“I felt like I was being attacked for breastfeeding.”
So says Michigan mom Natalie Hegedus, who claims that she was left “humiliated” this week when a district court judge openly admonished her for breastfeeding her 5-month-old baby in the courthouse.
Natalie hadn’t planned on bringing her son Landon with her when she went to court this past Tuesday, but had to pull him out of daycare after he came down with an ear infection. So when he became hungry after a 2-hour wait, she did what most moms would do – she fed him.
Making sure that “nothing was showing,” Natalie says that she discretely nursed Landon as she continued to wait in the courtroom. When her name was finally called, she asked the Honorable Robert T. Hentchel for a moment as she collected herself and her son. According to Natalie, the judge then asked her if she thought the courtroom was an appropriate place to breastfeed her baby.
Showing considerable calm, Natalie says that she pointed out that her son was hungry and that nursing in public is not against the law so she didn’t feel it was inappopriate to feed him there. She claims that the judge disagreed, citing, “My court, my law and I feel it is.” Apparently it was then that the mortified mom noticed a note that a court employee had passed to the bench that warned, “There is a woman breastfeeding in court.”
“Needless to say I left in tears, I have never felt so humiliated,” Natalie wrote as she later related the experience in a post in the BabyCenter Community. She was so outraged that she’s contacted lawyers and plans on filing a formal complaint.
As disappointing as Natalie’s story is, what makes it all the more frustrating is the fact that it’s not exactly a one-off incident. She is just one of many moms who have felt judged and criticized for simply feeding their children. Despite the fact that just about everybody encourages moms to breastfeed these days, we still hear stories of women being kicked off of buses, removed from airplanes and asked to leave restaurants for daring to nurse their babies in public.
Is it any wonder that new moms like BabyCenter blogger Sabrina Garibian might have a few jitters at the prospect of breastfeeding in public?
If we really want to encourage nursing, then it can’t be shrouded in mystery and shielded from sight, something that good moms do while huddled behind closed nursery doors. Natalie’s story just goes to show that despite all of our best intentions, society’s collective hang-up over breastfeeding still exists.