Stories about mothers who breastfeed in public tend to end in insults, tears, and all other sorts of negativity. So it’s refreshing to hear about a mother whose decision to nurse in public led to acceptance and support.
Ottawa mom Julia Wykes was running errands with her 5-month-old son one morning when she decided to stop at Starbucks to grab a coffee to go. While waiting in line, however, her baby became cranky, so she sat down to nurse him.
Suddenly, a middle-aged woman marched up to the counter and loudly complained to the barista, “Could you get that woman to stop doing that in public? It’s disgusting.”
The barista, a young man in his late teens, said he would “take care of it” and walked over to Wykes. But instead of heeding the complaining customer’s request, he did something else: He offered the nursing mother a free refill, handed her a voucher for a free drink, and said, “I’m sorry you had to deal with such unpleasantness today.”
The customer stormed out of the coffee shop in a huff. “She kind of defeated her own purpose,” Wykes told The Huffington Post via email, “because she was the only one who had noticed I was breastfeeding, and she ended up calling much more attention to it than if she hadn’t said anything!”
After her experience at Starbucks, which the company later confirmed to HuffPost, Wykes shared the story on her local parenting Facebook group, expressing her joy at the surprising turn of events and urging her fellow parents to tip the baristas.
The story caught the attention of at least one mom, Annie Urban, the popular blogger behind PhD in Parenting. Urban shared the Starbucks story on her blog’s Facebook page, and from there, it snowballed into a viral phenomenon. “Suddenly it was popping up on my newsfeed from all over the world!” Wykes said.
For Wykes, who has worked as a midwife and “helped hundreds of mothers breastfeed” around the world, this was the first time she had ever experienced this kind of shaming for nursing in public. “In my personal experience, usually people don’t even notice when I’m nursing my son in public — you have to really be staring or catch me at just the wrong moment to see much exposed skin! — I’ve had someone come over and stroke my baby’s head without realising he was nursing.”
The issue of breastfeeding in public has been a hot-button topic for quite some time, spawning countless news stories and impassioned blog posts. Julia Wykes hit the nail right on the head when she offered her two cents on the issue: “My opinion has always been: if your baby is hungry, feed him. It doesn’t matter how or where, just make sure your baby is well fed and happy.”