The move stems from a recent incident at the Wal-Mart store in the town.
Andrea Snow says she was asked by a store employee to go to the ladies bathroom to breastfeed her child.
Snow told The Advertiser when she asked a change room attendant if she could use one of the free rooms to feed her infant she was told they would have to ask management if this was allowed. She says the attendant commented there was a bathroom for that purpose.
By the time the attendant returned to tell Snow it was okay to use the change room, Snow had already had to sit on a bench outside the change room to feed her baby.
As a mother who prefers to have some privacy when nursing, she was upset she was left with no choice but to sit on a bench in the middle of the store.
Wal-Mart’s corporate office, when contacted by The Advertiser, said they were “disappointed to hear that one of our customers didn’t feel supported to breastfeed in our store.”
In an official statement on Aug. 3, the company said, “Walmart Canada’s policy is to support a woman’s right to breastfeed (including nursing directly or pumping/expressing milk) in a public area of our stores or to be provided assistance in finding a private area if she prefers.
“ Our store manager spoke with our customer to address her concerns and has since taken steps to re-iterate our breastfeeding policies to all associates. We sincerely regret our customer’s experience and are committed to making sure mothers feel welcome to breastfeed in our stores.”
Other breastfeeding mothers were upset as well by Snow’s story, but say it’s not uncommon for them to be told to use a public washroom to breastfeed their infants.
It’s also not uncommon to get stares, or rude comments, they say, when they have to breastfeed in a public place.
“These little remarks [like] ‘that’s what the bathroom is for’ knocks down [mothers],” said breastfeeding mother, Nichole Janes. “We should not be doing [that], as humans in general you’re supposed to be encouraging, loving and accepting . . . why is breastfeeding not accepted, why is it something that is not discussed,” she added.
For soon-to-be moms like Emily Earle who want to breastfeed it’s discouraging.
Breastfeeding mother Jennifer Thompson added, “Mothers are] going to get [their] milk regardless; that’s what [a woman’s] body was made for, that’s why [women] get milk, they’re not for people to ogle . . . that’s what breasts are for, they are to feed your children . . . . to me scowling at someone is no different than [saying] go to the bathroom,” said breastfeeding mother Jennifer Thompson
The comments however are not always negative.
Janes noted that a woman who walked by her in the Gander Mall as she was nursing said ‘Go Mama.’
“Even those little tiny quick seconds are huge deals to us breastfeeding moms,” she said, adding it’s nice to receive support and encouragement.
Asking for space
Tracey Johnson Porter who runs the postnatal programs in Bishops Falls has started a Facebook page lobbying the Exploits Valley Mall to set up an area that is both private and comfortable for moms to feed their babies, whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
Putting a chair in the bathroom is not a suitable solution, Porter said.
“You shouldn’t even have to go near a bathroom to feed your baby.”
An area with a screen for privacy and a comfortable chair is what Porter is requesting.
The mothers just want a small area where they can feed their babies privately, away from the stares of strangers and negative comments.
The Advertiser reached out to the Exploits Valley Mall administration for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Meanwhile, individual businesses within the Grand Falls-Windsor area are making efforts to accommodate nursing mothers.
The Advertiser contacted each of the 31 of the businesses within the Exploits Valley Mall, asking the manager of each store if they a breastfeeding friendly environment.
Twenty-one said they were welcoming to breastfeeding mothers; 10 could not be reached for comment.
Some stores are going to extra mile to accommodate nursing moms.
Tip-Top-Tailor mentioned they welcome nursing mothers to use their dressing rooms. Photos Unlimited, not to be confused with Wal-Mart portrait studios, offers their studio, when not in use, to breastfeeding moms who would like privacy. Cassandra Bartlett who manages eight locations in Newfoundland and Labrador said they want breastfeeding moms to feel empowered, backing up this claim by also offering a free 10x13 breastfeeding portrait to any mother that comes in to breastfeed.
Local mothers say they hope more local businesses will make an effort to support them.
Janes said simple steps could help.
“Put a sticker in the window (supporting breastfeeding), call a 10 minute meeting with staff and say it is a human right to breastfeed in Canada.
“If a breastfeeding mom wants a place to nurse please help her find one. It doesn’t take that much,” Janes said.