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Another day, anther public-breastfeeding slight — this time in upstate New York, where a mother of two was chastised by a Golden Corral manager for nursing her hungry 5-month-old daughter at a restaurant table while dining with family and friends.
“The manager walked right over to me and started to tell me that I needed to go and nurse my child in the bathroom,” mom Tiffany Eichstadt told CBS6 News. “I told her that I had the legal right to nurse wherever and however I wanted to and that I would not go to the bathroom to feed my child.” Still, Eichstadt, who could not be reached by Yahoo Parenting, eventually felt uncomfortable and went home.
Franchise owner Niral Patel has offered a swift and strong apology to Eichstadt. “Golden Corral welcomes nursing mothers and their children into our restaurants. After all, we are a family-oriented restaurant. Our manager at the 1901 Central Avenue location in Colonie was just wrong,” she wrote in a statement to CBS6. “We are beyond embarrassed by this behavior and we have apologized to our guest for the incident. We have already taken steps and will continue to do so going forward to ensure that all of our managers and co-workers understand our policies so that we can consistently represent our respect for, and support of, nursing mothers.”
Breastfeeding laws vary by state, with New York permitting mothers to breastfeed their children “in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breast feeding.” Although, like the majority of similar laws in many other states, there is no enforcement provision to help women hold places accountable.
In order for more breastfeeding mothers to feel welcome and supported in public places, businesses need to take action from the top down, according to Miriam Labbok, director of the Caroline Global Breastfeeding Institute at the University of North Carolina. “Any new employee should be orientated to customer service, which should include this issue,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. She adds, interestingly, that she knows the Maynard family that founded Golden Corral (based in North Carolina), and that they are “very family-friendly and very pro-breastfeeding.”
But controversies about public nursing have come in a steady stream in the past couple of years, with reports of breastfeeding mamas being hassled and criticized in restaurants, at stores, at schools, at a casino, at their doctor’s office, on TV talk shows — and even, in one instance in the U.K., at a government-sponsored breastfeeding conference. It’s all resulted in a stream of “nurse-ins” and manager-issued apologies, but with no sign yet of a slowdown in debate.
Still, Labbok says she’s been in the field long enough to notice a shift toward acceptance, and believes it’s only a matter of time until public nursing is embraced as the norm. “In my generation — I’m in my 60s — we never used to see breastfeeding. But I think we’re on the verge of major change,” she says. “The majority of women now breastfeed, at least for a little while, and once the majority begins to do something there tends to be a societal shift.” That majority (79 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card) is another reason why, she notes, “it’s in a business’s interest to accommodate women on this issue.”