Opinion

Breastfeeding in public: Tim Hortons tells woman to cover up

A Tweed, Ont., breastfeeding support group stages a nurse-in at local Tim Hortons after woman asked to cover up while feeding her child.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Tim Hortons is in hot water after it recently asked a nursing mom to cover-up.

Stacey Kennelly, a mom from North Bay, Ont., was travelling through the area of Tweed when she stopped at the local Timmy’s so she and her baby could fuel up. A female supervisor approached her and asked her to cover up. However, Kennelly was aware of her rights and told the employee she could breastfeed in public according to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Read more: 10 tips for breastfeeding in public>

The manager was eventually brought into the discussion and told Kennelly that it was head office policy for nursing women to be covered up. A spokesperson for Tim Hortons released a statement claiming that it was an isolated incident and nursing moms are welcome in their restaurants.

However, the incident prompted a local breastfeeding support group to organize a nurse-in the next day at the Tim Hortons location in Tweed.

Kennelly is also going forward with a Human Rights complaint. She says:

“I will not be dealing directly with Tim Hortons as this isn’t an issue with a service they did or did not provide, but a blatant violation of human rights. I’m sure there will be denial on the manager’s part, and allegations that I acted irrationally. I assure you I did nothing of the sort. I did not raise my voice, resort to belittling or name-calling or anything of the sort. I informed the employee, and then the manager that they were incorrect in their assumptions that I was required to cover up. I brought up the human right’s website that outlines my rights as a nursing mother. The manager refused to look at it and kept insisting ‘it’s not a problem’ that he is just following head-office policy.”

Breastfeeding in public is covered in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Ontario Human Rights Commission goes even further, saying:

“No one should prevent you from breastfeeding your child simply because you are in a public area. They should not ask you to cover up, disturb you or ask you to move to another area that is more discreet. It is a human rights violation in this province to ask someone to move, stop or cover up while breastfeeding.”

The point of a nurse-in is to generate publicity for public breastfeeding and to educate people that nursing moms have rights. It may seem like a lot of hullabaloo over one person, but the issue is bigger than one mom. Breastfeeding in public is an obstacle for so many women, and it doesn’t have to be. Mothers don’t need to cover up, they don’t need to hide under Hootie Hiders (unless they want to), and they don’t need to nurse on the toilets, or while hiding in their homes.

Yes, breastfeeding makes people uncomfortable. So what? Then they should look at something else. The onus does not have to be on the nursing mom to be discreet, the onus is on the people to treat her and her baby like the hungry humans that they are.

Read more: Mother’s Instagram deactivated after breastfeeding photo>

What does “covered up” mean, anyway? I bet I’ve seen a lot more inappropriate things at a Tim Hortons than a mom breastfeeding her baby. I see more inappropriate things in poster ads on the subway. Breasts are biologically constructed for feeding, the fact that they have been sexualized is not a nursing mom’s, or a hungry baby’s, problem.

I personally applaud Kennelly for multi-tasking, for standing in line and nursing her child—that woman should be given a double-double for doing it all.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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