Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Applebee's vs breastfeeding mom: go do that in the bathroom

Imagine going out for a family meal... sitting down and ordering your drinks... then you Nummie Lover "says" he wants to eat. You do what any Mummie would do... you begin nursing your child. No biggie.... right? Well Dawn Holland, of Covington Georgia, discovered this was  HUGE deal to an Applebee's manager.

Dawn, a Mummie of two boys (ages 11 years and 23 months old) and wife to an Army man is your typical Mummie.  She is 35 year old Christian Mummie, who worked in Physical Therapy for 13.5 years. She now owns a photography business in Atlanta Georgia  called Everlasting Memories. When her oldest son was 6 weeks old, she stopped breastfeeding as she was scared she had no supply and she had no support to help her through this growth spurt age. But when they got pregnant with her youngest Nummie Lover, she was more prepared, did some "homework", surrounded herself with a great breastfeeding circle and she was very determined to have a great breastfeeding journey. Low and behold.... they are rocking their breastfeeding journey 23 months and counting.

Dawn and her beautiful family.

On September 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm.... her world suddenly was tipped to the side. While nursing her 23 month old son, Connor, at a local Applebee's something she never expected to happen -- happened. She was told, by the restaurant manager, that she was being "inappropriate and needed to excuse herself to the bathroom or to leave."

(Baffling right? Because Dawn was not urinating nor was she defecating at the table. So why would she be asked to go to the bathroom?)

Breastfeeding Mom Applebees

Knowing her breastfeeding rights, Dawn explained that she had a legal right to breastfeed anywhere she is allowed to be and that a bathroom is an appropriate place to breastfeed a child. The manager repeatedly told Dawn she needed to excuse herself to the bathroom, however Dawn stood her ground and told the manager that if she felt she was breaking a law... then she should call the police. WELL.... the manager did just that. Yes, this manager (a female) called the police on Dawn because she refused to "finish breastfeeding" in the bathroom. The police officer who came did not fill out an incident report... because Dawn was NOT breaking the law.

The following Monday, Dawn called Applebee's main office... low and behold... they told her they were expecting her call, as the manager had already reported the "incident." She was told someone would be in contact with her soon.... but after 24 hours of no call and the media picking this story up, Dawn hired an attorney to help her. Dawn's husband is currently deployed, as he serves our country his wife is being belittled and harassed because she was breastfeeding their son. SHOCKINGLY after Dawn's attorney got involved, Applebee's began trying to reach out to Dawn. Now that Dawn has an attorney on her side, ALL communication has to go through her attorney.

Dawn has taken her story to The Katie Show and it was aired earlier this week. Below is her interview sharing her story:

There is now a HUGE debate (AGAIN) about breastfeeding in public. ONCE AGAIN breastfeeding mothers have to defend our right to choose. ONCE AGAIN the question "Is it right to breastfeed in public?" is showing up EVERYWHERE! 

No Mummie wants to be in the spotlight. (Not like this.) No Mummie wants to go to battle against the "opposing side." All a Mummie wants to do is be the best Mummie she can be and be left alone. Seriously.... would you allow your children to eat Cheerios in a public bathroom? Would you bring your lunch into the bathroom stall, sit upon the white throne and start chowing down on your double cheeseburger and fries?! How about cutting your steak and potatoes while sitting on the toilet, while in the stall next to you some one "lets go" of their breakfast. GROSS? Well it should be! A bathroom is no place to eat... no matter what you are eating.

Dawn has now teamed up with a group of breastfeeding supportive Mummies (me included!) to spread the word about what has happened to her and to explain how this NEEDS TO CHANGE, YET again. A mother's right to choose is gaining strength and a Nation-wide Nurse-in at Applebee's locations, all across the United States, is forming. On September 29 at 1 pm (your local time) Mummies are gathering at local Applebee's, as a show of support.  

I am helping Dawn and many others to get this wrong corrected. A Mother's Right to Choose goes much deeper than breastfeeding. Being told to leave, simply for feeding your child, does not only affect the breastfeeding community. Where will this judgment and harassment end? Will mothers be harassed for rocking their babies to sleep while in public? After all a bed is for sleeping, right? How about being harassed for allowing their children to play in a store? Parks are for playing, after all. When will this judgement end? How far will it go? This Nurse-in is not only for breastfeeding families.... but for ALL families who are tired of being harassed and judged by others. 

I am happy to say that Applebee's has come forth with an apology. I may be in the minority here.... But their apology is a step in the right direction and I am so happy that they have done this. Here is what Julia, Chairman and CEO of DineEquity has said:

I am truly sorry that we haven’t connected. As soon as I learned about your experience, I wanted to reach out directly – not just as the CEO of our restaurants, but as a mom that nursed my own kids. I have my share of unfortunate memories from nursing in public and understand how you feel. I want to apologize personally for what happened. I also want to assure you the regrettable situation you encountered as our guest is unacceptable and completely contrary to how nursing moms are accommodated at thousands of Applebee’s on virtually any given day. We checked with your lawyer last week and she okayed my calling you. I tried you a couple of times and left messages with my number, so please feel free to call. While I know it doesn’t change what you encountered, I also wanted to let you know that the franchisee of the restaurant you visited took action to correct the manager’s mistake and she now knows better. We also took the opportunity to use this incident as a teachable moment and notified all Applebee’s restaurants about the proper policies and procedures for welcoming nursing moms to our restaurants – just to be doubly sure. While of course I can’t take back what happened, I can make sure we work even harder than usual to try and avoid anyone else having the same problem at any of our restaurants. Again, as a mom and the CEO, you have my promise that we and our franchisees will be even more vigilant on this issue.
Julia Stewart, Chairman & CEO, DineEquity, Inc."

Now, is an apology enough? Some say no and some say yes. I can not believe that a company (these days) trains their employees and says that breastfeeding is wrong and should be done in private. I just can NOT allow my heart to believe that. I HAVE to believe that every company trains their employees to be respectful, caring and non-judgmental to ALL who walk in their doors. More so NOW.  How many times has this happened? How many times have Mummies banded together to educate these companies (or an employee?) 

Do I believe Julia's statement? Do I feel she is being honest and speaking from the heart? I sure do. Can I blame the company as a whole for what one employee has done? No. You can not cut down the whole tree because one apple is rotten (did you catch the "apple" pun?) However.... I DO believe that people need to be aware of what they are saying, how they are acting, and the laws behind what they are accusing some one of. People NEED to understand that asking ANYONE to leave and finish feeding or eating in a bathroom is WRONG. Morally, ethically, socially, and any other "LLY" words you can think of. However, the only way to get this point across is to involve the WHOLE company. This is the ONLY way we will be able to get these issues to end. Is a nation wide nurse-in going to help? I truly do not know. My hope is that this Nurse-in shows the Applebee's company that they need to reiterate, to ALL employees, 

Goodness gracious... we live in America! The UNITED States of America. Where is our UNITED front? When did it become okay to humiliate a person, to bully them and then call the police when they have done NOTHING wrong?

I got your back Dawn. I got every one's back. No Mummie should be humiliated. Mummie-hood is hard enough. Why do others feel the need to say something and make it even harder? You don't like it... wait ten minutes... it will be all over. And hey, you know what.... if you wait nothing will come of it. Everyone will be happy, I never would have to make this post, I would never have to create the flyers, no Nurse-in would be created. No CEO would have to apologize, the media would move on to other issues and you would never be in the news.

But sadly.... here we are. 

Where will you be on September 29 at 1pm?


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