector, this story has led me to my Thinking Spot.

First thought: What happened to private property rights? Are ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’ rules at fancy restaurants now banned as well? Shouldn’t a proprietor have the legal right to expect a certain behavior from his or her customers? After all, if the level of expectation is outside the realm of normality, no one will frequent their establishment and they’ll go out of business. It’s within a business-owner’s best interest to cater to their clientele.

Second thought: Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s advisable. Breastfeeding is legal anywhere it’s legal for mom and baby to be. Does that mean I should walk through the aisles at Target with my boob hanging out and a toddler attached to my nipple? (I actually saw this once. Seriously.) Probably not.

The store-owner suggested that due to the kinds of people that frequented his shop, it might be a good idea for the mama to be more discreet about her nursing, or take it elsewhere.

What do you think? Should the store-owner have kept his mouth shut? Or should mom have been more adept at inferring the social acceptance of breastfeeding a near-toddler in a private business open to the public?


Image via Nathon O'Nions/Flickr

Read More