By Alyce Collins
THIS MOTHER-OF-FOUR was asked not to breastfeed her twins in the public space at their own NURSERY because it was deemed inappropriate and could be offensive, but she hopes that by standing up for her rights she will help other mothers.
Professional photographer Jennifer Mancuso (38) from Ohio, USA, has faced criticism for tandem breastfeeding her twin daughters at their own nursery, because it could have been offensive to others.
Jennifer, who has four daughters Parker (4), Piper (3) and twins Aria and Asher (18 months) as well as three step-children, Adriana (13), Vegah (9) and Copeland (7), breastfed her two older girls until they weaned off, and is still nursing the twins.
In August 2018 Jennifer was tandem breastfeeding Aria and Asher inside their nursery when an employee asked her to relocate to the staff room, a small and boxy room which couldn’t be seen into, to nurse.
Jennifer was told that she had to nurse her daughters in a private space because some of the children were ‘school-aged’ and it could be inappropriate for them to see. The director also felt that it was best for Jennifer not to nurse in a public area of the centre in case she offended any religious beliefs of other parents.
The staff at the day-care went back and forth with Jennifer, telling her where she could and couldn’t breastfeed. Jennifer was close to removing her daughters from the centre until after three weeks of dispute, she received an apology from the director of the centre.
Staff at the nursery reviewed their policies to make sure the same situation would never occur again. Jennifer has shared her experience to normalise breastfeeding so other mothers aren’t afraid of it.
“Both my twins were able to latch on right away, but I think it helped that I was a veteran at breastfeeding by then, so it didn’t intimidate me,” said Jennifer.
“I nursed my first two in public, but I wasn’t nearly as confident as I am with the twins.
“I would turn bright red and have beads of sweat drip down my face because I was so insecure and afraid that someone would say something negative to me.
“However, the more I did it in public, the more I realised that most people don’t care, and if they do, they keep it to themselves.
“It’s natural and frankly I don’t care if someone sees my breast, or a glimpse of my nipple doing what nature created it to do.
“Parker, my oldest, breastfed until 20 months, and Piper stopped at 12 months. Partially I think they self-weaned due to a change in the taste of my breastmilk from getting pregnant.
“I nurse the twins two to three times a day, but if they’re feeling unwell it may be more often than that.
“It’s much more difficult to breastfeed discreetly when there’s two. When the babies were very young and unable to support themselves, I had to latch them on myself and hold them there simultaneously.
“Because of my schedule with the older two, it works best for me to breastfeed the twins at drop-off and pick-up.
“One morning I began nursing Asher on a chair before I left and the director said she needed me to nurse in the back, in the staff room, which is no bigger than a wardrobe.
“They told me that I wasn’t allowed to nurse my babies in any of the public spaces because it had to be in a private space, because they have school-aged children. That implies what I’m doing is inappropriate for older children to witness.
“The manager of the location chimed in and stated that it was also to protect other parents who may find it offensive due to religion. I literally scoffed out loud at her and shared it on my Instagram in disbelief.
“We went back and forth several times, but no one was backing down. I couldn’t immediately withdraw them and seek new childcare, but they needed nursing. So, I conceded and went to the break room. Later that week the manager apologised and even teared up.
“By the end of September, I spoke with the director who accepted that she’d misunderstood the company policy regarding privacy. I told her that a misunderstanding like that is not acceptable.
“Later that evening I got a call from the director who was completely apologetic. She explained how sorry she was about her comments. She saw how negatively that could make a new or insecure breastfeeding mother feel and potentially ruin a journey.
“She said they’d update their handbook to make it clear so there is no more confusion. She also asked if I would be open to providing additional documents or insight, and of course I agreed.”
Over the years Jennifer has become confident about nursing in public and she knew her rights, so she explained to the staff that although their comments angered her deeply, they didn’t stop her breastfeeding.
However, the same might not have been said if they treated a new mum who was less confident nursing in the same way.
“I am majorly pro-breastfeeding in public because that’s the only way it will ever become normalised,” said Jennifer.
“I could have stormed off and immediately put my kids in a different school, but I didn’t. I saw a teaching opportunity. Isn’t that what normalising is all about – spreading awareness?
“Breastfeeding is important on so many different levels for me. There are benefits that my babies receive from my breastmilk and there are so many health benefits that I also receive from breastfeeding, including reduced rates of multiple different types of cancer.
“I’m also very passionate about normalising it because I want to help other mums have the strength to see it through and not be afraid to breastfeed in public.”
You can follow Jennifer’s breastfeeding journey by visiting @jennifer.mancuso where she hopes to inspire other mothers across the world.