FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding as the cultural norm
CONTACT: Jen Russo
BREASTFEEDING ADVOCATES MARK ANNIVERSARY
OF HISTORIC PROTEST
September 8 marks the first anniversary of breastfeeding activists' nationwide
protests against Applebee's restaurants. With less than two weeks of preparation,
the protest became the largest of its kind, drawing an unprecedented 2000
participants to over 60 Applebee's locations in 48 states. The protests were
in response to an incident at a Lexington, KY branch of the popular restaurant
in which Brooke Ryan, a mother of eight, was instructed by a manager to cover
her infant son while she breastfed him.
"Applebee's suggested that the issue could be solved by providing blankets
to cover the heads of breastfeeding children, a prospect mothers found
simultaneously insulting, ignorant and unsanitary," said Jen Russo of
Virginia, a key participant in the protests. "Whether in support of the
rights of breastfeeding children and mothers, or just to avoid negative
publicity, numerous restaurants and other businesses have since adopted
pro-breastfeeding policies and practices," said Russo.
According to Russo, Applebee's high-level corporate managers agreed to
develop a structure to include breastfeeding rights training for current
and future Applebee's staff members following the protest. In Russo's
conversations with Applebee's Corporate Guest Relations department in the
weeks following the September 8, 2007 national event, Applebee's
representatives expressed appreciation to the protestors for their
assistance in making them a better company.
Several mothers who participated in the nationwide breastfeeding rights
demonstrations wanted to harness the momentum the event garnered to
promote breastfeeding rights and advocate for those who experienced
discrimination for breastfeeding in public.
"Though numerous organizations exist to support and encourage
breastfeeding, we realized that there wasn't a national organization in
place to coach and support mothers who had faced breastfeeding
discrimination. This group of moms gelled together and
created FirstRight," said Russo, who now serves on the FirstRight Advisory
Council. "FirstRight offers moms support and information about
breastfeeding rights and uses their individual experiences as the impetus
for encouraging businesses to adopt pro-breastfeeding policies and train
their staff on them," said Russo.
FirstRight began receiving reports of discrimination against breastfeeding
children and mothers soon after its inception in the winter of 2007.
Since that time, the group has received 52 reports and has documented
additional cases that have been reported in the media.
Sloan Stroud Lemmon of South Carolina, a mother who filed a report with
FirstRight, was told she must move to a private room to breastfeed her
child at their day care provider. "I felt mad, more than anything else,
that someone could make me feel like I was doing something wrong by
breastfeeding my child," said Lemmon.
"FirstRight's discrimination database continues to grow. It is a testament
to the need for enforceable federal legislation that unequivocally defines
breastfeeding as a right, and any harassment, discrimination, or
segregation of a breastfeeding woman as unlawful," said Chandra Ruiz of
Colorado, who maintains FirstRight's database of discrimination incidents.
"Any mother who faces breastfeeding discrimination should seek assistance
with FirstRight. With their help in resolving my case, I definitely felt
vindicated in a situation where I previously felt powerless and alone.
Working with FirstRight helped me to realize the importance of stepping
up, for the sake of the next mom to come along," said Lemmon.
Mothers who wish to report a case of breastfeeding discrimination may
contact FirstRight at www.firstright.org or via email at
If you would like more information on this topic or to schedule an
interview, please contact FirstRight Advisory Council member Jen Russo at
303-731-6639 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.