Want some milk with your cuppa joe? Recently at Stouthaus Coffee in Austin, TX, it wasn’t very clear whether mama’s milk was welcome on the premises.
The First Offense
Amberley Dawn Worley was at the coffee shop nursing her 8-month-old baby in the company of her friend Stephanie Barlow Scott and her 4-month-old. KXAN news reported:
“[Worley] was nursing him and was pretty discrete,” said Scott. “A lady came over with a towel and asked ‘if she wanted to cover up?’ and my friend said ‘No, am I making you uncomfortable?’”
According to Scott, the lady — who was the business owner — said she wasn’t uncomfortable but that some of the men in the shop might have been.
Here’s Worley’s perspective, according to this news report:
“The female owner came up to me discreetly and asked me to cover myself up,” Worley recalls.Stouthaus owner Sandy Hughes says she did not ask Worley to leave or to stop breastfeeding.“When her baby wasn’t suckling, the breast was fully exposed and so I offered her something to cover up with when the baby wasn’t feeding. That’s all I asked,” Hughes says.“I wasn’t trying to flounce my boob. I was trying to cover it. I didn’t think anybody around me was paying attention,” Worley says.
Worley posted about her experience without expecting much of a response (in fact, she still gave the establishment a 3-star review):
The Second Offense
Her friend Scott posted this unfavorable review after the incident:
Nice “mansplaining” indeed.
Here’s the rest of the original comment from Stouthaus Coffee, posted on Wednesday:
The “nursing community” (because breastfeeding is like a ticket into some communal cult, you see, not the BIOLOGICAL NORM and ideal nutritional and emotional standard for infant sustenance and nurturing) let loose a raging milkstorm across social media without so much as a pause. Paala Anderson Secor of Paa.la caught wind of the incident and reported here, and Austin’s go-to breastfeeding advocate Keep Austin Nursing in Public also followed the story as it hit so close to home.
The Third Offense
Oblivious to the harm it causes breastfeeding women to expect one to (impossibly) get her mobile, fidgety breastfeeding older infant to behave like a still, tiny newborn nursling in order to be appropriate, shop owner Hughes defended herself when questioned by KXAN news:
“We have breastfeeding mothers in here all the time and I was a breastfeeding mother myself,” explained Hughes. “I have mothers who have been in before and have never had to use a cover up but this occasion was different. In this particular case, the customer was breastfeeding but occasionally the breastfeeding wasn’t happening and she was fully exposed.”
“He’s 8-months-old, so he was off-and-on the breast, but his head was right there so there was coverage,” said [Worley’s friend] Scott. “In any case, I didn’t think that was relevant.”
The First Amends
Thankfully, Hughes figured out that an apology was due, and she surely delivered. She posted this on Stouthaus’ Facebook wall on Thursday:
As the owner and the person who had the actual conversation with our customer, I’d like to sincerely apologize for how this was approached. My hope is to personally contact the mother I offended and offer my her my apology directly.
As a former breastfeeding mother of two, I fully support this practice, covered or not. We are new business owners and have made a mistake that we will learn from and move forward with. I understand that a written apology cannot convey my heart, but we are a husband-and-wife run, “pro-family” business. And we really do love our community, our city and the right to breastfeed openly. Nursing mothers have always been, and will continue to be welcome at Stouthaus Coffee.
Thank you. Sandy Hughes.
The Second Amends
Then… THEN… Stouthaus posted an open letter with further explanation and an announcement that they would host the nurse-in this Saturday and donate 10% of business during that time to Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin. Now that’s how you adequately demonstrate support for breastfeeding.
An open letter to our community:
When we opened the doors to Stouthaus only five months ago, we wanted to promote three things; coffee, beer, and community. We painted the German word “Stammtisch” on our wall. It roughly translates to “regulars’ table”. To us, it means that our shop is an open place for you, our community, to sit and join us. The beautiful part about community is that it’s alive and ever-changing. While we may make mistakes, we learn from each other and grow because of one another. We want to take a moment to address the parties involved in the events of the last 24 hours.
To our customers; we thank you for all of your continued support. We appreciate that you see us as sincere people who want to provide you with a good experience. We ask that you continue to support us and always feel welcome in Stouthaus.
To the community of mothers in Austin and their supporters; thank you for the passion you have for your cause. Thank you for educating us on a real and concerning issue. We now have a better understanding of the challenges that mothers are faced with while trying to to do what’s right for their children and we are grateful for that.
To Amberly; thank you most of all for voicing your experience. We know that it isn’t always easy to speak up. We sincerely apologize for your experience and we want you to know that you are always welcome in Stouthaus.
As a result of the issues from the last 24 hours, we will be fully embracing this Saturday’s Nurse-In at Stouthaus from 3 – 7:00 PM. We will be providing cupcakes to those who participate. We will also be donating 10% of all of Saturday’s sales to the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin. If you would also like to make a donation to the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, visit www.milkbank.org.
James & Sandy Hughes
Stouthaus Coffee Pub
You Can Help, Too
How can you help keep this from continuing to happen? Paala offers this suggestion that I can’t put into better words:
“If you would like to help stop these repeated acts of breastfeeding harassment and push for Texas get an enforcement provision, a legal consequence for violating the right to breastfeed, contact your legislators and tell them you support HB 232. According to Adam & Krisdee Donmoyer of Keep Austin Nursing in Public, the bill authored by Representative Farrar “will educate business owners that the right to breastfeed exists under current law (helping to end the ignorance) and will make it illegal to violate that right, and will give mothers recourse if they face discrimination.” Wouldn’t it be great if the law made it known that asking a mother to cover up, move, or leave is discrimination, that restricting breastfeeding in a public or private place is strictly prohibited? There would be no questioning the right to breastfeed.
If you can, please attend the Legislative Action Day #2. If you can’t make it you can still contact your legislators. Explore TXBFLeg.com for more information and resources on supporting HB 232 as well as the other important breastfeeding bills.”