Base breastfeeding shame
A woman breastfeeding her six-week-old daughter says she was made to feel ashamed of her actions after a cleaner at Hamilton's Te Awa food court firmly told her to stop.
Mother of three Anjula Manga has breastfed all her children but the incident at The Base shopping centre left her feeling embarrassed and self-conscious.
Management at the centre have acknowledged the incident and said it was the unauthorised action of an individual staff member.
Manga had just bought her 8-year-old and 18-month-old children dinner from the popular food court when her newborn baby began screaming, clearly hungry.
Turning her back from the majority of people, Manga said she discreetly began feeding her baby.
"I purposefully had turned my back from everyone, but it was about 5:30pm, so there were not many people around," she said.
Manga said a Te Awa cleaner then approached her and said "I am going to have to ask you to stop".
"I thought she was joking.
"What was I meant to do - take my other children to the toilets to eat their dinner while I fed my baby?"
Manga said she was so embarrassed by other people staring at her she took her baby off the breast and tried to calm her by placing a dummy in her mouth.
"I wanted to curl up under the table and hide," said Manga.
Centre management have said it was the independent actions of one staff member but Manga said staff told her they were enforcing rules from a centre handbook.
Manga's mother Sue approached the cleaner after the event and asked if she knew it was illegal to tell a woman she couldn't breastfeed in public.
"The cleaner said she hated telling people to stop and didn't believe it was right but it was in their handbook of rules," said Sue.
The cleaner told the family she had told four mothers that day to stop breastfeeding and directed them to a family room which provided a private space.
Centre Management issued an apology on Facebook to customers, saying the company did not restrict mothers from breastfeeding.
"We recognise our customers' human rights to raise their children in the best practice they see fit."
In the same written response, centre management reiterated it was "the unauthorised actions of a staff member" and said they were addressing the issue.
Sue Manga, however, remained sceptical of the management's response.
"They are just trying to cover it up, we posted this on Facebook and some women have reported this happening to them 18 months ago," she said.
Waikato midwife Karen Walker said the actions of Te Awa staff were illegal.
"We have parents feeding their kids cheeseburgers and coke, but a woman cannot feed her baby breast milk," said Walker.
Walker said the Waikato District Health Board and several other health organisations were pushing to raise the profile of breastfeeding and its health benefits.
"Babies do not tend to be as sick in the first year of life when they have been breastfed," she said.
Under New Zealand's Human Rights Act, it is illegal to stop someone from breastfeeding in public.