LACTIVISTS RALLY TO DEFEND MOTHERS' RIGHTS TO PUBLICLY
FEED THEIR CHILDREN
Hundreds Plan to Nurse at Times Square Display of Solidarity
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, New York - Hundreds of breastfeeding women and their supporters are expected to gather outside of the Toys "R" Us in Times Square, Thursday, September 21, 2006 at 11 A.M. for a Nurse-In. The public action is in support of Chelsi Meyerson, a breastfeeding mother who store employees and a security guard allegedly harassed at the store last week for breastfeeding her 7-month old son. The grass roots movement was spurred by media coverage initiated by the New York Civil Liberties Union, who provided immediate assistance to Ms. Meyerson after she unsuccessfully tried to get Toys "R" Us authorities to address the issue. Other lactating mothers, some of whom have experienced similar discrimination while feeding their children in
public, organized and connected through the internet to plan the Nurse-In.
Ms. Meyerson and her family were at the Time Square Toys "R" Us location celebrating her daughter's third birthday on September 11, 2006 when Ms. Meyerson began to nurse her son. According to Meyerson, store employees demanded she stop breastfeeding or move to the basement because they considered it inappropriate around children. When she asserted her rights and refused, a security guard came to "deal with her." "I have never been more humiliated and dismayed," says Ms. Meyerson.
It is true that Toys "R" Us, like many retail establishments, provide what they call "nursing rooms" and mothers are sometimes asked to move to
those locations for fear of offending other customers. While some mothers do like the privacy, many find it impractical and isolating to go to one every time their children need to eat. In New York State, a mother's right to nurse her child wherever she is legally allowed to be is protected by state law (NY CLS Civ R S. 79-e). Ms. Meyerson stood up for her rights and the participants on Thursday will be showing en masse that they support her for doing so.
Toys "R" Us officials deny that Ms. Meyerson was harassed and claim to maintain a breastfeeding friendly environment. However, ignorant and crude comments from 2005 on an online message board for Toys "R" Us employees suggests a pattern of negative responses to breastfeeding mothers, which the Toys "R" Us corporation could have corrected in educating and training its workers. One person posted about the "prolem" of mothers publicly breastfeeding in the store. Others responded that next time they should call the police if they don't stop or tell them to do it in the car. The discussion included inappropriate sexual remarks about breastfeeding, as well. While Toys
"R" Us management might not have read or condoned those remarks, they indicate a serious lack of training regarding the rights of their target clientele and a lack of respect for their customers.
It is rare for a breastfeeding mother to have the confidence to assert her rights when criticized, and, in many states, a mother is not as well protected while feeding her child as she is in New York State. Although women are protected on any federal property where they are allowed to be present, thanks to a bill written by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), their protection across the country is based on a smattering of very different state laws. The demonstrators intended to shed light on the fact that these women are not doing anything wrong by nurturing their children. They are, in fact, following recommendations from both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The AAP guidelines encourages exclusive breastfeeding "to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first six months of life," noting that it "provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as
mutually desired by mother and child." The WHO has issued similar recommendations, stating further that breastfeeding should continue
"for up to two years of age or beyond."
The organizers of the Nurse-In, as well as many of the lactating mothers and supporters who will attend, extend their thanks to NYCLU for bringing this important civil rights issue to the forefront and for standing up for the rights of all people. NYCLU, founded in 1951, states its mission as "to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values embodied in the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the New York Constitution, including freedom of speech and religion, and the right to privacy, equality and due
process of law for all New Yorkers." One of the goals of the Nurse-In is to further educate people about these rights and the importance of breastfeeding.
For more information about this event or topic or to schedule interviews with participants, please contact Ashley Clark by email at [email protected]
or Annie Fox by email at [email protected]