Tuesday, August 2, 2011

If Whole Foods Market Wants To Support Breastfeeding...

Below is the most recent email from Libba Letton, dated July 29, 2011.  Also, below is the response letter I sent to her today, explaining the problem with how Whole Foods Market is approaching resolution of this issue and what they need to do if they want to truly illustrate a dedication to supporting breastfeeding families.  

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Response letter to Libba Letton:


  1. Excellent letter, Angelina. You've expressed exactly what I've been thinking. Whole Foods wants to be perceived one way, but they seem to be unable to stand up and just say what needs to be said.

  2. you're doing an excellent job handling this. I do hope it is energizing you. Sometimes when I've had to do similar things it has left me so tired and I've had to scale back a bit so that I have energy left for my children (balancing act of being disabled). Thank you for what you're doing. I wish I could provide more tangible support, like a meal for your family! Some advice about the "but other customers were offended and they're equally important" argument: store management cannot predict or be held accountable for what legal actions/behaviors/sights might offend some random customer. All kinds of things can be offensive to some eyes - unnatural hair color/style, tattoos, skin color, couples of mixed race, brestfeeding. Only one of those examples is being confronted. I'm sure management would never consider telling a Native American man with a purple mohawk wearing a tank-top revealing full-arm tattoos shopping in the store with his African American wife that they had to cover up, stay to a certain part oft he store, or leave. If that is true, how is it then okay to interrupt a baby's meal, to interfere with a mother's parenting of her child, just because someone else doesn't like to see it? The appropriate response to the offended customer is to advise them to look elsewhere and that THEY may chose to make their selections from a different part of the store until the other family is finished with their business. No one has a legal right to being protected from whatever they find offensive, we ARE obligated - morally, ethically, and legally - to feed our babies.

  3. While I completely support breastfeeding and a woman's right to do so in public, I would never expect (or want) to be able to expose my bare breast in a public place. Are you opposed to using a breastfeeding blanket?

  4. FWIW, not sure if the person involved wanted to make a big deal of it (but on the other hand, as a professional cyclist who rode in the Tour de France this year he has 60,000 Twitter followers) - he posted this on August 3: http://twitter.com/#!/dzabriskie/status/98817363755012096
    "Thought I was on an episode of "what would you do?" When @wholefoods employee asked wife to breastfeed in bathroom..I did a lol for sure." He got a fairly quick twitter apology from Whole Foods, I wonder though whether anything else happened (ie. regarding the store and the employee involved).

  5. I am going to stand up for Whole Foods here. I am a mother of two and have spent almost 2 years breastfeeding between the two of them. My husband also happens to work for Whole Foods ( not management). I have on many many occasions breastfed my children without a cover, without being harrassed or made to feel embarrassed. Its actually one of the places I feel most comfortable breastfeeding in as their employees are so used to it. My husband says he sees at least one mom openly breastfeeding every day in his store and no one says anything. They have been told its perfectly acceptable. I think out of any store this would be the last one I would be speaking out against. They have issued an apology, embraced your nurse in, started the proceedures for a formal policy... what else do you want? Its not like they can issue a policy and have it ready to be stated to every employee in every store in every state by tomorrow morning. I think you are a little too hungry for attention, making a mountain out of a mole hill, and are honestly making breastfeeding moms look bad. From one nursing mom to another.

  6. Angelina, is there a way to connect to local groups without using facebook. I don't have an account and don't want one. Clearly they messed up here and need education; I think nurse-ins are great for that regardless of the fact that they have responded. This needs to be kept in front of them to make sure drafting that policy and distributing it doesn't take a few years!

  7. I'm another Jessica- and while I agree that Whole Foods has started the process, they seem to have gone down the wrong path initially with a very unsettling response from the manager and lack of follow through, to some degree. I'm not planning on boycotting WFM or protesting- I do plan on following thru and making sure they follow up on this issue.

    At the very least, we should have a date of when the policy will be ready and who/how it will be drafted- tea and an apology is definitely a step in the right direction but that lasts one day- a policy will prevent this happening in the future.

    I'm certainly not okay with the first response. I appreciate that it was rescinded and an apology was offered but because that was an honest first response from a WFM manager, it just proves the point that a policy is in order and that breastfeeding advocates should be part of the process of drafting it.

    This is the last of the stores I thought would be a problem too-- but it _was_ a problem and it may continue to be a problem..
    Another woman may have been asked to nurse in a bathroom at a Whole Foods Market in California in August- WFM is looking into this after the person's husband tweeted to the WFM twitter page.

    I understand mistakes happen and employees don't always know the best way to handle things-- but this is why WFM should proceed forward and show other business how it should be done. We don't expect it to happen at WFM- and it did.


  8. @MyNameIsJessica: It's awesome that your husband's Whole Foods location is as welcoming of nursing moms as you report, but it's not the case at all locations. In these comments alone, there are 2 mentions of at least one additional incidence of a "nursing must be concealed" mentality at Whole Foods. ( http://twitter.com/#!/dzabriskie/status/98817363755012096 )

    @Meagan: Nobody here wants to force any breastfeeding mom to nurse her baby in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable. In your case, you prefer to put a blanket over your baby while nursing. Nobody is opposed to that because that's what makes nursing work for YOU. In Angelina's case, she doesn't like putting a blanket over her baby. Maybe it makes her too hot. Maybe she likes to be able to maintain eye-contact with her child. Maybe the baby doesn't like it and doesn't nurse well when there's something draped over his head. It doesn't really matter, though, because it's not our business WHY this mother and baby successfully nurse one way, while you and your baby successfully nurse another way. It's just important that you both are able to nurse as you see fit.

    For some reason, random strangers still act as though they have the right to interfere with the normal, protected, personal interactions of mothers feeding their infants. Imagine a different busybody scenario, in which a Whole Foods patron approaches customer service to complain about, let's say, 2 college-aged girls holding hands and making lovey-eyes at one another. First, it's hard to believe anyone would even make the complaint. Second, the only reaction I can imagine is laughter on the part of the WF employee. There's no possible way the Whole Foods employee would actually go and ask the female couple to conceal that they are a couple...perhaps to hold hands under the table in the cafe, so as not to offend other shoppers. Yet with nursing moms, a few perfect strangers still seem to think they have a role to play in the feeding of other families' babies. People like that need to get over themselves.