Saturday, July 29, at 4 p.m. a group of families will protest comments made on Fox 8 Cleveland's morning news by a representative of Great Northern Mall's management company (Westfield) after an anonymous mother was refused permission to breastfeed her infant before paying for her purchases at Aeropostale.
While we are angry at that particular store's manager, we are especially concerned with the Westfield representative's attitude, which seemed to support the store manager's actions because "That's why we put in the Family Room." Babies should be welcome to eat wherever they are hungry. They don't understand that some people are only comfortable if they eat from certain containers and not others. Babies have no ability to understand that they have to wait while Mommy runs to the other side of the mall to feed them, while another baby can be fed immediately because our society currently accepts public bottle-feeding but not breastfeeding.
Since Westfield Corp. owns four area malls -- in addition to the malls they own in 12 other states -- some of those areas have much stronger protections than Ohio does for families who breast-feed in public. In New York state (where Westfield owns two malls), the right to breast-feed is written into state laws, with specific penalties for violations. With the government pushing to raise breast-feeding rates, shunting families to one obscure area at each mall is not going to cut it.
Family Rooms are wonderful for a variety of uses -- to help calm overstimulated kids, to take a rest from the hustle and bustle of a busy mall, and, yes, as a place for mothers who aren't comfortable breast-feeding in front of others to have some privacy.
For those mothers who are comfortable feeding their children wherever they happen to be when the child gets hungry, they should be made to feel as welcome as families with bottles in tow.
We hope you will be present at this protest. We will gather at 4 p.m. at the play area, then proceed to Aeropostale to make sure the store knows our feelings, before proceeding to the mall management office to deliver recommendations.
Breast-feeding mother & unofficial parents' advocate