This past week was International Breastfeeding Week. You might wonder why on earth there needs to be a world breastfeeding week in 2014. Well, to put it simply, for more or less the same reasons that we still need gay pride parades. Human rights, that should be unquestionable, are violated every day. I am equally sensitive when it comes to gay rights and children’s rights, as some of the people that I love the most on this planet belong to those two categories. And while we found it a bit risky to join the Amsterdam pride or the protests against the deaths of thousands of children in Gaza with a 2-month old Loulou, it was safe enough to join a pro-breastfeeding event.
Here is a summary of what happened: on the 7th of August a mom, Janaina, had a date with a friend at the Mauritshuis bistrot. She needed to breastfeed her daughter and asked a waiter to make sure it was fine. While the waiter told her it probably is, he asked the manager, who said that the bistrot had a policy that did not allow breastfeeding, but that she could go breastfeed at another floor of the museum, that was empty. Janaina cancelled her order and left, but -fortunately!- got really angry. She posted the following message to a facebook mama group, creating a facebook nurse-in event:
Today I was denied the right to breastfeed my 3 months baby at the Mauritshuis Café! This in UNBELIEVABLE and UNACCEPTABLE! Please, lets go there and feed our babies so the will have to change their breastfeeding policy!!!
Soon enough lots of moms joined the discussion. The event was shared on many mama groups across the Netherlands and the museum watched their facebook reviews becoming worse and worse. The 4,5 stars went down to 4 in just a few hours and lots of angry moms and their partners left posts on the facebook page of the museum, making it clear that is absolutely not OK to deprive a child of the right to eat whenever and wherever they are hungry.
The reaction of the museum director was really fast though. Janaina posted:
GREAT NEWS mothers!!!!! I just spoke with the museum’s director and she was great!!
1) She apologized
2) She thanked me for bring up this important issue that kept them thinking a lot throughout the night
3) and said they reconsidered the facts and WILL CHANGE THEIR POLICY regarding breastfeeding!
4) She kindly asked me to help to turn all this turmoil into a positive outcome!
1) I told her we would come over saturday at noon to celebrate the International Breastfeeding Week and enjoy a café! She said that would be great and that she will make sure their Deputy Director will be there to shake hands with me/us!
2) And that AFTER they issue a public statement about what happened and their change in their policy we would REVERT our reviews so they might get some stars back!
Now I would like to ask you the following:
1) Once they have issued their statement, please spread the word to all the Mother’s group where you initially posted what has happened yesterday (Amsterdam, Deflt, Rotterdam)
2) Please, if you feel like, edit your previous review or write another one on their FB page!
THANK YOU ALLL! WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT THIS WOULDNT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE!!!
We decided to still go to the museum cafe and celebrate the change of policy. So we did and we were greeted by the deputy director, who was really friendly, took the time to explain the misunderstanding and mix-up, regarding breastfeeding policies and in the end, here is the outcome, in the words of Janaina:
A BIG THANK YOU to all mothers who came to Mauritshuis today! We had a great time together, getting to know each other and nursing our babies! The Deputy Director was there with us, enjoying a cappuccino and explaining all the changes our protest brought to the museum. Besides officially allowing breastfeeding everywhere in the museum, they add a breastfeeding tea to their permanent tea collection and ordered baby seats for the Brasserie (which will be available next week!) He said that the company in charge of the Brasserie also changed their breatfeeding policy all over the country!!! Isn’t that more than we could ask for??? To all of you who supported this cause, MY GRATITUDE! Love, Janaina
I want to thank Janaina for not being quiet about the discrimination that took place against her and her child. I want to thank her for being the voice of many breastfeeding women. Breastfeeding is HARD, people. And especially the first month, it comes with many challenges. Feeling comfortable to breastfeed anywhere can make all the difference for a new mom. New moms worry about their milk quantity, if their baby latches on correctly, if she/he gets enough milk, if they are doing it right, if the pain will go away, if that burning sensation is mastitis or a blocked duct, if they will manage to breastfeed for as long as they want… Why should they also worry if they are welcome to breastfeed in public? This can lead new moms to quit breastfeeding and this is such a shame, because, really, a mother’s milk is the best food for a growing infant. I don’t want this post to turn into a milk vs formula debate. Some times kids have to drink formula. And they turn out just fine. And that is absolutely ok. What is not ok is shaming a mother into using formula, because the sight of her breasts is considered offensive.
I was blessed with ignorance regarding the attitude towards breastfeeding in the Netherlands. I joined mama groups, while I was still pregnant, therefore I would always see a boob or two nourishing a sweet little baby. It seems normal and natural and I enjoyed the calmness and confidence in the expression of those breastfeeding mamas. So when Loulou was born, I just started feeding her wherever she was hungry, including trams, trains, the grocery store and so on. I never got any strange looks or comments, but later on I realized that it was not as common as I thought it would be. Well, it’s high time it becomes common.
And it is also high time we start fighting our own fights and not expect others to do it for us. This is why N. and me took Loulou and went to Den Haag to support Janaina. Because this is our fight too. And if there is only one thing that I want to teach my daughter, that is that making the world a better place requires getting out of our comfort zone.
And it’s totally worth it.
P.S.: Thank you Sophie for the pictures that accompany this post. Sophie is a Doula and birth photographer, who donated her time and talent to capture the nurse-in today. You can find her here.
*You can check out all the “Family and Parenting” posts here*
Fab post! It’s great that they changed their policy however I’m still completely baffled as to why the museum or anywhere else requires a breastfeeding policy. Do they also have policies on bottle feeding, be it breastmilk or otherwise?
Wondeful photos too 🙂