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Breastfeeding mom forced to shut down her farmers market booth

Tanessa Holt opened her farmers market booth last fall. She sells homemade soup mixes and other gourmet dry goods. Yesterday, she was forced to close her business after a food safety inspector said she can’t breastfeed her 7-month-old son and handle food, even if she washes her hands afterwards.

In a Facebook post explaining that she was being forced to close down her booth, Holt shared the inspector’s concerns. “I would not allow you to breast feed and then serve customers throughout the day,” the inspector wrote. “The food safety concern is contamination of food through possible throw up and or feces coming from the baby.” Holt was told that she could breastfeed in her booth as long as someone else handled all food from that point forward. This is impossible for Holt, who runs the business herself. It’s also completely ludicrous to insist that breastfeeding a child causes a health concern.

Holt, who has been food-safety certified, insists that any kind of contamination isn’t an issue. Nova Scotia Food Safety Regulations don’t mention breastfeeding as a concern, but Holt still takes enormous precautions as anyone handling food would. She covers her clothes with a receiving blanket while she nurses. She washes her hands frequently at a nearby washing station. She even wears gloves when handling food in her booth.

We’ve learned to live with the fact that people handling our food have likely recently pooped. Why is breastfeeding and then selling dry goods suddenly gross?

The fact that Holt was singled out is nothing short of breastfeeding discrimination. Other small business owners handling food can use the bathroom freely, and are trusted to wash their hands appropriately. Holt says she’s noticed other booth owners handling money and then handling food without gloves. Nursing a baby isn’t the equivalent of rubbing feces or vomit all over the place. It’s a sanitary act that Holt is clearly comfortable with.

Halifax farmer's market

Image: Andos Pics/Flickr

She has every right to have her baby with her in her booth, and shouldn’t have to explain to anyone that her son doesn’t take bottles. She shouldn’t be expected to hire an assistant just to scoop granola for her because feeding her child supposedly tainted her hands and clothing.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture has apologized to Holt. The inspector is being contacted to get further details on why he prohibited Holt from selling food at her booth after nursing her baby.

Holt is an entrepreneur and essentially her own boss, but she’s still facing breastfeeding discrimination. This is yet another example of why moms have to stand up for their right to breastfeed in public. Too many individuals still believe that nursing is unsanitary and something that should only be done in private, and until that’s not the case, we have to speak up every time nursing moms’ rights to nurse in public are infringed upon.

More on breastfeeding in public

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Why more and more moms respond publicly to breastfeeding shaming
Breastfeeding mom banned from elementary school

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