‘Tis the Season To Breastfeed in Public

Images courtesy of Christen Gundersen. The name of the employee has been blurred out by GeekMom.

When I was struggling to breastfeed my first baby, I found simple pleasures wherever I could. Discovering the football hold, getting the breast pump to work, oh so much lanolin, and mother’s rooms.

Yes, even when I decided to exclusively pump (or EP as we like to call it), mother’s rooms were my friend. A quiet place away from the hubbub of wherever I had to be at the time, to pump or nurse, in a room that did not contain a toilet. It was a dream.

Breastfeeding2Now I have friends who are perfectly able to whip it out in public, some with latching problems who prefer privacy, some for whom a blanket is sufficient, and some with questions of personal modesty.

For my own part, my son was a very messy nurser; mama needed room to clean up. My friends would all agree with me, that for whatever reasons, these rooms were such a blessing. However, one friend, on a trip into New York City this weekend with her infant, was met with the Ho Ho No’s at the Times Square Toys ‘R’ Us in New York City. Many of the seasonal members of staff did not know that such a place as a mother’s room existed, understandably. After all many of them probably only started that day. I’ve been on the retail floor with only a moment’s notice in the holiday season. I know how that plays out.

While waiting in the long line for the ladies’ room, my friend asked the staff member directing bathroom traffic for the location of the mother’s room. The staff member did know where it was. So, infant in tow she left the bathroom line and headed off in the direction of the mother’s room.

Once she got there, she found that it had been closed for the holiday season and was being used for personal shoppers. Aghast, she walked away from the room only to overhear an exchange between employees about a woman who had decided to use the mother’s room anyway, sitting on the floor surrounded by boxes, at which point the door was locked to “make sure it didn’t happen again.” Fortunately my friend was able to get to another location nearby, that was not the bathroom, and nurse in privacy.

To my mind, you either agree with the need for such rooms or you don’t. Do or do not, there is no try.

If Toys ‘R’ Us as a company has decided to use part of the square footage in each location for a mother’s room, I applaud that. Mothers everywhere applaud that. But that means that such a space is needed year round, not just when it’s convenient. Choosing to take that service away during the holiday season seems a tad more grinch like than I am used to from this company. Apparently this kind of behavior, at this particular location, has made waves before. In 2006, a woman who was nursing outside of the mother’s room claims to have been harassed, the company called it encouraged, to go elsewhere in the store to nurse. At that time the then-store manager responded, “We take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to nursing moms.”

Now I am left wondering, is the personal shopping being done in that room for one customer?

And how much does it cost to buy a room in Toys ‘R’ Us?

OK, TSA, This Breast Pump Thing is Just Too Much

TSA, I’ve had it with you. Really and truly. I know we never really got along in the first place because I wasn’t impressed with your security theater and your poor treatment of passengers and general ineffectiveness.

But I thought we could get along, develop a kind of working relationship. You’d learn from your mistakes, mature. I’d learn to be more patient, more forgiving. I was wrong.

The final straw was this story, about how your employees asked a lactating mother to prove her breast pump was real. She had to go into a public restroom and pump her breasts in front of strangers.


I doubt that GeekMoms really need me to enumerate the ways (oh, let me count them!) that this is wrong for nursing mothers everywhere. We get that, when possible, breastfeeding is ideal for mom and baby. We know society doesn’t offer enough support for the nursing mother, asking her to cover up and feed her baby in public restrooms. We recognize pumping is a private activity, and moms should have a private space in which to do it.

But could I spend just a moment to point out how fundamentally stupid this was from a security point of view? Do you not get that she could have just mixed up a little formula and put it in the bottles? Or purchased some cow’s milk and poured that in? Grabbed a little creamer from the condiment stand at the Starbucks kiosk? That unless your agent stood there, and watched the pump attach to the nipple and then watched the milk flow out and into the bottle, there was no way to know if that liquid in the bottles she produced actually was proof that the pump was what she said it was?

Yeah, I know. You’ve released a statement saying that you “‘accept responsibility” for the “apparent misunderstanding” and the “inconvenience or embarrassment” you “may” have caused her. News flash, TSA. That’s like saying I’m sorry if I hurt you. If you mean it, say it. “I’m sorry I hurt you” goes a lot further. I also know about your “new” procedure for the elderly, which is another piece of PR spin that I’m just not buying.

And while we’re chatting, you know, just the two of us, can I ask about the complaint that I recently filed with you? About how an agent did a little dance move to mock me? And the supervisor threatened me? And the pat-down agent touched my lower genitals? Because so far, I have received four emails saying that you can’t respond to my inquiry and one email saying that you have concluded that your personnel followed standard operating procedures in my screening. Yo. I disagree.

In the meantime, I hope we do get passenger advocates. I also hope, though, that Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) realizes that having TSA employees do the job will never work. If they could stop themselves from abusing passengers, they would have already done it.

Go ahead, Blogger Bob, respond to me. I triple-GeekMom-dare you.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series about airline travel.  Part 2 was about Delta’s poor customer service. Part 3 is our tips for avoiding and dealing with airline hassles. ]