“I REALLY DO THINK WE HAD A POSITIVE OUTCOME FROM THIS NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE”
VERNON - What began as a negative experience for a Vernon mother quickly became an opportunity to spread a positive messages about breastfeeding, says the organizer of a feed-in at the Village Green Centre.
A few days after Megan Deuling was shamed for breastfeeding her four-month-old son at the food court, roughly 50 mothers, husbands, and other supporters took to the mall to stand up for a woman’s right to breastfeed any time, any place. Organizer Amanda Kopiak says some two dozen breastfeeding moms took part in a nurse-in at the food court.
“I think some of the passersby thought what we were doing was extreme for the situation, but sometimes you have to take action to make a change in the world,” Kopiak says.
Kopiak founded the Vernon Breastfeeding Cafe, a group that promotes and supports breast-feeding, a year-and-a-half ago and believes the more mothers seen breast-feeding in public, the better.
“The more people that see it, the more normal it becomes,” Kopiak says. “Some moms have said they’re too shy to nurse in public. I hope from being around all these other moms that were embracing it, maybe they gained courage to do it as well.”
In addition, she hopes the event resonated with the general public too.
“Young girls and young boys walking by and seeing this, maybe it sparks in them, for the girls wanting to be breastfeeding moms when they grow up and the boys might grow up to be supportive men to their breastfeeding wives too,” she says.
B.C. human rights laws state mothers have the right to breastfeed in public places such as parks, restaurants and malls. The security guard who told Deuling breastfeeding in the food court was inappropriate has been temporarily relieved of his duties until he receives sensitivity training, and the company issued a formal apology for his comments.
“I don’t think he knew how to handle the situation,” Kopiak says of the employee, who has reportedly asked to speak with Deuling by another mall patron. “I know for myself at any job I’ve had, breastfeeding has never been brought up when talking about policies. What I tried to have everyone focus on (at the feed-in) is we’re not here to reprimand the security guard or the mall, it’s about society in general.”
Deuling’s experience at the mall is not representative of all women’s experiences in the Vernon community, Kopiak says, but adds there’s definitely work to be done raising awareness about breastfeeding in public. She’s hoping for a win on the breastfeeding front in West Kelowna, where council is considering endorsing a Baby Friendly Initiative it originally turned down. While the breastfeeding in public debate may have made the news in West Kelowna and Vernon for less than ideal reasons lately, Kopiak says it’s helped raise awareness in the community.
“I really do think we had a positive outcome from this negative experience,” she says.
For more information, or to get involved with the Vernon Breastfeeding Cafe, click here.
For more photos of the event, visit Selina Jean Photography.
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