Though it's 2019, many people are still strangely sensitive about breastfeeding in public. It seems especially counter productive to discourage moms from feeding hungry babies, whenever and wherever that baby might be hungry. It shouldn't be an issue anywhere, but especially if you are feeding your baby at a hospital. And that's why one woman's story is going viral. Recently, an Alabama mom was told she couldn't breastfeed in a hospital waiting room, according to local news outlet WAFF 48, and she's since spoken out about her experience.
Ariana Elder — a mother of two living in Athens, Alabama — reportedly took her 4-year-old son to the hospital around 11:30 on Sunday, March 17, because he wasn't feeling well, WAFF 48 reported. Once there, she and her husband brought their son and their 4-month-old baby Deklin to the Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children and settled into the waiting room for their turn to see the doctor, according to Health.
Elder told WAFF 48 in an interview that her baby boy started to get a little fussy, so she started to nurse him. Seems pretty normal, right? A mother at a hospital for women and children nursing her baby. Well, as Elder told WAFF 48, one security guard apparently didn't think so.
Elder explained to WAFF 48 that she was approached by a security guard while she fed her baby. "I started feeding my son and about 5 minutes later he comes up to me. He’s like, ‘Ma’am, you’re not breastfeeding are you?’ I was like, ‘Yeah!’ Because it was obvious I was breastfeeding," she told the news outlet.
The security guard reportedly told her that the hospital has had a policy in place for years that requires mothers to breastfeed in private, according to People. It's important to note that as of 2018, it is legal for mothers to breastfeed in public in all 50 states, as USA Today reported. There's also Alabama State Code 22-1-13, which states that mothers are allowed to breastfeed in any location, public or private, where the mother is authorized to be present.
Despite the fact that she believed she had a right to breastfeed her child where she was, Elder decided to follow the security guard to a private room to breastfeed; Elder admitted to WAFF that the situation left her in tears. In a statement to People, the hospital said they spoke with Elder and "apologized."
Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children told Romper in a statement that it "respects, recognizes and upholds breastfeeding rights."
"All employees are educated during orientation that a mother may breastfeed her child anywhere in the hospital she chooses — public or private," the statement continued. "We are now providing additional training on these rights to our entire security team, including contract officers from Security Engineers, Inc."
The statement also noted that it plans to "meet with mothers from the hospital’s breastfeeding support groups to develop a community awareness campaign highlighting a woman’s legal right to breastfeed in public."
CEO of Security Engineers, Inc., Mike Hefner, said in a statement to Romper that it "wholeheartedly supports the rights of mothers to breastfeed in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be present."
Hefner's statement continued, "We regret that our officer may have made a mistake in this instance. We are addressing this issue by incorporating additional training on these rights to all existing and future security officers we employ."
As for Elder, she told WAFF that she doesn't require any further action from the hospital. But she wants other mothers to be aware that they never should feel ashamed of breastfeeding.
"[It's] a natural thing for a woman to do; we're born with it," Elder told Inside Edition, adding her message to breastfeeding moms: "Speak out — even if they feel ashamed. Just speak out."
While Elder's experience was obviously upsetting, it's rather impressive that she's trying to create a dialogue. To remind mothers that breastfeeding is natural, and you should never be shamed in order to protect someone else's comfort level.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include statements issued to Romper from CEO of Security Engineers, Inc., Mike Hefner's statement as well as Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children.