• Mon, Mar 18 2013

Public Breastfeeding On A Military Base? Apparently Not Appropriate With All Those Horny Men Around

breastfeeding in publicTamara Algots was not trying to make a huge controversy out of public breastfeeding. She wasn’t looking to be an activist. She just wanted to do her grocery shopping in peace at the Schofield Barracks commissary in Hawaii. Algots lives on the base with her husband, an information technology specialist with the 25th Infantry Division’s command group, and her two children. She was walking through the grocery store with her 2-year-old in tow, nursing her 4-month-old in a baby carrier, when the manager asked her to stop nursing or leave the premises.

Algots left her groceries and fled into the parking lot. “I couldn’t believe it,” she told Army Times. “I’ve nursed him in public hundreds of times — including at the commissary — and I’ve never, ever had anyone approach me about it.”

Last year, there was a huge controversy over women nursing in military uniform. The proud servicewomen who wanted to make a statement about their strength and motherhood all at once were actually disciplined for using their uniform to promote a personal cause. Whatever your thoughts on that incident, Algots situation is nothing like it. She was not wearing a uniform because she’s not a servicewoman. She was walking through a grocery store with her kids.

After the incident, Algots decided to check her rights during a Garrison ‘Town Hall’ on Facebook. She told her story and reiterated the right guaranteed to all women to be able to nurse their children in public. Garrison commanders have the option of enforcing more strict laws on the base, but no such policy was in place when Algots was asked to leave the grocery store.

Unsurprisingly, the question created quite a debate within the base community about nursing in public. Plenty of people weighed in to tell this mother what she should do if she wants to breastfeed her son. The commissary does have a “nursing room,” that Algots says is a hot, windowless closet where it would be difficult to occupy her toddler. Others wanted to know why the mom couldn’t “cover up,” but Algots explained that her fickle premie son doesn’t like it and that she’s still concerned with helping him gain as much weight as possible, which means nursing on demand in whatever fashion works best for him.

While plenty on Facebook supported Algots, there were also some disturbing comments that underscore just why public breastfeeding is still so controversial. One woman wrote, “I do not believe women should walk around a commissary filled with young men fresh out of basic training and living in the barracks, young boys who are just hitting puberty, etc., nursing her child without a cover.” (Let’s just get this out of the way, boys are not just hitting puberty at 18 and 19. Where were you in high school?)

The Army Times notes that the majority of the objections and the harshest criticism seemed to come from other females, which is simply depressing. The fact that we would condemn and judge a mother simply trying to nurse her child and buy some groceries is unbelievable. It shouldn’t matter is a woman is on an Army base, at your local Wal-Mart, or in the middle of an all boys prep school, breastfeeding is not a sexual act and should not be condemned or judged as such. It’s a mother feeding her child. People of all ages and hormone levels need to get over it.

The Garrison commanders are now reviewing their lack of nursing in public policy. Hopefully, they’ll behave as adults and tell everyone to get over it. Hopefully, they’ll support this mother who is simply trying to raise her family and help her husband in his service to our country.

Tamara Algots doesn’t want to be an activist or start a controversy. She doesn’t want to hurt her husband’s career in the Army. That means that it is up to us, other mothers and internet friends, to stand up for her and defend the rights of every mom who just wants to breastfeed their babies in be left alone.

P.S. Thank you to our wonderful Twitter follower @Military_Mama_ for bringing this story to our attention. 

(Photo: Claudio Divizia/Shutterstock)

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  • Amanda

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m nursing my 6 month old, and what bothers me the most is the fact that people are equating feeding my sweet little girl as a sexual act. Frankly, that makes me feel violated. There’s nothing remotely sexual about feeding my kid, and she has every right to eat when and where she needs to. While I personally try to go find a quiet area to nurse or use a cover, I fully support anyone who wants to nurse in public.

  • Military Mama

    Someone actually reported the lady to the manager and the manager asked her to quit or leave. It’s crazy that someone would feel so upset by a woman feeding her child that they would actually go tattle instead of just keep walking. I will
    Never understand the hanging people have over breast feeding.

