POSTED ON MAY 25, 2011:
Nursing moms and coffee shops exchange angry words and toffee chip nipples
On one end of the ring, we have breastfeeding moms, a crew derisively called Nipple Nazis. Lactivists. Breasties.
On the other end of the ring we have, well, everyone else. And as of late, local coffee shop owners.
And playing the overzealous, massaging sideline manager is social media. Nowadays, entire governments are dismantled by protests and revolts organized through stealthy, well-organized social networking. In the past year, two separate uproars -- one peaceful, one not so much -- occurred in Tulsa after word of disapproval for public breastfeeding blustered through Facebook and Twitter feeds.
But can't moms make milk, not war? While Oklahoma law protects a woman's right to nurse her child in public, things can still get a little heated when someone pulls out a boob.
"We love babies. We love nipples."
Recently, the Coffee House on Cherry Street became the site of a peaceful nursing demonstration after a verbal confrontation between breastfeeding mothers and the coffee shop's owner, Cheri Asher. The actual words exchanged by the customer and Cheri remain vague.
Taylor Clenney, who's worked at CHOCS for four years, said he walked into a firestorm the day after the incident. The coffee shop's phone rang with angry moms, and the CHOCS Facebook page was "going crazy" with furious posts, Clenney said.
"Cheri came in and told me, 'These young mothers came in, and they were changing their babies on the big leather couch right in the middle of the coffee shop,'" he recalled.
When asked if the shop had a changing station in the bathroom, Clenney said, "We didn't have a changing station at that time, but you can't just change your baby right in the middle of a restaurant. People are eating. It's a sanitary issue."
An employee allegedly offered the young mamas a back room where they could change their infants away from diners. Coffee shop management also bought and installed a changing station the next day, Clenney confirmed.
But by then, a Facebook event page had been set up and local moms were spreading the word about a nurse-in on the Saturday morning following the episode.
"From the coffee shop perspective it was frustrating," Clenney said. "We go above and beyond. We try to please our people. We're all for breastfeeding. We love babies. We love nipples. I really do not know how that got turned into a breastfeeding issue," he said.
To show the love, Asher got the sweet idea to have a CHOCS' baker design a tasty treat. Gingerbread cookies in the shape of a baby-wearing mama with toffee chip nipples were passed out to the dozen or so women who gathered at the shop that bustling Saturday morning.
Rebekah Shields, mom to a 5-month-old girl, said she met one of the moms involved in the original episode at a prenatal yoga class. "We are friends on Facebook, and she wrote something about the initial event on her Facebook status that prompted the demonstration," she said.
The nurse-in ended up being more of a love-in. "It was totally peaceful," Shields said. "I ordered a drink, visited with moms. We were left alone to do our thing out in the open."
The root of the problem, by most accounts, was something much less desirable than exposed cleavage: poop. Asher managed to reassure her customers, though no one may have gotten so concerned without the rapid-fire messaging through Facebook. Shields pondered, "Maybe the Internet helped (the incident) get blown out of proportion?"
Eight Infamous Words
Rewind to last August, when DoubleShot Coffee Co. owner Brian Franklin took to Twitter with eight now-infamous words that read simply: "Notice: No breastfeeding at the DoubleShot. Thank you." The request quickly garnered the wrath of local moms as well as sympathizers around the globe.
Within the day, Franklin backtracked after many people pointed out the illegal nature of his request. First, he tried denial -- he deleted his first tweet. Next, he tried bargaining: "Settle down, folks. We just don't like walking across the room and seeing your breast. Maybe you could do it in private." But the Twitterverse would have none of it, so he backtracked even further: "Ok ok, breastfeeding allowed again at the DoubleShot. Hey! Breastfeeding all around. : )"
Then, like an awkward joke in a silent room, he sent out one last missive: "I was just kidding anyway. Didn't expect that blow up. Sorry to get you guys riled up."
By this point, the tweet had gone viral and Franklin couldn't unruffle the feathers of lactating moms everywhere (or of those who love them or used to be one of them). So, he defended his "just kidding anyway" views in an epistle sent to KOKI-TV Fox News 23.
"My capitalist ideals tell me that business owners should be able to make their own rules and individuals should then decide if they want to support that business or not. As it is, the overregulation of our government seems to step in and tell us everything that we can and can't do. I agree with the rights of people to boycott businesses they dislike, though in this case, people are mislead (sic)," Franklin wrote.
Capitalism vs. Lactivism?
Mother Knows Breast.
Here lies the crossroads between capitalism and lactivism, where "capitalist ideals" may raise the hackles of another's mothering instincts, where what's best for baby may offend sensitive eyes. Most of the time, however, nursing in public goes unnoticed or is positively reinforced. Tulsa mother of four Jessica David, who breastfeeds her 5-month-old son, Christian, said she's nursed all of her children and has received nothing but positive comments.
"Some people say, 'Just pump before you leave the house.' Well, that's hard to do, not everyone has a pump and if you're like me, for whatever reason, I can't pump with Christian. Only his natural sucking produces the milk," she explained. And besides, David said, "Breastfeeding on the go means the milk is always the right temperature."
Shields echoed the sentiment about the convenience and practicality of feeding baby on the go, though she said she feels more comfortable nursing with an apron-like cover. "I use this nursing cover everywhere we go, and pretty much feed her (daughter) in public anywhere I am," she said.
During a major life change like entering motherhood, convenience is no cheap commodity. So nurse on, mamas, nurse on.
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