The nursing mom was recently asked to not attend Women’s Institute meetings while breastfeeding her child. The group is one of the U.K.’s largest philanthropic organizations, formed during the first world war as a means of assisting in regions suffering during the war. While pregnant, Bentley attended one of the preliminary meetings of the organization where she lives in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. After giving birth to her child, she received an email from the chairman of the chapter, explaining that she would not be able to bring her baby along to the meetings.
Bentley is a breastfeeding mother and planned to bring her baby with her so she would be able to feed her during the meetings. When the group learned of her intentions, it took a private vote, and the majority decided it would be best that she didn’t attend the group at this time.
Outrageous, right? Well, here is where things get a little murky. This chapter of the Women’s Institute has a strict no-child rule for its meetings. Its representative insisted that Bentley was not asked to leave because she is a breastfeeding mom, but because she wasn’t able to comply with the no-kids rule.
While the motivation for asking Bentley to leave the group seems a little unclear, this incident does raise an interesting question: Should no-kids rules exist?
And when they do, should they be no-exceptions rules, or should breastfeeding moms get a pass so they can feed their children?
We feel for this mom. Any mom who has breastfed an infant understands that “slipping away” for a few hours is basically impossible. This is especially true during the first few months of life, when babies eat more frequently. Breastfeeding moms should be able to feed their kids wherever they want without criticism or being asked to leave. Nursing, in public or otherwise, is a mother's right, and 49 states have laws in place protecting moms from discrimination for breastfeeding in public.
At the same time, there are groups that exist for mothers to attend with their children, but the Women’s Institute is not one of them. Children can be disruptive sometimes, and in this case it seems the Women’s Institute was merely trying to maintain order in its meetings. It is frustrating trying to find the balance of making mothers feel included without creating a disruption that would have made it difficult to properly conduct the meetings.
Whether you are in the camp that believes the no-kids rule should be followed without exception or you believe this mother should have been allowed to bring her breastfeeding child along, I think we can all agree that this whole incident was handled poorly. Conducting a secret poll behind Bentley's back seems unnecessary and very exclusive, and we are glad to see that the Sutton Belles chapter of the Women's Institute has since issued a formal apology.
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