I have recently had a baby who is 14 weeks old and am currently on maternity leave from my job. I arranged with my manager to come into the office for an hour or so, bringing baby with me to show off and to pretty much clear out my over flowing email in box. I had mentioned to my manager that I was breastfeeding.
Of course my dear son decided he wasn't going to stay asleep as I had hoped and he wanted feeding. So I automatically took him out of his car seat and was about to feed him then and there at my desk. Under my top, there was nothing to see. To be honest I didn't think anything of it- I have breast fed my two other children and am so used to just feeding them where ever I am and carrying on with what ever I was doing one handed.
My Manager flapped a bit and said "No no no, you can't do that here. Could you feed him somewhere else? like the toilets?!" to which I said no I wouldn't because it's unhygienic. My manager said that it would be inappropriate to feed him at my desk and whisked me off to a meeting room to feed him. Where she waited with me until he'd finished. While he was feeding she said that there were 11 others on our team who may feel offended by my feeding. I said that it's fine and I hadn't even thought about it as I was so used to doing it.
Since then I have thought about and I am actually pretty irritated by it. By having a conversation about it, taking a crying hungry baby across a large office caused more fuss and drew more attention to it than had I just fed him, plus I would have been able to get on with my work as well. I felt a bit embarrassed too - as it's open plan everyone heard what was said- almost like I was doing something wrong. I'd say I'm really confident about breastfeeding and that if my child needs food I will feed them where ever but this has me questioning myself- is it my right to do so?
My manager is fairly new at managing people and doesn't have children of her own and she was not in any way mean or unkind but I think it was a situation she wasn't prepared for and to be fair is highly unlikely to have to deal with again.
It's raised some questions for me though, which I hope you can help me with.
Firstly - was she right, was it inappropriate to feed him at the desk? I know employers provide a room to express because perhaps to sit at your desk, boobs out, hooked up to a pump may be a bit much, but for breastfeeding do they have the right to tell you that you must go into a separate room? surely it's at the mother's descresion? I personally don't feel that I want to be hidden away- I'm descreet and it's normal.
Secondly - if he was bottle feeding would I have had to move?
If she was in the wrong, what's the best way to bring it up? I don't want to complain formally or anything because I think she's just never come across it before and just needs educating.
It's a tricky one. I would never have breastfed at my desk, but used a small office if DD had been hungry when she was with me at work. If new mums come in we always offer them an office if they need to feed at any time and work were very supportive of me expressing milk during the day.
You could mention to the manager that you were upset with the way she handled the event and remind her that toilets are not a good place to consume food, rather than making it about whether you were in the right or wrong to breastfeed at your desk.
I was a pretty hardcore breastfeeder (back at work fulltime when DD was 14 weeks and breastfed to 15 months), fed in shops, pubs, cathedrals, walking around supermarkets, etc. but it would never have occurred to me to feed at my desk. That doesn't make it wrong to feed at your desk, but I'm guessing most people just wouldn't expect it.
I think you could try to gently point out that breastfeeding in public is not inappropriate and is not going to offend anyone and is in fact protected by law. If your baby is allowed to be in a place then your baby is allowed to feed in that same place. Ask her why she thought they might be offended and if you would have been allowed to bottle feed your baby. I imagine it is just because breasts are involved even though nobody could probably see them. She has grown up in a society that thinks anything involving breasts must be very rude.
Obviously it is not an issue that most work places have to address as most of the time babies are not at work.
My colleague came in to show off her beautiful DD and DD decided that she needed feeding. I offered her my chair in the shared office (she asked "is there anywhere I can sit to feed her?") and got on with other things in the office. Mummy was perfectly happy, I know she would have asked for more private of she felt it necessary and I would have never in a million years thought "oh, what about the toilets" BF is the most natural thing in the world. Usually incredibly discreet too. You don't exactly get an eyeful of nipple do you and you don't have to stare.
Can't you do that on the toilets is reminiscent of a time where breastfeeding babies was not accepted as natural and normal.
OP I'd ask why she decided that you can't feed your baby at your desk when (undoubtedly) you have fed yourself there.
I think she was just unprepared and said the first things that came into her head.
I don't think it's inappropriate to feed at a desk (although I used to sit on the floor when DS was little because that was easiest for us), and neither is it inappropriate to offer a private room. Staying with you while you fed in a private room though, that's pretty odd.