Breastfeeding flap at Delaware mall goes viral

An incident involving three breastfeeding moms at the Concord Mall in Wilmington now has legs, thanks to social media.

Moms Diana Hitchens, Jessica Hitchens and Autumne Murray say Concord Mall security not only accused them of indecent exposure because they were nursing their babies, but also called the police to escort them out of the mall.

Incidentally, the three were at the mall, Saturday, fighting for breastfeeding moms’ rights to nurse in public, as part of a nationwide “nurse-in” at the Hollister store. Breastfeeding moms across the country, and Canada, staged the protest after a Hollister store manager allegedly kicked out a breastfeeding mom in Texas.

When a Delaware State Trooper arrived, Diana Hitchens says, the officer informed mall security that the moms were protected under state law. Delaware law protects breastfeeding moms, allowing them to feed their babies wherever they are allowed to be, with or without a nursing cover.

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“It’s embarrassing to have all these people staring at you, the police, you know, asking if you’re exposing yourselves, that you’re exhibitionists, I mean, it’s just silly,” said Diana.

The news spread like wildfire, thanks to Facebook, particularly because of comments made on what appears to be the mall’s profile page about breastfeeding. A photo snapshot of the back-and-forth between what appears to be an administrator of the mall’s page and a breastfeeding supporter shows the mall describing nursing in public as “an eyesore.” 

At least five calls to the mall’s VP of Operations, Ed Tennyson, have not been returned. However, a statement that appears to be from Tennyson to a breastfeeding rights group claims the Concord Mall does not have a Facebook or Twitter account, even though the mall’s website had, until today, a Facebook link in the upper right hand corner of its homepage.

Tennyson is also not returning calls from the moms at the center of it all.

“We’ve tried multiple times to set up a meeting with them,” said Diana. “We have never been anything but civil to them because we know they’re not going to see us if we’re rude.”

As much support as they’ve received, Jessica, Diana’s sister-in-law, says the trio has also received hate mail and nasty comments, numbering in the hundreds, especially from other women.

“I think either they didn’t breastfeed, or they tried and couldn’t, or didn’t have the support to do so, and I think that’s why they’re so angry,” Jessica said, who while she can’t nurse her baby, Eevie, remains a staunch supporter of nursing, particularly, nursing in public.

“That’s all we want for them, is to be left alone, so they can do what they want to do.”

Breasts ‘sexualized’ in U.S.

“We don’t see breasts as, you know, a method to feed your children,” said lactation consultant Katie Madden. “We have sexualized breasts to sell things all over the place. So if someone looks at breasts and doesn’t have any sort of experience with breastfeeding, they immediately think, ‘This is weird, or uncomfortable or pornographic.'”

Mom Ashley Schroeder openly breastfeeds her daughter Ella in public. She says she was recently told her breastfeeding was making others at a restaurant uncomfortable, and was asked to cover up. 

“I think that if a mom wants to breastfeed in public, she should absolutely be not just tolerated by society, but lauded by the society for doing what’s best for her child then and there,” Schroeder said.

Breastfeeding rates are up across the country and here in Delaware. The American Academy of Pediatrics says breastfeeding has been thought to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.  

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