    • Harvey

      You can almost guarantee it was another middle aged woman who’s either husband or 12 year old son was staring and it pissed her off. Its not a hippie commune, its a military base where the culture is conservative/self respect/dignity. When I can eat a banana from between a woman’s breast in public then it won’t matter. I mean i have the right to eat in public just like the kid should have, and they’re just boobs right?

    • lea

      So not the same thing, and you know it.

    • Tea

      Yeah, you’re also a grown man who can control when you need to eat. And there’s a huge difference between nursing a kid and munching a simulated titf***. You’re grasping at straws dude.

      And for the record, I’m not a “lactivist”, mom, or even female, and I know it’s just a natural function, and one protected by most laws. I may not like watching it, but I also don’t like seeing how some people dress, hearing the English language get butchered, or hearing babies cry. But hey, there’s no law to protect the risk of being minorly offended or feeling awkward. God forbid someone feel awkward!

    • Makabit

      There’s nothing dignified about freaking out over a woman feeding a child. There’s also nothing dignified about pretending that breastfeeding is sexual.

  • Military Mama

    Sorry. The “hang up”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/iwill.findu.90 Iwill Findu

    Gonna sound bad, but maybe breastfeeding women should go and get little cards printed. That will outline the laws regarding breastfeeding in public (pretty much yes I freaking can breastfeed anywhere anytime with or without a cover, and even if a room is there I don’t have to use it, and this is a right that I have) And then when some ass wants that women to leave, she can just whip out the card and be like “bite me” and if you have a problem with this take it up with the law, and you don’t have to authority to trample my rights.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sean.phillips.9081 Sean Phillips

      that is a brilliant idea

    • Tea

      This kind of method works very well, actually. Disabled people have done it for years for things like service animal laws and ” I’m blind/deaf, and may need some extra assistance.” kind of cards. I carry a few for albinism education.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Misheal1Bell Misheal Greenwald

      Why should I as a deaf person carry around a card? Why can’t society NOT be such jerks about everything?

    • Tea

      Actually, it more or less started in the deaf community. Many people carry the cards and a pen, If you need assistance, you show someone the “I’m deaf” card, and then write down what you’re looking for on either the back of the card, or on a note pad.

      It’s also good for service animal laws, especially if you don’t look “disabled,” for things like seizure dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and even some mobility dogs.

      It would be awesome if people would stop being jerks, I get pestered about my white cane sometimes, but it can help streamline a confrontation, or help you get assistance.

  • Justme

    I would assume the stricter laws that might be enforced on military bases would be more centered around things that affect national security, not a hungry infant.

    • Makabit

      A lady feeding her baby affects national security how?

    • Justme

      Please reread my comment. I clearly stated that stricter laws would center around issues of national security…..NOT a hungry infant.

    • Makabit

      So it does. Sorry, I don’t know how I misread that.

  • AP

    Babies should not be fed near food storage! A commissary is a grocery store. If Baby drips breast milk, formula, spit up, half-chewed nasty crackers, etc., onto open food, it’s contaminating that food for other people. It’s just not respectful of others.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sean.phillips.9081 Sean Phillips

      there are no open containers of food in grocery stores. “spit up” is a risk regardless of feeding or not, and frankly is a risk regardless of age. I’ve cleaned up adult puke in grocery stores plenty of times, we don’t keep adults out to avoid that risk.

    • LaLa

      I don’t think you understand how boobs work. They aren’t fire hoses. What do you think she was doing? Spraying the produce section?

