Monday, July 27, 2009

IKEA misses the memo - breastfeeding in public is legal

A mother at the Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn was asked to move to the bathroom to finish breastfeeding her daughter. The comments on the blog post are pretty standard, including a former breastfeeding mom who puts down this woman's "poor planning" in not having pumped a bottle of milk in advance. Whoops! The mother who was asked to move must have forgotten that babies are born to be breastfed only in private. Perhaps the commenter was also forgetful, as she forgot - as the Ikea security guards seem to have - that women have a right to breastfeed in New York State anywhere they are legally allowed to be. As several more astute commenters pointed out, the security guards had no more right to escort her to the bathroom for openly breastfeeding than they did to escort someone to the bathroom for being say, openly black.

Here's the bottom line for me, and what a lot of the commenters don't seem to get: you don't have to like certain things. You don't have to like breastfeeding in public, or gay people holding hands, or someone wearing skimpy clothes. But these things are legal. If you choose, you can be a jerk about those things you don't like. The law doesn't and can't prohibit dirty looks or rude words; only common decency does. But companies and their employees are subject to the law, and by law cannot force a breastfeeding woman to move just because they don't like public breastfeeding. The end. What happened in Ikea shouldn't have happened and shouldn't happen again.

I find the whole thing particularly ironic since Ikea is Swedish and Sweden is an international model for its very high breastfeeding rates. I find it hard to imagine a mother in a Swedish Ikea being escorted to the bathroom for feeding her baby. They would have to escort something like 80% of them. I assume that's why their p.r. person gets it when she says: "This incident is being looked into as this totally goes against our culture and focus on family." Maybe the Swedes forgot that their American employees would need some extra training? (Interestingly, the thread where the original Ikea story was posted has another asked-to-stop-nursing-in-public story at a New York H&M, also a Swedish chain.)

(It's also not a great store location for this to happen in, given that scaring up a crowd of Brooklyn moms for a nurse-in would be as easy as walking around the playground.)

In any case, it sounds like both sides are responding actively to what happened, which is good. I'm curious to see what more (if any) news comes of this...

(Thanks to my friend and classmate Adriane for passing this along!)


Dou-la-la said...

Maddening that this kind of thing is STILL happening! I mean, really.

Anyone calling for a nurse-in? I could use some sectional shelving and new glassware . . .

MomTFH said...

Hmmm, that's really disappointing to me. I was happy to see the Ikea near me as being so children friendly.

Boo Ikea.