Breastfeeding at Giggles and Hugs

A few moments ago I got off the telephone with Kimberly. Kimberly is the general manager for a local indoor playground called Giggles and Hugs in Glendale.

The reason that I called Kimberly was because yesterday a friend of mine put me in touch with a friend of hers who said that she’d been humiliated while breastfeeding at Giggles and Hugs in Glendale. I told her that I’d like to hear her story and that I’d like to publish it but that I’d be following up with the store as well.

On October 6th, Natale Verdone and her friend Jennifer took their children aged 17 months and 15 months respectively to Giggles and Hugs. It was a very hot day so playing outside was out of the question. According to Natale they ate in the dining area and she was nursing there “got a weird vibe from the server”. She and I shared a laugh and suspected that if the server worked there a little longer he’d become immune to seeing breastfeeding mothers.

Natale and Jennifer then took the kids to the play area where they would play and pop in for a feeding here and there. At least one of the babies was teething and any woman who has nursed a teething child knows that you basically become a pacifier for a week.

This is where Natale and Kimberly’s versions of the story diverge. According to Natale she was approached by Kimberly who said, “I’m going to ask to you leave the play area. I’ve gotten three complaints from other parents who are threatening to call the health department.”

And Natale and I shared another laugh. A belly laugh in fact, because I’d love to see someone call the health department to complain about two mothers nursing.

According to Kimberly they ignored the first complaint about women breastfeeding on the play area floor because – well, obvious eyeroll… moms are nursing kids and that gets a big who cares? She states that it escalated and that more women were coming to complain because the women (or at least one woman) were topless. A halter top had been pulled down and while the baby suckled at one breast it played with the other. According to Kimberly this is all on video.

Natale stated that Kimberly wouldn’t give her name to them but offered a higher-up’s business card and said they were welcome to contact him. Of note, Sean Richards the COO is a past manager at Pink Taco but was not there during the shaved ass incident of 2011.

Kimberly and I talked at length about her duties as the General Manger of Giggles and Hugs. She talked about the 300-400 people she hosts a day and how most of them are really great but sometimes she gets beaten up by them (both literally and figuratively). We talked about kids and breastfeeding and development and her sensitivity to children with special needs.  We talked about how difficult it can be to deal with the general public and then we talked about nudity. When is it breastfeeding and when is it indecent exposure?

Does it matter that there were a half dozen men wandering around and according to Kimberly, “Visible on tape looking at the women.”?

I really do feel for both Natale and Kimberly in this situation. Kimberly stated in an email and then again to me on the telephone that the moms were in the way of children playing. Natale states that the playground was “not very busy”.

 

Dear Sir or Madam:

Thank you for your email. I am the General Manager of Glendale, Giggles N’ Hugs. I was the person that was approached by three parents sharing their concern of breastfeeding in the middle of the play area in front of children and other adults. I had no choice as the manager to share with both moms professionally and quietly that they are more than welcome to continue their nursing their sweet babies in the dinning room as many, many, many mothers do here in our restaurant on a daily basis in our dinning room. It is unfortunate that three parents brought this to our attention and were very concerned about the moms getting hurt by the kids playing in the play area and where the moms were actually sitting on the floor in the middle of the play area.

Further, I too, am a mother, actually of four children and I am on a breast feeding committee at Huntington Hospital because I believe Breast Feeding is crucial to the progression of an infants growth. Nursing holds a soft place in my heart. I was never rude to either mother, I simply knelled down and spoke softly and asked if both would kindly move into the dinning room to continue their feeding. Never did I ask either mother to leave the store, ever.

In closing, we have over a dozen cameras throughout our restaurant so this evening I stopped to view the film of the occurrence that began at 4:10 p.m. while both mothers were standing in the floor area (play area) and then eventually sat in the middle of the floor/play area for a duration exceeding 20 minutes. Our biggest concern was the mom’s possibly getting hurt while breast feeding because there were so many children running, jumping and playing in the children’s play area. Second, we did’t want your babies injured either. I wrote a report for our COO as did our play attendant to document the situation for our records. We apologize for any misunderstanding.

I am sorry you felt “thrown out.” The play attendant also witnessed the entire exchange and shared that three parents had approached her as well with concerns for their children.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to our COO, Sean Richards. I personally shared with him the situation and how upset the mother’s were. I also shared that I received numerous calls from one of the mothers and the one mother thought I hung up on her during our cell phone conversation because our call got dropped.

We are so sorry you both had such a rough experience. Please consider giving us another chance, you are more than welcome to breastfeed/nurse in our dinning room. Again, it is more than accepted on a daily basis and we welcome our nursing mothers at all of our locations.

Also, please consider attending our “Giggle With Me” Classes for Mommies and their babies on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays.

Have a lovely evening.

Hugs,

Kimberly

So I challenged Kimberly. I said I want to read you something. And then I read her the following.

California Civil Code § 43-53.
1997 Section 43.3 of the Civil Code
43.3. 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.

She had a question for me, “What about indecent exposure?” And I don’t have an answer to that. I know that in order to nurse my son I had to take off my shirt and lay down flat next to him. He had a broken collarbone at birth and swaddling him or holding him certain ways was very painful for him. Would Giggles and Hugs have to accommodate a mother like me? I suppose the law might say yes but I’m not a lawyer or a legislator. I don’t have the answer to that.

Is it possible that Giggles and Hugs didn’t want moms sitting in the middle of the play area? It is, but it seems to be a stretch. Kimberly states that the mothers were sitting roughly where the parachute is pictured. Shirts mostly off, totally uncovered.

giggles hugs glendale

I asked Kimberly if they’d have asked the mothers to move had they not been breastfeeding and she said she would have, though I somehow doubt there would have been complaints. She also mentioned that Natale threatened to sue her.

California law is very clear about breastfeeding. If you have a store, restaurant or office building that is open to the public it is also open to breastfeeding. The one and only place you may legally choose to not allow breastfeeding is in your own home. As a business owner or employee you may not tell nursing mothers where they are allowed to nurse.

This whole thing started out with me shaking my head and wondering why anyone would work at a place that caters to new mothers and children and not want breastfeeding. Then it took a few turns and I’m stuck wondering who has to be uncomfortable because someone’s going to be uncomfortable and it all seems to revolve around nipples.

What do you guys think? This one’s not so clear cut.

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