Katie Hamilton attended the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's (LACMA) California Modernism Exhibit Saturday with her husband, three-year-old daughter and 21-month-old daughter. At one point during her visit, she knew it was time to feed her daughter, so Hamilton sat on a bench inside the Resnick Pavilion and nursed her baby to sleep.
Moments later, she was approached by a staff member who demanded she cover herself because two fellow patrons has complained about her breastfeeding.
Hamilton then explained to the employee that it was her right to breastfeed according to California Civil Code 43.3, which states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present.
Customer service representatives from LACMA, including the initial employee's supervisor, were polite and supportive -- yet, Hamilton noted in her account of the episode that museum reps made a point to talk her down from a possible nurse-in at the museum.
Hamilton recounted the entire episode on her Facebook account, and LACMA quickly responded by issuing another an apology. The museum has also promised to make sure that all of their employees are properly educated on breastfeeding rights -- something that Hamilton is very happy about.
"I have all the confidence in the world that LACMA is going to implement a policy that will educate their staff and make nursing moms feel comfortable," she said in an interview with the Huffington Post.
Hamilton's Facebook page has been changed from "HEY LACMA! BREASTFEEDING ISN'T SHAMEFUL." to "HEY LA! BREASTFEEDING ISN'T SHAMEFUL." Hamilton also believes that LAMCA is setting a great example and believes that other companies will follow suit. Disneyland and Nordstroms are other places that Hamilton believes already promote a comfortable and calm environment for nursing mothers.
This was never about her, said Hamilton, but instead about awareness. "In LA and in the United States, we sexualize breasts. We don't see the norm. If people don't see women nursing, it is going to make it harder and harder for women to feel comfortable," Hamilton said.
Hamilton is not alone in her fight for a woman's right to breastfeed. In March of 2012, the Surgeon General updated the call to action to support breastfeeding. From the report Barriers to Breastfeeding in the United States:
A study that analyzed data from a national public opinion survey conducted in 2001 found that only 43 percent of U.S. adults believed that women should have the right to breastfeed in public places.
When they have breastfed in public places, many mothers have been asked to stop breastfeeding or to leave. Such situations make women feel embarrassed and fearful of being stigmatized by people around them when they breastfeed. Embarrassment remains a formidable barrier to breastfeeding in the United States and is closely related to disapproval of breastfeeding in public.
Additionally, Hamilton plans to organize a big, peaceful and public breastfeeding gathering to help raise awareness that breastfeeding is normal. "I'd really like to highlight the hypocrisy in LA between women being sexualized in images all over and women just nursing their babies," Hamilton told the Huffington Post. "One is okay and one is not," she continued.
For those who don't believe breastfeeding in public is a right, "Look away," Hamilton says. "I see plenty of things on a daily basis I don't want to see and I look away."
For more information on Katie Hamilton's story and the upcoming nurse-in, please visit her Facebook page.