Making Milk Public Controversy
By: Charles Winokoor, business writer
So there I was grocery shopping the other day when, just as I reached for a
quart of skim milk, I noticed the strangest thing.
Women - mothers, to be exact - began dropping to the floor and
breast-feeding their babies. Hurrying out of the dairy section, I found myself surrounded by pet supplies, but again was confronted with a surrealistic sight: Unsupervised
canines and tabbies relieving themselves willy nilly, and then sauntering
off to leave the mess for the night crew to clean up.
Get out now, I told myself, as the sweat trickled down my brow. And wouldn't you know it, just as I scurried past the Health & Beauty aisle I spied a group of men, shirts off, nonchalantly spraying and rolling their underarms with the deodorizer of their choice.
Decorum precludes me from detailing what I witnessed in the place where they sell the Charmin.
Knocking over a shopping cart with a child's seat, I ran into the parking lot and headed for my car to make a getaway. As I fumbled for my key, I realized it was too late; I was surrounded.
Waking up in bed, I took stock of my nightmare. What in the world had inspired my subconscious to unleash such nocturnal torment? Then it came to me. It was nothing more mysterious than this week's story about a mom who managed to cause a stir by breast-feeding her infant in the middle of a store.
Last Friday, cardiologist Dr. Melissa Tracy, while shopping in the South Hingham iParty store, dropped to the floor and began breast-feeding her ostensibly starving 2-month-old child.
"Rather than let him become hysterical, I sat down on the floor and breast-fed him," Tracy told the . What happened next, she said, caused her to feel humiliated. The store manager, a regular Darth Vader it seems, had the gall to admonish her. "He stood over me and said 'You can't do that here,' " she was quoted. "I've never felt that badly before."
Feeling emotionally scarred, Tracy did the honorable and proper thing: She ratted out the iParty blue meanie to his corporate superiors - who issued a knee-jerk, please-don't-hit-me mea culpa, faster than CBS Radio and gave the bum's rush.
What she's failed to mention, either in print or on TV, is why she was so compelled to plop to the floor instead of walking to the ladies room. Would she have jeopardized her child's welfare, his very life, if she had simply made the effort? Or was she more interested in making a point about who she is and what she thinks she represents? During a TV interview, her husband said in his native Germany breast-feeding in public is an accepted practice and one that is "not vulgar."
Not vulgar for sure - but how about annoying? Not the act of breast-feeding, mind you, but the behavior of well-educated parents who want to impose their version of an enlightened society upon the rest of us, without regard to our sensibilities.
That sort of selfish, guerilla mentality is not just inconsiderate to those of us backward Americans who are not used to seeing babies suckling while we're shopping for party supplies or dog food, it's also unfair to the companies whose employees are only trying to do the right thing. Now, if any business - be it retail chain, a local independent store or a car dealership - announces a policy explicitly allowing open breast-feeding then that's their prerogative. But one also has to ponder how this type of adult-baby behavior will eventually affect the child.
No wonder there's a legion of kids nowadays who have grown up thinking they're extra-special, entitled and oh-so-superior; after all, it's been imbedded into their id since they were fed mother's milk. This whole silly episode reminds me, in a way, of the case of the "flying imams," six religious Muslims who were removed from a flight last November
after they insisted on standing up in the plane for evening prayers. They knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted publicity and they got it, in spades.
That's not to say the good doctor from intended, ahead of time, to use her breast-feeding as a publicity stunt to teach the rest of us a good lesson. From what I've read and heard, she comes across as a decent, sincere individual.
What I do suggest to her and other mothers who act rashly, and then condemn anyone who complains, is to grow up before your child does. And next time you go shopping with your infant in your arms, try bringing along a baby bottle.
Charles Winokoor is the business writer for the .
Dear Mr. Winokoor,
Yesterday I was out an outdoor shopping mall with a friend and our two babies. They needed to nurse, so we found a nice shaded bench outside and sat down to nurse. We did not make a scene and we did not feel like we had to be on display for all to see that we were 'breastfeeding our babies because we have the right!' or because it's the best way to parent our babies. We were only thinking of our babies needs at that time. It in no way inconvenienced anyone else. Especially those that walked about with their shopping bags around us.
No way would I nurse my baby in a bathroom if I had a perfectly good bench, chair, or even a floor in a store. Check the ladies restroom next time YOU'RE at the grocery store and tell me if you see a nice bench or chair in there. And then, yuck- would you want to eat in there?
Why in the world should I bottle-feed my baby (requiring bottles, a breast pump, inconvenience) when I have (for free) two perfectly fine breasts to feed my child?
I think those that choose to be offended by a mother feeding her baby are doing just that: CHOOSING to be offended. You are trying to place the selfishness on the mother who probably has had little sleep and needs all the support she can get, Mr.!