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Marketing Mama: Public breastfeeding debate moves to Twitter

Missy Berggren

Even though I no longer breastfeed my children, I'm a big advocate of breastfeeding and care about supporting other women. This week is World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7, 2010) and I'd like to talk about the intolerance that still exists about breastfeeding in public.

Thankfully, I never experienced dirty looks or had someone ask me not to breastfeed in public. Unfortunately that's not true for everyone. Nursing in public is still very much a public debate - even though most states protect breastfeeding in public.

I had the opportunity to watch this very topic explode today on twitter --- an independent coffee shop The Double Shot Coffee Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tweeted this:

And twitter-savvy breastfeeding advocates (like myself) quickly picked up on it --- because we have "breastfeeding" as a saved search and can track any twitter conversations on the topic.

The Double Shot Coffee Company quickly followed up with:

Which, um, didn't help matters - because breastfeeding in public means IN PUBLIC - not hiding behind closed doors.

I quickly googled breastfeeding laws in Oklahoma and typed up this tweet, pointing out the Oklahoma law that protects breastfeeding in public.


and... directly to them:

Turns out I'm not the only one. A number of other women also looked up the law and quickly retorted as well. I also sent an e-mail to the State employee who asked to be contacted if people have negative interactions with OK businesses regarding breastfeeding.

Within about an hour, this tweet from the Double Shot Cafe came out:

Which I admit, made me laugh. It was a humorous way to try to smooth things over. And yet, overall the situation just isn't funny. Interestingly, some women on twitter called for a boycott of the business, while others tried to quickly pull together a nurse-in --- that's right, orchestrating more breastfeeding to make the owner uncomfortable.

They had one more thing to say on twitter yesterda afternoon:

...that is until the local media started calling. Word travels fast on twitter! The owner, who apparently was the same person tweeting, offered a public statement to the local Fox affiliate for the 9 p.m. news story: Anti-breastfeeding tweet in Tulsa.

"The fact is, these people aren't concerned with individual rights. They are concerned with THEIR rights. They would not fight for my right to ban breastfeeding in my establishment if I chose to do so," said owner of Double Shot Coffee Company, Brian Franklin.

The owner learned a valuable lesson today about the power of social media to impact one's brand and harm one's reputation -- it's too bad he didn't learn the more important lesson here -- you know, the more obvious one? The reason there is a law in place to protect women from harassment for breastfeeding is because it happens. A lot. All over this great country of ours.

Women who are simply trying to feed their babies are told to leave businesses or go to the bathroom (hello, germs, would you eat your lunch in there?!?). They are told what they are doing is immodest, immoral or disrespectful to others. This is a country where breastfeeding rates continue to plummet, formula companies continue to invent new ways to influence women to stop breastfeeding, and our public health system cuts women off at the knees by offering little to no lactation support and shoving us out the door with bags stuffed with formula samples.

Nursing mothers: Don't let others stop you from leaving the house with your babies out of fear... continue to feed your babies in public. The more people do it, the more common it will become and the less others will freak out! Know your rights. Carry a copy of your state law with you if it will help you feel comfortable. Speak your truth. And support each other.

In related news, see how speaking my truth helped change a breastfeeding sign in my community. Also, my tips on pumping successfully are a must-read for any mamas returning to work after maternity leave. My friend and fellow blogger Rebecca has started a new blog feature "Oh the places we'll breastfeed" where she talks about her adventures nursing her children in public. It's great!

This post was written by Missy Berggren and originally published on Marketing Mama. Follow Missy on Twitter: @marketingmamamn

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Comments (2)

I am a breastfeeding mother and a Doubleshot patron. I agree breastfeeding in public is a mothers right, but I also feel there is a certain level of modesty that should be expressed. I am extremely modest in my breastfeeding, the only person I don't wear a cover or a blanket in front of is my husband. I feel it is my choice to breastfeed, but it is not everyone else's choice to watch me do it.

I don't think business should say they don't allow breastfeeding, but just as it is allowed to say no shirt, no shoes, no service, I feel that you should at least give every effort to not exposing your breast while breastfeeding.

Yay Raye! I support breast feeding for all the nutritionally and emotionally healthy reasons it is desireable. Please do it where ever and when ever needed. That said, I do not want to see your breasts. How difficult is it to throw a light towel, blanket, cloth, even netting over your body to maintain some privacy and respect for those around you? Please breast feed your baby in public but remember, I have rights, too, and I do not want to see your breasts.