    • salemthegoddess

      I laughed entirely to hard at this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jen-Clark/100000568225513 Jen Clark

      So what? You’re saying that mothers with children shouldn’t be allowed in to grocery stores? What you’re basically saying is not to feed baby at all because formula or breast milk can drip, and not to bring children in, in case they spit up or drop something. you’re also basically saying bringing your children in stores is disrespectful. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to stay a recluse in my own home because you think my breast or my kid is contaminating your food. How ignorant, I’m more worried about people like you picking through the fruit isle than I am a mother and her children. You probably have nasty, germ ridden hands that you never wash and then go touching all the produce looking for that perfect one. Contaminator!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.phillips.9081 Sean Phillips

    people need to understand that a baby’s right to sustenance and the mother’s freedom to go about her business trump any imagined right to not see breasts (which in many places you don’t have anyway). I would say, do you have the right to eat an apple in public? how about drink water? then give the baby the same right.

    • Harvey

      When topless beaches are accepted everywhere without anyone making a stink it’ll be fair game. I have the right to lose my shirt on the beach, why shouldnt a woman have the same right? I don’t have the right to NOT see her breast if she wants to tan and exercise the right of other beach goers, correct?

  • case

    Sorry, I think she is in the wrong. She could have breastfeed her child in the car before she went into the store. Nudity is Nudity even feeding your kid, it takes 1 second to put a cover on. I think she did this to provok someone and it did. I am sorry not everyone wants to see your boobs

    • lea

      “I am sorry not everyone wants to see your boobs”

      Unless it is for advertising beer or something like that, in which case BOOOOBIES YAY!

      And you may think she is in the wrong because it offends your delicate sensibilities (OMG NUDITY), but she has a legal right to feed her child anywhere anytime anyhow.

      Sounds like she was fairly discrete anyway, a baby carrier would have shielded most of the baby and breast from view.

    • Harvey

      It would hide the baby but not her breast hanging over the kids face. A carrier is similar to a car seat, she’d have to be hanging them over the kid if she’s really telling the truth, which would make people uncomfortable. And if the nursing room isn’t good enough to amuse your toddler thats to bad. Get a baby sitter, there’s plenty of bored women on base who’d be more than happy to “help her husband in service to his country”, trust me. I also didn’t know pulling your boobs out in a grocery store supported the mission of the department of defense…

    • lea

      I’m not sure what kind of carrier you are picturing but the kinds I am familiar with would most definitely provide some shielding. I’ve never seen a baby carrier that resembles a car seat???

    • Edify

      You don’t really know what you are talking about, do you?

    • Justme

      There are several types of baby carriers – not just the car seat type you are thinking of. A mother can easily carry her child in a sling, a Baby Bjorn, or a wrap and still walk, breastfeed and grocery shop…without interfering with other customers.

    • http://twitter.com/Tobi_Is_Fab Nerdy Lucy

      You should probably try reading the article because everything you just said is factually incorrect.

    • Makabit

      I don’t think you quite know what a baby carrier is.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jen-Clark/100000568225513 Jen Clark

      It’s not similar to a car seat, she was talking about a sling, that goes around the mother and cradles the baby against your body. The breast wouldn’t be hanging down, the baby would be cradled against the breast with the babies face and most of the breast concealed. The only thing you’re really only able to see is the very top part, unless any part of the breast at all offends you, in which case, I feel bad for you son, with all them ladies and their damn cleavage hanging around. And it didn’t say that the “nursing room” wasnt good enough to entertain her toddler, it said it was a tiny, hot closet that didnt have enough space.

    • case

      I don’t want to see anyone’s boobs and even in a beer commerical because I don’t even drink.
      If there is a law that you cannot be nude, you cannot be nude.
      Equality is that, we want what every man wants but we want more because we have a extra set parts thats not really fair. Tit for Tat I always say.
      I breastfeed my daughter for a year and I never would be so bold and whip it out in public like that.
      I don’t know where us women went from modesty to nudity and all these mom wars. I don’t know how many people I have said I don’t want to see your boobs and I get flamed because I REALLY DONT want to see your boobs!

    • Makabit

      Breastfeeding doesn’t involve ‘nudity’. As for when ‘us women went from modesty to nudity’, I don’t know, but I do know that at some point we went from a time when great artists painted reverential pictures of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding her son to a time when giving a baby a breast is considered something you need to hide away from people.

