Danger of Assumptions

A tip of the hat to breastfeeding mothers for openly proclaiming their right to feed their infant children wherever they may be when  meal time has arrived.

A rebuke to the group of young mothers who, babies at the ready, partially occupied a Victoria pizza restaurant last Friday in a public protest based on on-line postings by one claiming to have been asked to leave a restaurant as she attempted to breast feed her five month old son.

Sounds like a contradiction? It isn’t. In Canada we hold dear the right to protest when we feel injustice is being done. We also claim to hold dear the need for proof of wrongdoing before we rise en masse to demand justice. Responding to a social media “flash feed protest” was not wise or acceptable..

Knee jerk reaction to single person accusation rarely is, and when such charges are immediately countered by firm denial from the accused, the call for caution before shouting “guilty” is clear.

In last Friday’s incident a pizza restaurant spokesman claimed the complaining mother and the group she was with were asked to leave because they occupying table space but not ordering food or drink.

Just an excuse to cover up what would be an unlawful command to a nursing mother? Possibly, but assumed, not proven.

Many years ago acclaimed sociologist W.I.Thomas advanced the theory that “individuals make decisions in situations based on their interpretation of the situation, whether their interpretation is correct or not.” He cites examples of charges based on social assumptions or on the reactions of people “to the rhetoric of fear.”

Assumptions are always dangerous and never more so than when made on the fly by a store manager or over-reacting staff at the sight of a nursing mother – or made by a nursing mother loathe to admit she has precipitated a situation she could have easily avoided.

Law defending the rights of a nursing mother is quite clear. She has the right to breast feed her child in a public area and it is discriminatory to deny here that right, to demand that she “cover up” or go elsewhere to continue. Most nursing mothers know their rights but prefer to breast feed their babies in private. On occasions when public feeding can’t be avoided they prefer to be as unobtrusive as possible. A few, more militant about their rights, can be aggressive in their demands and display.

Wise mothers carry a card with their legal right to breastfeed in public places printed on one side, on the other the phone numbers of the BC Human Rights Commission and the BC Civil Liberties Association. It is usually enough to bring calm to a situation.

I write as a father of six sons all of them finding their first food where nature intended they should – and all of them at one time or another breastfed in public places before it was legal and without incident. Clearly established breastfeeding rights are great – but a little courtesy toward and from the nursing mother, and the rejection of assumption as just cause for militancy will always be better way than “the law.

One comment

  1. Simply provoking an incident then calling for a protest smacks of lynch-mob mentality against which I’m opposed.

    But as for your experience with your son’s feeding it is much better than mine. When my wife began feeding our son in a public place the manager banished us like God clearing Adam and Eve from the Garden. Of course 48 years ago there was no protection from such treatment.

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