Three moms, who say they were harassed inside a Delaware mall for breastfeeding in public, returned to the Concord Mall, this time, with about 15 more mothers, who all brought their hungry babies.
“With all these women getting together and breastfeeding, and people can see that it’s not women walking around topless – it’s not this big, exhibitionist thing. It’s just feeding your baby,” said Diana Hitchens, co-organizer of Sunday’s nurse-in.
Hitchens says, two weeks ago, mall security accused her and friend, Autumne Murray, of indecent exposure because they were breastfeeding their babies. Diana’s sister-in-law, Jessica Hitchens, was there and says security told Diana and Autumne to cover up or leave.
“If I whip out a bottle to feed this baby, nobody’s gonna blink twice. When [Diana] goes to feed Chloe, we want the same thing, that’s it,” Jessica Hitchens said.
Ironically, the three were at the Wilmington mall to support breastfeeding in public during a scheduled nationwide nurse-in.
“I think that breastfeeding is extremely important and I think that the way the girls were treated, whenever they came to the mall, I think it was very unjust,” said Mindy Meier, a mother of two who attended today’s protest.
Delaware law protects nursing moms, entitling them to nurse in public, with or without a cover. That’s why Kate Dupont Phillips, with the Breastfeeding Coalition of Delaware, says she set up a meeting with mall management a week later. Three board members, including Phillips, and two mall managers were in attendance, but the subject of what transpired two weeks back was not discussed.
“Each of the parties had their own perspectives and their own point of view of what happened and it wasn’t our place to get into that,” said Phillips. “We really wanted to just focus the meeting on the potential for making sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the future.”
According to Phillips, the coalition recommended the mall put in place a policy for its employees that recognizes — and reiterates — that breastfeeding is allowed. The coalition also suggested adding baby-friendly signage throughout the mall, making mallgoers aware of mothers’ rights, and setting up a lactation room for women who might not be as comfortable nursing in public.
“[The Concord Mall] mentioned that they already had asked their contracted security firm to train all of the security guards to let them know that nursing in public is permitted and that mothers should not be approached or removed from the mall,” added Phillips, who says she’ll follow up with the mall in a couple of weeks.
“I think it’s very important that we support women’s right to breastfeed. This is the best nutrition for babies and we need to do everything we can, as a society, to support it,” said Sam Stubblefield, who attended today’s nurse-in with his son, Andrew, even though mom couldn’t make it.
Meanwhile, Diana and Jessica Hitchens, who are not members of the Breastfeeding Coalition of Delaware, have yet to hear anything from mall management.
Repeated calls to Concord Mall have gone unanswered, but the international symbol for breastfeeding can now be found on the mall’s website, linking you to the coalition’s webpage.
“I don’t think that you can fix a problem if you’re not going to admit that there was a problem,” said Diana, who ultimately hopes today’s nurse-in raises awareness.