Even in 2017, there are still so many people who feel uncomfortable when they see a mother breastfeeding her child in public. Whether it be a park bench or in a shopping mall, moms all over the nation are continuously being told to put it away and take their little one’s feeding time elsewhere. Which is exactly what happened when one mom was told to stop breastfeeding in public, having to deal with a mall security guard who reportedly said she needed to move to a designated nursing room instead.
This incident happened earlier this month when Ashley Cooper was breastfeeding her 8-month-old daughter at a mall in Virginia. The mom of three shared her reaction to the frustrating ordeal in a Facebook Live video, which has now been watched more than 124,000 times.
“I am at Short Pump mall, taking my kids to see the Easter Bunny, and my baby was screaming because she’s hungry, so I’m on a bench trying to feed her quite discreetly,” Cooper said in the video as she continues to feed her daughter, moving the camera to show that she is fully covered while doing so.
“Security has just informed me I have to go into a nursing room, of which they have one, and it is currently occupied,” she continued. “I informed them that in the state of Virginia breastfeeding mothers can nurse anywhere that they are legally allowed to be.”
And not that she needs the law on her side, but she totally does — Virginia mothers have a legal right to breastfeed in public, wherever and whenever they choose, according to The Huffington Post.
Another woman who witnessed the confrontation with the security guard later approaches Cooper in the video and asked her if they in fact told her to stop breastfeeding, adding that she thought it was a ridiculous request considering the fact that she was not revealing any part of her body.
"I’m not going anywhere," she said to the other mall patron. "I have a 3-year-old inside with my husband, waiting to see the Easter Bunny. I’m out here trying to feed my 8-month-old. I’m a veteran mom. I’ve been nursing kids for three-and-a-half years. I chose a discreet corner on a bench."
"Now there’s two security guards up here, and I’m just going to keep feeding my baby," she said just before she stopped recording.
Cooper wrote on Facebook that she continued to feed her baby after she turned off the video and eventually went back inside the mall where she and her family took their photo with the Easter Bunny. Afterwards, she said that they went to speak with mall management about the incident.
"The women behind the counter were very apologetic and kind," she wrote in an update on the Facebook video. "They offered apologies and train tickets for my family to take a ride (my 3-year-old loves the train). I hold no grudge toward the mall and will continue to shop and nurse there. I hold no ill-will toward the security guard — she thought she was doing her job." Cooper continued:
I am frustrated that [the security guard] thought nursing women aren't allowed to feed their babies in public. I am frustrated with the lack of training and education regarding nursing mothers rights.
Cooper also wrote that Short Pump Town Center has since apologized for the incident and "has pledged that they are going to incorporate the laws regarding rights of breastfeeding mothers to their security training."
According to 8News, Pam Howland, Director of Marketing for Short Pump Town Center, also issued a statement regarding the incident:
We are very sorry for Ms. Cooper’s experience at our center. As soon as mall management was aware of the situation, the security officer was advised of the inappropriate way it was handled and all associates will receive additional training to ensure this behavior is not repeated.
Over the last week, Cooper's story has gone viral and her video has drawn in hundreds of supportive messages from fellow moms who were also enraged over her experience at the mall. "This is absolutely absurd," one Facebook comment read. "Short Pump Town Center, you need to educate yourself, and your staff. No mom should be treated that way."
"[It’s] not any sort of protest," she concluded her Facebook post, "just a gathering of women to support moms feeding their babies." And while she's certainly accomplished that, she's also raised some much-needed public awareness about the rights nursing mothers are entitled to — despite any backlash or stigma they may experience.