A mother says she was barred from nursing her baby in a Barneys dressing room because she might steal something.
When it comes to places to nurse a baby, a department store dressing room seems like one of the least controversial options, but a woman in Scottsdale, Arizona, says she was barred from nursing in a Barneys dressing room because the store was afraid she might steal something.
According to the NY Daily News, new mother Andrea O’Dowd says staff at the Scottsdale Barneys told her that she was not allowed to nurse in the dressing room because of concerns about “loss prevention,” otherwise known as “stealing,” but that does not seem to make very much sense at all. Non-nursing women are obviously allowed in the dressing rooms, and it is not clear why anyone would think a nursing woman would be more likely than a regular customer to make off with a Gucci jacket or a Balenciaga belt. The only difference between a nursing mother occupying the dressing room and a solo woman occupying the dressing room is that the mother has a baby with her. Did they think the four-month-old baby was going to steal something? It doesn’t make any sense at all.
One assumes that a mother with a baby would be allowed to take the baby into a dressing room if she wanted to try something on, so it makes no sense that a nursing woman would be considered more of a “loss prevention” issue.
The mother in this story says she even told them they could search her and the stroller if they were so worried about her stealing something, but even that did not mollify the staff, who reportedly told her to use the public restroom, which did not have a chair or a bench or anyplace to sit besides on an open toilet seat.
O’Dowd would have been completely within her rights to just nurse in the middle of the store if she wanted, and she also should have been allowed to use the dressing room. Arizona law says that a woman can breastfeed her child anywhere–public or private–that she would otherwise be allowed.
Considering all the flack breastfeeding mothers catch for nursing their babies in public, barring her from the dressing room is a particularly surprising move. One would normally expect a store or a squeamish floor manager to ask a breastfeeding woman to go to the dressing room specifically. When there is no designated spot for feeding babies, dressing rooms seem to be a pretty ideal place for it. They are discreet and out of sight so the act of nursing will not offend people who don’t like to see babies being breastfed and might otherwise flip their lids or cause a scene if they saw a nursing baby in the store. Unlike a public restroom, a dressing room usually has a bench or chair for a nursing mother to sit on, and a dressing room also has the benefit of not being full of other people’s bodily waste.
People are constantly haranguing breastfeeding mothers about how they should be “discreet” when feeding their children. This mother was trying to be as discreet as possible, and apparently even that wasn’t enough to avoid criticism and controversy.
Barneys has responded to O’Dowd’s complaint by saying it would be reviewing its lactation policy and employee training manual for all locations. Making sure employees are aware of the law would probably be a good idea.