Breastfeeding mother doth protest too much

By Calvin Palmer

A Connecticut woman plans to file complaints with a police department and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities after she was told to stop breastfeeding her two-year-old daughter on a family beach.

Kendra Dickinson, was feeding her daughter at Sears Park on Lake Pocotopaug, in East Hampton, when a lifeguard approached and told her she would need to use the bathroom to nurse her daughter Ella.

Dickinson, a former kindergarten teacher who directs a youth theater group and works with children at her church, took the matter up with Heather Holbrook, the director of the camp at the beach who works for the parks and recreation department.

She was informed that her breast had been visible and camp children had complained.

Connecticut Statute 53-34b states, “No person may restrict or limit the right of a mother to breastfeed her child.”

The parks and recreation department is conducting and investigation and refused to comment on the matter.

Dickinson went to the police department Sunday to file a complaint. Sgt Paul Battista said to her, “What did you really lose? An afternoon at the beach?”
Dickinson said the sergeant asked her, “Don’t you think that nursing a 2 year old is strange?”

Acting police chief Lt Michael Green blamed “miscommunication” for the interaction between Dickinson and the officer. He said that neither he nor Battista had been familiar with the law regarding breastfeeding, and that Battista was confused about what Dickinson expected the police to do.

Jennifer Olynyk, from the breastfeeding support group La Leche League said that Connecticut laws, in existence for more than five years, are some of the strongest in the nation.

“I think that usually, it’s a case of ignorance when people try to stop breast-feeding in public,” said Olynyk. “What usually happens is that when someone is made aware that they have violated rights, they apologize. Usually the end result is education.”

She said that it was unfortunate these events were happening during World Breastfeeding Week, when a simultaneous nursing event would be taking place in Elizabeth Park.

Dickinson says she plans to continue to visit Sears Park with her family.

“I wonder if I will ever feel comfortable there again,” she said.

I wonder if the rest of the world will ever feel comfortable knowing that people like Dickinson exist with the community.

What did she expect the police to do, arrest the lifeguard and the director of the camp for violating state law?

Is her attorney, Eric Henzy, waiving his fee to fight this heinous violation of Dickinson’s human rights? Knowing attorneys, as I do, I would be most surprised if that were the case.

Strikes me that the whiff of financial compensation is in the air and that is the reason that Dickinson has gone to these extraordinary lengths to get her panties in a wad.

All we need now is one of the mothers of the children at the camp to file a complaint of lewd behavior on the part of Dickinson and this story could run and run.

[Based on a report in The Hartford Courant.]

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21 responses to “Breastfeeding mother doth protest too much

  1. MJ

    A breastfeeding mom is exempt from indecency laws, no one could file a lewdness complaint.
    You know what IS lewd? Big fat men who have bigger breasts then breastfeeding moms being allowed to go topless, what the heck makes one less offensive than the other.
    Mens breasts are not any less or more offensive or non offensive than womens, this womans legal rights were trampled, of course she should file a complain.
    You should really look into a subject matter before you go around writing ”essays”

  2. OS

    This piece adds a whole new meaning for the chant at Stoke that goes something like this…

    “Get your tits out, get your tits out, get your tits out for the boys!”

    Sorry, MJ. 😉

  3. Triple H

    I want to Thank You for pointing out the truth of the matter. Many people jump to conclusions without knowing the real reasons. You got it. You are awesome!

    • Emily

      Uh, who’s jumping to conclusions? The woman filed citizen complaints. She didn’t file a lawsuit.

      This entry is not about truth; it’s about supposition.

      • calvininjax

        If it is purely a citizen’s complaint, why is an attorney involved? Think about that for a nanosecond and I think you will find that what I have written is fair comment.

  4. Emily

    Good for Dickinson for defending her human right to nurse her child (as mothers have been doing before the dawn of history).

    Shame on you for questioning her motives. The reports explicitly say that Dickinson has filed complaints with the police dept. and state human rights commission. Why exactly do you jump to the conclusion that she has retained an attorney and filed a lawsuit??

    And even if she has, what of it? (I suppose that Rosa Parks was also “just in it for the money”?)

    The apologies Dickinson has received have been pretty lame. The police officers’ excuse — that they were unfamiliar with the law — is inexcusable. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law, and if this is true for the general public then by gum it ought to be true for those who enforce it.

    The “panties in a wad” comment strikes me as sexist, BTW. And shouldn’t it be “bra straps in a tangle,” anyway? Feh.

    • calvininjax

      I have not jumped to any conclusions about an attorney. The story clearly states that an attorney is involved.

      My wife is from Texas and frequently directs that expression at me, so I fail to see how it can be regarded as sexist. But then again she has learned all about irony having lived with me for 10 years. Perhaps I could give you online lessons for a small fee. 😉

      • Emily

        Fair enough, the article says that Dickinson consulted an attorney. But it still doesn’t say she has retained him for the purposes of filing a lawsuit.

