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IHOP makes a huge mistake with a breastfeeding mom

Rebecca Bahret is a freelance writer and proud Facebook junkie. After eleven years in law enforcement doing everything from evidence collection to undercover narcotics, she is content in her latest (and favorite) assignment: Mommy. She i...

Breastfeeding mom says IHOP manager put a dishrag over her baby's head

Sami Copeland claims an employee at a Chesapeake, Virginia, IHOP placed a dish towel over her 3-month-old son's head, trying to force her to cover up her breastfeeding. An IHOP spokesperson called the action a "mistake," and initially the chain apologized but has since retracted that apology. It's one thing to ask a mom to stop, another to make them leave, but to physically place an object on the head of a child that isn't yours? In my state, that's assault — which is what you might get in return if you did that to my child.

Copeland and her husband were eating at IHOP, when she needed to feed her son. The area she was in was empty except for one other couple (not that it matters), and she remained partially covered as her baby was eating (not that it matters either). Copeland says she was shocked when an employee came over and placed a dish towel over her son's head to cover him. She and her husband left immediately, as Copeland was "mortified."

Aside from the fact that the unwanted touching of a person is assault, so much else is wrong with what the IHOP employee did. The employee placed an object on a child's head, near its nose and mouth. How clean was the towel? What was the towel washed in? Could it have touched something the child was allergic to, causing a reaction?

What if the employee had misjudged their hand placement and accidentally touched the mother's breast? It was right there, in the child's mouth, perfectly within reach. What if the husband, concerned for a stranger in his wife's personal space, became physical with the employee upon approach? Or let's think about Copeland herself, with a child still in the newborn phase, hormones still possibly swirling as her body adjusts to postpartum life. What if she'd just hauled off and hit the employee for touching her child, feeling as though she was protecting her babe?

It is sheer craziness to me that we are even still discussing this. All but two states (side eyes at you, West Virginia and Idaho) have laws in place protecting a mother's right to feed her child when necessary. Which, if you think about it, is silly in itself that we must have laws allowing a baby to eat. If a woman showed up at IHOP in a bathing suit top, I doubt that same employee would have felt the need to cover that woman up. This wasn't about exposed breasts; it was about breastfeeding.

Copeland spoke with the restaurant owner, who initially apologized. Later she says she received a call from an IHOP manager, claiming the employee's version of the incident was different, and they retracted their apology. Copeland feels as though they were calling her a liar and is annoyed IHOP spokespeople continue to say she was apologized to. IHOP needs to do far more than apologize, though — it needs to show it understands how wrong that employee's actions were, and it needs to make a public showing of support for women who wish to feed their babe whenever, wherever.

Local moms have scheduled a nurse-in at the offending IHOP for Oct. 15, 2014, at noon. Hopefully this peaceful protest will open IHOP's eyes to the normalcy of breastfeeding, and a legitimate apology will be issued in response.

More on breastfeeding controversy

Minnesota mom: 'TSA harassed me for carrying breast milk'
Breastfeeding mom kicked off a Delta flight
Utah school asks breastfeeding mom to cover up

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