      I don’t know why we got stupid, but it would be nice to reverse the process.

    • lea

      Relax, case, I wasn’t accusing you personally of being a beer swilling voyeur.
      I was making a joke and an observation about how bared or almost bared breasts are used in advertising (for example) all the time with nary an outcry, but that breastfeeding seems somehow so taboo.

      And to echo Makabit- breastfeeding is not nudity (but if it is for you, you’re doing it wrong). It isn’t like the mother was strolling around the shops topless.

      Also, do you seriously go up to people who are breastfeeding and tell them “i don’t want to see your boobs”? Seriously?

    • Psych Student

      Do you get equally distressed with red carpet looks and bathing suits?

    • Psych Student

      I’ve seen some pictures and there are enough that would lead me to believe that I can show more boob by wearing a low-cut shirt than many women do breastfeeding (even without a cover up). And I good and guarantee that a great many red carpet looks and swim suits show significantly more boob. Why are we so concerned when a woman’s breast is out for feeding and yet we aren’t when they are out for non-feeding purposes (I already know the answer, I just don’t like it).

    • http://twitter.com/Tobi_Is_Fab Nerdy Lucy

      When was she NUDE?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jen-Clark/100000568225513 Jen Clark

      “Others wanted to know why the mom couldn’t “cover up,” but Algots explained that her fickle premie son doesn’t like it and that she’s still concerned with helping him gain as much weight as possible, which means nursing on demand in whatever fashion works best for him.” i guess you either didn’t read that part, or don’t know what nursing on demand means. Maybe he wasn’t ready to eat while in the car and ended up being hungry while in the store. And no it’s not “nudity” they most likely couldnt even see her breast, since they would be mostly concealed by the infants face and the sling, they were simply up in arms about her breastfeeding in the store, covered or not. Many women from native american and african tribes breastfeed out in the open and no one thinks a thing of it, same with various other cultures.

  • Edify

    I’m not from the U.S. but I often wonder if changing away from the term nursing to breast feeding like in other countries would help promote the cause for you. Nursing has an implied meaning whereas straight breast feeding leaves no doubt about where the feed comes from. I wonder if it helps to de-sexualise breasts in this context.

    • Makabit

      We do call it breastfeeding here as well. I think that people who are determined for breasts to be sexual in all contexts are undeterred, no matter which term you use.

  • Tea

    It’s a baby, they need to eat. I admit, I prefer when people use a cover, but if the kid doesn’t like it, then well, that’s the way it is. It’s not like she took off her shirt and bra and started wandering around completely topless with the kid.

    Sheesh, since when did it become a law that one cannot risk the delicate sensibilities of others.

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  • Sarzuka

    There is nothing sexual about breastfeeding until someone sexually immature, jealous, prude, or *completely ignorant* about nursing (ex. Breastfeeding does not involve toplessness or spraying milk everywhere) comes along and decides it’s wrong. Do these same people not watch tv with all it’s sex based advertisements and too common cleavage spills on sitcoms? Do they protest bikini posters in Target and Macy’s now that swimsuit season is upon us? Not really! There’s a difference between fighting for a cause and tattling to teacher. The woman who told the manager was doing the latter. I get that many different things bother many different people, but seriously? Something so natural as nursing? Get over it, stop staring, and do something useful like start an anti-skin coalition for their delicate selves. Not everyone has to agree “breast is best” for their baby, but who are they to deny a hungry infant? Especially those who don’t even have to make the decision between mom’s milk and formula. Pssh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Misheal1Bell Misheal Greenwald

    Ignorant and clearly abusive towards children

  • Rachel

    My husband and I both went to basic training. Between the two of us, we couldn’t think of a single soldier who would be aroused by a woman breast-feeding, even during the final week of the course.

    And, realistically, that woman who commented had no idea what she was talking about. “Fresh out of basic training” means that the soldiers have almost certainly already “relieved” 8 weeks of sexual tension before gallivanting around a commissary of all places.

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