Lest you think last night’s lightening show was the SoHum story of the day, the scandal of the year erupted this morning on the Women on Wednesday on KMUD. I was on my way to depositions in Eureka when a young mother named Lisa Miller called in to complain about her treatment by a waiter at the Benbow Inn yesterday. Apparently, she was in the dining room when her child required a shot of breast milk. When she bared her mammary gland, the waiter apparently approached her and asked her to move the feeding process into the lobby. Ms. Miller objected and she was threatened with ejection.

So she contacted Le Leche League who informed her that it is against the law to interfere with human breastmilk consumption by offspring in a public place. The law reads as follows:

Cal. Civ. Code §43.3, >1997 Cal ALS 59; 1997 Cal AB 157; Stats 1997 ch 59.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and child are authorized to be present.

Ergo, according to Ms. Miller, on both the morning show and later on the KMUD news, “my civil rights were violated.” When she returned to the Inn this morning with a copy of the law, she was apparently not well received, at least not to her liking.

“This is big,” the hostess of the show added, and apparently the Inn received a slew of telephone calls from listeners.

Big? You can tell we live in a slow town down here. Usually.

Teresa Porter, co-owner of the Inn, has a different story to tell. She insists that the Benbow Inn is “pro-breast feeding,” and “not lactose intolerant.” She says that Ms. Miller was not merely breastfeeding in a discreet manner, but doing it in an “open” manner that made some of the other guests feel uncomfortable. I am not clear from the KMUD interview whether the option was discussed at the time, but question arose as to whether Ms. Miller would have been willing to cover her breast with a napkin during the feeding. Ms. Porter said that other customers had breastfed their children discreetly without incident. She complained about the manner in which Ms. Miller and the Wednesday women handled the matter. Ms. Miller responded, “they brought it on themselves.”

I wasn’t there. I can’t take sides. Were the other customers uncomfortable, or was it the waiter’s problem? And if the other customers were uncomfortable, is it her problem or theirs? Is Ms. Miller a cultural elitist insensitive to the feelings of guests from less sexually open cultural milieus, or was she really just trying to feed her child without hassle? Perhaps there are independent witnesses out there who can bare all for our benefit.

I can tell you that there was one moment in the interview that I felt uncomfortable about Ms. Miller’s response. When asked whether she could have been more discreet in her presentation while feeding, she responded, “I am going to feed my child when he needs to be fed.” My problem is that it isn’t an answer to the question. It seems a dodge. I didn’t hear anything from her about the feelings of the people around her. She discussed only her wants and needs as if they were the only consideration. Now, it was a quick interview, and I know from experience that it’s not always easy to communicate everything you want in a short time when you’re kind of on the spot. But personally, I’d like to hear Ms. Miller’s candid thoughts about the feelings of the other guests and to what degree she believes that they figure into her equation – separate from the issue of law and rights.

In the meantime, here’s an interesting article about the impact of terrorism on breastfeeding. Off topic I suppose, but it’s too interesting a read to pass up.

Update: Apparently there is going to be a “nurse-in” at the Inn sometime on Friday. Advice to the Porters – warn the guests and try to have a sense-of-humor about it.

Second update: Heard the story again this morning, and this time in its entirety. Want to clear up a few errors on my part. For one thing, the mother’s name is Elisa, not Lisa. I have no idea if I’m spelling it right. Secondly, her child is female.

And in the KMUD interview, Ms. Miller stated that she was told to leave the room to “do that,” and not offered the option of “covering up.” On the other hand, Teresa Porter stated that when she spoke to Ms. Miller that she had the feeling that Ms. Miller would not have agreed to cover up. Too much amibiguity there. Ms. Porter also said that she did not believe that Ms. Miller was interested in receiving an apology.

The fact that a manager was involved rather than a waiter suggests that there probably were customer complaints for what that’s worth. And as one commenter here said, the fact that the manager addressed the husband directly rather than the mother suggests that the guy may have had an issue of his own of some sort.

One thing clear to me however is that the Wednesday Women jumped the gun a bit – shooting before getting any facts. They heard one side and only one side.

The breast wars continue….

Note, the story has revealed to me yet another local blog.

Photo source