Tamara 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.