Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Letter

The following letter (identifying information removed), which I will be mailing today, tells the story I wanted to post about today. I also provides important information about legislation that applies to the situation. It concerns breastfeeding in public.

August 19, 2009

Dear _______:

I arrived at your office at 3pm on Monday, August 17, 2009 for a scheduled appointment with Dr. _____. I had my nine year old and three week old daughters with me. After signing in, I took a seat in your waiting room and began nursing my newborn, who was crying fiercely from hunger. When in public, I nurse as discretely as I can. On that day, I was wearing a belly band which covered my midsection. The top of my shirt was pulled down so that it was touching my newborn’s upper lip. No skin was within view unless, perhaps, for a brief few seconds when I initially latched her on. Within a few minutes, one of your staff approached me with a paper gown. As he handed me the gown he said, “Someone in the lobby said something. I’m sorry,” and left. It was obvious that I was meant to use the gown to cover the fact that I was breastfeeding. As a breastfeeding mother, I was shocked that a doctor’s office would ask a breastfeeding mother to cover up while feeding her child.

On July 26, 2009, legislation regarding public breastfeeding went into effect. This legislation is part of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, RCW 49.60, and creates a new protected class: status as a mother breastfeeding her child in a place of public accommodation. Mothers can now breastfeeding at a time, place, and manner of their choosing while in a place of public accommodation. They do not have to go to a separate area, sit in a corner, or go into the restroom. They do not have to cover the baby with a towel or blanket or paper gown. The owner, manager, or employee of the place of public accommodation cannot request that the mother stop breastfeeding her baby, cover up, move to a different room or area, or leave. Having other patrons or customers complain is not a valid reason for asking a breastfeeding mother to do any of these actions.

The Washington State Human Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing this law. I have been in contact with them, and verified that a doctor’s office comes under the definition of “a place of public accommodation.” As such, the employee who brought me the gown to cover up with was in violation of law. It is my hope that your office will go beyond merely educating your employees on how to follow the law, but also begin to support breastfeeding mothers because of the health benefits it provides for both the mother and her child.

If you need any further information about this law, please contact the Washington State Human Rights Commission. They can be reached at (360) 753-6770.



Note: The human rights commission is the process of creating wallet cards for breastfeeding mothers to carry with them. If approached about nursing in public, these cards can be given out to inform the person of the law. You can call the number referenced in the letter to request cards to be sent to you when they are ready.

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Last one standing said...

Perhaps time for a new pediatrician?

JoAnn said...

I don't believe I indicated that I was at the pediatrician's office. This was my endocrinologist who has been monitoring my thyroid through my pregnancy.

Montserrat said...

Well put! Go JoAnn!!

Just call me MOM said...

I was once told to go to the restroom to feed my baby. They so kindly had placed a chair next to the toilet for me. Needless to say I didnt move an inch from where I was sitting nor did I stop nursing my baby either. I'm glad things have been done making it so people cant say a word about us feeding our children in public.
I found your blog from the meet up group. I look forward to meeting you soon!