Females Sports Fans Battles For Right to Nurse Babies at Stadiums
Breast defense - Female sports fans battle for right to nurse at stadiums
August 10, 2005
Women in favor of public breastfeeding are demanding the right the nurse their infants in the stands at sports arenas, but say they feel pressured to leave their pricey seats and feed their babies in bathrooms or first aid stations.
``They've paid for their seat, they have the right to be in that seat, so they have the right to breastfeed their baby there – that's our understanding of the law,'' said Lezlie Densmore of La Leche League in Massachusetts.
None of the area's three major sports venues have written policies on breastfeeding, creating confusion among mothers over what is allowed.
At Gillette Stadium, a spokesman said women can nurse anywhere. But a security official told a Herald reporter inquiring about the policy that mothers must breastfeed in designated areas.
At Fenway, both a fan service representative and a security official said if a fan finds a nursing mother ``offensive'' it is up to park security to decide whether the mother must go to a more discreet area.
At TD Banknorth Garden, public nursing is handled on a ``case-by-case basis,'' said spokeswoman Courtney McIlhenny.
Dorchester mother Patty Daidone-Hardy said she was told by Gillette Stadium officials on Monday that she could nurse her 3-month-old son in a restroom or other area away from the stands.
She said feeding her baby in a bathroom would be ``unsanitary.''
``Breast milk is my son's only source of nutrition,'' she said. ``I felt like I was committing a crime because I had to nurse my son.''
Gillette spokesman Stacey James said women can breastfeed anywhere in the stadium, including the stands. James said he didn't know why a security officer would tell a caller ``we have family restrooms'' for nursing.
``In the stadium, you can nurse anywhere. If that offended someone, we would be as respectful to all parties as possible,'' James said.
At Fenway, a security official contacted by phone said: ``We wouldn't ask you to leave but we may ask you to go to a more discreet location if someone complained.'' A message left yesterday at the ballpark's media relations office wasn't returned.
But advocates of breastfeeding say any policy that dissuades mothers from nursing in their arena seats plays into negative social attitudes.
``We love naked breasts as long as they are jiggling in front of us for titillation, for sexual excitement and for entertainment,'' said women's rights attorney and former Patriots cheerleader Wendy Murphy. ``But put a naked breast in front of them that is providing nutrition to an infant – and that's too offensive. It's almost laughable.''
Joanne Collins, a Hanover mother who nursed her three children, said women shouldn't be ostracized for breastfeeding.
``I don't care where it is. I don't know why a child should be withheld food because someone else's comfort level is being compromised,'' Collins said.
Massachusetts doesn't have clear-cut laws protecting mothers who want to nurse in public although several bills are pending.