Now I Am a Fire Hazard.

“Ma’am, you can’t do that here, you’re a fire hazard, ” is what the lady said to me when I tried to breastfeed in her local Long Island restaurant.   We were seated at a booth, but there wasn’t enough room between the table and where I was sitting in the booth to hold the baby at chest level. I tried to do that first, but the only way to fit the baby would have been to lay the baby on the table, but surely my dining companions would not have appreciated that.  See what I mean in my crude illustration:

IMG_3312 (1)

So I did the next best thing, I grabbed a chair from one of the dozen empty tables around us and propped it at the head of the booth where there was plenty of room. I covered myself with a nursing apron so I was more than decent… though, as I mentioned, the restaurant was basically empty except for one other table who also had a small child with them so the cover was more for my comfort than anyone else’s.

As I got cozy and started to feed my hungry baby the not-so-nice lady came over and told me that by putting a chair at the head of the table/booth I was creating a fire hazard, despite the restaurant being all but empty. I asked her where would be a more appropriate place to feed my child and she only responded all snippy and awkward, “I don’t know. You are a fire hazard,” again and she walked away.

Helpful, right?

I am quickly learning that breastfeeding in public is a hotly contested subject. Have you seen the very recent Luvs commercial featuring a breastfeeding mom?  In the first scene a new mom is struggles to breastfeed under a cover, clearly frazzled, in a public space. Then in the second scene, on her second child, she has abandoned the cover and bravely feeds her child at the table. She is so over being covered up, now being an expert mom and not giving a shit about dumb stuff like covers.

Even this fairly innocuous commercial created controversy. This quote in the article, Luvs commercial about public breastfeeding creates controversy  sums up the opposition pretty well, “Luvs should stick to selling diapers and stay out of the politics!” wrote “Tasteless” from Temecula, Calif., on the Luvs website. “I found the ad tasteless and crude.”

As recently as last month Facebook got into hot water about removing images posted of women breastfeeding in a breastfeeding group because it was first assumed they were indecent.

This is all confusing to me given the mixed messages society is sending. Ever since I hit the 3rd trimester of my pregnancy I have been bombarded with literature, doctors and nurses telling me that, “Breast is Best!!” and pushing the breast feeding regimen. New moms are practically bullied into it and those who choose to go the formula route are made to feel that they have to feed their baby in secret to avoid judgement for choosing not to breastfeed as though they are deliberately poisoning their child. So why isn’t breastfeeding met with applause and cheers of approval in public? I should be cheered and celebrated! It doesn’t make any sense at all. Is it so indecent? More indecent than the window display in your local Victoria’s Secret? Or even worse, American Apparel? I don’t think so.

American Apparel ad

Exhibit A: American Apparel ad on their website. Seriously? And you’re upset about breastfeeding mammas?

No one tells you how hard breastfeeding is before you have a baby.

It’s really hard. Painful at times, time consuming, sweaty, exhausting. But I am glad I am choosing this route, though I hold no judgement towards mammas who choose other routes (‘do what you gotta do’ is my motto when it comes to motherhood). If I can’t breastfeed in public that means I am perpetually tied to my house since the little guy eats every 1.5 to 2 hours during the day. If it’s so important that I choose to breastfeed, everyone else in our community needs to get on board and support mothers like me, especially new moms who feel vulnerable and exhausted.

photo (1)

This is me, rocking it out. SO indecent, right?

If I want any kind of life as a breastfeeding mother, I will need to get out there and brave idiots like that lady in the restaurant. Was I a fire hazard in that empty restaurant? Perhaps. Could she have handled the situation better? Definitely. So for now, I am just going to continue rocking it out and be the honeybadger of mothers.

6 thoughts on “Now I Am a Fire Hazard.

  1. What a compassionate and gracious woman. maybe she would have preferred a screaming hungry baby?

    I could not agree more about feeling intense pressure to breast feed, and then lack of resources or support to actually do it in public. People would rather see a bottle. And I love that Luv’s commercial!!

  2. I’m sorry to say, but you took it personally. Maybe the waitress could have been nicer. Maybe you perceived her comment as rude because you thought she was singling you out. Its hard to tell since we weren’t there. However, fire code states you cannot have anything that blocks the exits of a building. Regardless of how many people were in the restaurant, you were in violation of fire code. Is there a stigma on breast feeding in public? I don’t know, I never received the looks or comments I hear from other women. Never experienced the discrimination and I live in Alabama so it’s not like I live in a forward thinking state. However, you should look at the situation objectively. You were wrong and got corrected.

    • Hi Joy!

      First and foremost – thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. I appreciate all opinions!

      I don’t dispute that it’s possible I was creating a fire hazard according to the restaurant’s policy; see the final paragraph of my post, “Was I a fire hazard in that empty restaurant? Perhaps. Could she have handled the situation better? Definitely.”

      It was more how the lady chose to handle the situation. Did I take her bad manners personally? Yes, that’s probably true, I agree with you there.

      But this post is more than about my personal experience – it’s really about the confusion generated when new moms are pressured to breastfeed in some pockets of society who then face the controversy that breastfeeding in public generates in other pockets of society. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
      Terra

  3. Pingback: The Evolution of Commercials | Interravision

  4. I am a huge breastfeeding advocate, whenever, wherever, and however you and your baby need and want, and I absolutely agree with you about our backwards cultural aversion to breastfeeding. But, I do think you took this too personally. As a long time waitress it IS against fire code to put a chair or high chair on the ends of booths, even if the restaurant is near empty. Common sense says oh just let them pull up a chair, but code says no; and if an inspector happened to come in (unlikely, but still) the restaurant could get in trouble (I think it’s a fine). It is certainly possible that an uneducated view of NIP could have colored they way she spoke to you, but I can promise that she has had to tell people who were not breastfeeding that they can’t sit in the aisle because it is against fire code dozens of times.

  5. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for replying to my blog… take a look at my reply to Joy above in the comments since it is largely the same I would offer you. I don’t dispute that it’s possible I was a fire code, or that I probably took things personally, but the way she handled the situation begs for improvement. Could she not have suggested a more appropriate place for me to NIP since doing it in the booth was so difficult? Could she have shown even a little empathy or just normal polite behavior? Even if she has had to tell a dozen people not to pull up a chair there, I was still her customer and walked away feeling like I had been treated poorly. I think she could have handled the situation better, and still protected the restaurant from any unexpected fire code inspections.

    Thanks again for reading and for your well crafted comment!

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