        Perhaps I am less cynical than you, but as a nursing mom myself I can tell you that I would have done exactly what Dickinson has done WITHOUT ever thinking, even for a moment, about financial gain. It takes a lot of guts to nurse in public, and it takes a lot of guts to stand up for your rights. With the maximum penalty for violating the most stringent of CT’s breastfeeding laws set at $100 or 30 days in jail (see my other reply), that doesn’t leave much room for financial gain.

        Re: “panties in a wad.” Of course I have a sense of irony. Hello, “bra straps in a tangle?” FTR I use the “panties” expression all the time. But it’s all about context. Using it for this particular context just seemed a little…suspect, is all.

  5. Rich

    Why do you presume that financial gain is a motivation? Nothing is mentioned in the story about a lawsuit. All the mother wants to do is protect the rights of her very young child against cold industrialist notions that nature is somehow bad.

    Are you aware the WHO recommends a minimum of three years nursing a child? It’s a bit weird that a policeman gets involved in who can, and cannot eat, in a public place.

    • calvininjax

      You obviously did not read the story. The police became involved because this woman went to them to complain about her treatment at the beach. It’s a bit like complaining to the police because your trash hasn’t been collected. Do you think that is why I wrote the headline about her protesting too much? Get off your high horse and read what is there.

      • Rich

        Take a taste of your own medicine, smartypants: read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote!

        Police are there to uphold the law. I find it weird that, in order for a child to eat in a manner protected by the law, a policeman has to become involved at all. The mother in question was absolutely right to go to them. It shouldn’t come to that.

        And yes, I agree with the other commenters that the complainant shouldn’t have to educate those who uphold the law before they will do the most basic part of their duty.

  6. Triple H

    as someone who was there the day this happened, Dickinson is the one who misunderstood things. The park staff only suggested she might want to move to a better location so the children from the camp did not keep bothering her and her nursing child. She should be the one in trouble for falsely filing a police report. No one violated her rights.
    And yes, she has a lawyer. of course she has motives that are money based.

    • Emily

      Friendly question: Do you think your cultural background might be coloring your views on this issue?

      I ask because my husband is also British ex-pat, and we are well aware that breastfeeding rates are abysmally low in the UK. (One of the few areas of public health where the US actually comes ahead.) We are traveling to the UK soon and it gives me a head(and heart)ache to think about it.

      • Emily

        (Sorry, I don’t know how that reply ended up nested here. The question was posed to the blogger, calvininjax.)

    • Rich

      “The park staff only suggested she might want to move to a better location so the children from the camp did not keep bothering her and her nursing child.”

      Nice try. I’m sure she would have noticed if she or her child was being bothered by children from the camp, don’t you?

  7. MB

    Go Kendra! As a former colleague of Kendra’s, I know her to be someone who is all about what is best for children. There is no way that this is about money. That’s just silly. If she has an attorney, it is just to advise her on how to proceed in order to make sure something like this does not happen again at this park. That is also clearly why she went to the police…so that they would enforce the law, not by arresting anyone, but just by informing the ignorant folks in charge at the lake that it is in fact the law that women may breastfeed in public without interference and without any need to cover our breasts. Whether the folks at the lake told Kendra she needed to go to the ladies’ room or suggested she go there, really doesn’t make that much difference because they were harassing her either way and suggesting she feed her child in an unclean place. Would they like to eat their lunch in the bathroom? Would you? No, I didn’t think so. And no, the other children at the park do not need to be, ‘protected,’ from the sight of Kendra’s breast. It is a perfectly natural wholesome healthy scene. It is the rest of you who need to get over your hangups about this. You also need to accept the fact that this is the law. It is absolutely inexcusable that the police in town were ignorant of the law and the policeman was unforgivably rude to Kendra. He had absolutely no right whatsoever to speak to her in that manner and just proved his ignorance. It was not a misunderstanding. It was obnoxious, insensitive and sexist as is the writer of this blog.

    • calvininjax

      The police enforce criminal law, not laws passed by the state.

      If you would care to read what I have written and not what you think I have written, you may wish to retract your last remarks. If the whole article is too much to read for your attention span and general comprehension, and judging from your ludicrous remarks it looks like that could be the case, just read the headline. That sums up the tenet of the article.

      • Emily

        Actually, the police enforce civil law every day, as long as the civil law in question contains an enforcement provision (as Connecticut’s breastfeeding laws do).

        And where do you think criminal law originates, if not the state?

        Do you think the police don’t enforce public indecency laws? Of course they do. Well, the law exempting breastfeeding from public indecency is the flip side of those laws.

        Do you think the police don’t enforce anti-discrimination laws? Oh, but they do. And Connecticut has one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws regarding breastfeeding in public.

        For the record, here is the enforcement provision for Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-64 (one of three breastfeeding laws in CT): “Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be fined not less than twenty-five nor more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days or both.”

        (Although something tells me you won’t approve this reply for publication.)

      • calvininjax

        Keep digging, Emily.

  8. Emily

    Keep digging for what? What more do you need, the full copy of all three laws? Have at it:

    I’m baffled by why you won’t acknowledge that what the park and the police did to this woman was AGAINST THE LAW. Okay, you think Dickinson is acting in bad faith. But really, not one word about the parks or the police?

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