When Samantha McIntosh’s 7-month-old daughter needed to be fed at a Georgia Chick-fil-A a few weeks ago McIntosh didn’t think twice about nursing her. She went to a booth in the back of the restaurant and sat down to feed, with her nursing tank and long-sleeved top helping to keep everything under wraps.
But it seems that wasn’t enough for the eatery’s manager—who grabbed a jacket and told McIntosh she needed to cover up with it, “because of the other children.” McIntosh was shocked and angry, especially since she considered Chick-fil-A a family-friendly restaurant.
It’s a scene that’s played out way too many times in way too many places. Despite the fact that moms have the legal right to breastfeed in public, they’re often shamed for doing so.
According to McIntosh’s now-viral Facebook post, a fellow mom sitting behind her “watched the entire scene play out got mad also. She called another manager over and began asking about policy, inclusion and corporate contact information. That manager quickly gave her corporate’s number and ran back behind the countertop. So the original manager that approached me now noticed it has caused a problem with another customer and comes back TO ME to inform me that they have every right to ask me to cover up when I’m nursing my child and that I should just leave it at that.”
McIntosh didn’t leave it at that, and neither did the mothers in her community. After McIntosh’s post about the incident went viral on Facebook, a crowd of angry moms showed up to stage a nurse-in at the restaurant.
“I do not actually know Samantha personally,” Jessica Gaugush, one of the moms who organized the nurse-in tells Motherly. “I saw her post and followed along. Like most other mothers I was outraged and felt a call to action. Many others were throwing around dates and times so I hopped on the soonest created an event and started spreading it.”
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McIntosh told TODAY that she was completely overwhelmed by the support. “There was one mom that drove two hours just for the nurse-in,” she told the show. “I never in a million years thought the support would be so far and so wide.” She also said that her embarrassing ordeal ultimately led to an apology from the restaurant’s owner—and turned into a teachable moment. “He seemed very open to training his staff and having a lactation consultant come in,” she said.
Gaugush tells Motherly some of the Facebook comments left under the TODAY article were very disheartening, with Facebook users suggesting moms should not breastfeed in restaurants.
“This wasn’t just a problem with Chick-fil-A … If you read Samantha’s story, truly I believe that the [customers] around that had reported it in the first place are also part of the problem. We need to normalize breastfeeding and make sure that mothers are as comfortable as possible feeding their kids however and wherever they decide,” Gaugush tells Motherly.
If you’re not already Team Samantha, it should also be noted that her original viral post started out with a firm reminder that she supports her fellow moms in all forms of infant feeding. That means that not only was McIntosh standing up for nursing moms—she was standing up for moms everywhere who have dealt with public shaming over their child-rearing choices.
Motherly reached out to Chick-fil-A for a comment. The following statement was provided on behalf of Jason Adams, Owner Operator of Chick-fil-A Mullins Crossing: “I am truly sorry for the experience Ms. McIntosh had in our restaurant. I have reached out to her to personally apologize. My goal is to provide a warm and welcoming environment for all of our guests.”
Good on Chick-fil-A for apologizing, but like Gaugush says, this isn’t just a Chick-fil-A problem, it’s a societal problem. A survey from Aeroflow published last year found 28% of women do not believe new moms should be allowed to breastfeed (or pump) in public, and 22% of men agreed. We’re glad mothers like McIntosh and Gaugush are working to change those minds because when a baby’s gotta eat, a baby’s gotta eat.