McBrickWall on Mother’s Milk


Further to this post about a family being threatened with removal from a Ronald McDonald House for breastfeeding – in the eating area – with one twin post-op from brain surgery and exclusively on breastmilk – and with their banishment room being three stories above – comes this followup. You can read the brief updates from the family here at Birth Without Boundaries, or follow the entire story with reactions and activism suggestions at the Mothering forums.

The family has gone above the head of the individual manager they were dealing with, to Naomi Scott, the Executive Director of the RMH Houston, who thinks this issue is important that she cut her holiday short to “deal with it”. But they’re still banging their head against a Nestle-sponsored McBrickWall. Ms. Scott actually compared breastfeeding in public to smoking in public. Because they’re so alike, y’know – smoking causes cancer, and breastfeeding kills cancer cells. See how that logic works?

A family member reports:

“…she told me that although they are not kicking us out right now that it is a guideline(an oral one) to ask all breastfeeding mothers to go to their rooms to nurse. This is the first I have heard of any oral guideline from anyone. It was never mentioned before. She told me this was because they had multicultural residents here and that they need to protects all the residents from feeling uncomfortable. Because of this they are not changing their stance on us breastfeeding downstairs.”

And –

When asked if they would ask the same of bottlefeeding moms, she laughed and asked why would they do that?”

So, Big Mac with a NAN chaser? Great for babies and fun all round! Mother’s milk? Not so much.

This RMH house reports receiving calls from corporate about it, but that “each RMH is run independently”. They’re also receiving calls from national donors. And that “all the emails crashed their server”, but that it’s fixed now.” That’s three big spiky cluesticks, but I guess all the McNuggets with Coke got to their brains first.

A follow-up meeting was held, two hours long, and including a LLL rep and a doctor with an interest in breastfeeding research. Such an enormous waste of time for the very simple principle that “babies eat”! The outcome of that?

“After a very lengthy conversion with many twists and turns the RMH is allowing us to stay. We are from now on allowed to breastfeed in the communal areas if we follow some rules they have set forth and not too many people complain about it. […] The rules we are to follow are that we are to be discreet, this is at our discretion, meaning we choose what discreet means but they said they will obviously know if we are not being discreet if people are complaining that they are uncomfortable with us nursing.

We are also being asked to inform the people around us before we begin nursing if we think there is anybody that may be uncomfortable with it. We are to tell them nicely that we are going to breastfeed, in case they want to leave or look away.”

Mandating that you trumpet your intention to breastfeed, while insisting that you “be discreet”? That’s a gotcha of Texan proportions, isn’t it?

Well, FUCK THAT. With a Quarter Pounder, sideways.

Here are the contact details if you’d like to have your say:

Please call or email Naomi Scott at 713-795-3560 or
and call or fax corporate if you feel you can as well.
Corporate Ronald McDonald House: Phone: 630-623-7048

Tell them that Texas law states that a child is entitled to breastfeed anywhere the mother is authorised to be. The law isn’t conditional, it’s absolute. Tell them that there are no regulations about “discretion” or “fair warning”. Tell them that these strictures are ridiculous and discriminatory, and designed to create a hostile environment for breastfeeding families at their most vulnerable. And tell them to keep their noses out of other people’s business.

RMH had a chance for some good publicity here, to assert their support for all families and their support for optimal child nutrition and nurturing – and they failed.

The family has specifically requested that action be confined to phone calls, emails and faxes at this stage.

One more thought: if you have a connection, contact a major sponsor. Their pressure is the most likely to produce change. RMH’s major sponsors are here, and include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Standard, Benjamin Moore & Co, Bissell, BrandSource, Christmas Décor, Coca-Cola, Dillard’s, the Georgia-Pacific Corp., the Kohler Company, Nestle, Select Comfort, Southwest Airlines, Stampin’ Up!, USA Today, and Valassis.

McNipple painting thumbnailed from

Categories: gender & feminism, health


14 replies

  1. I think this is another reaction of the ‘I have to protect other people from what I think they might be offended by’. I would think that most people would either look the other way or have no problem with a baby being fed.

  2. “reaction of the ‘…..’ kind” that should read

  3. I’m speechless – that someone could stop this mother from breastfeeding her child who is recovering from brain surgery! The thought of dragging a sick child up three floors just so he could be breastfed, when he is supposed to be healing, is beyond ridiculous.

  4. The fear of offending people from other cultures who might be staying at the same location raises this question for me: If an orthodox Muslim family is present, are all women at the RMH required to wear purdah? If there are residents with an Indian/Hindu background, must couples refrain from any kissing? (a la the uproar about Richard Gere) Must strict evangelical Christians be protected from conversations that might offend their beliefs?

  5. Becca: Absolutely, the “multicultural” excuse is complete gobbledygook. The USA has close to the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. It’s homegrown Texans that get haughty about babies eating, not immigrants.
    Even if it did make a certain amount of sense – if those figures were upside-down – one of the essential features of a functional multicultural environment is tolerance. Tolerance of people who look different, who sound different, who act differently from oneself.

  6. Tigtog:

    Seethe. Asshats.

    I keep reading this as “See. The. Asshats.”
    It all works.

  7. Stories like this make me so furious. Will add angry email to my to do list.

    Thanks for a great post.

  8. It hit the New York Times today. Link.
    However, a number of details were elided, leaving a quite different impression. I think it’s well worth going to the Mothering link and reading the full story, as documented in great detail by a family member. (And an interesting exercise in compare-and-contrast.)

  9. Cristy! Good to see that Third Pea is leaving you some time to do the blog-rounds.

    Lauredhel, I see what you mean about the article leaving a different impression.

  10. Do they think that ‘multicultural’ women don’t have breasts?
    My favourite bit is (after saying that RMH supports breastfeeding) “Ms. Donnelly added, “We don’t advocate for causes…”, in what other circumstances is eating your lunch a ’cause’?
    I also love how they are ‘clarifying’ their policy now. Basically what they did is against the law, so their policy should be to follow the bloody law and tell anyone who doesn’t like it to complain to the Governor.
    I shall continue to advocate for the ’cause’ by whipping my boobs out in public whenever the littlun gets peckish. In the interests of fairness, The Bloke will keep feeding the kid with bottles occasionally so that I can sleep/go out/have a bit of peace in another room.

  11. Let me just say that I had occasion to use the RMH at Randwick Hospital when my son was diagnosed and treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and I found the staff there warm, loving and incredibly supportive.
    I think this is more an artifact of the culture of Texas rather than anything done or approved of by the charity.
    For f*cks, heaps of the children there are just little babies, and I really can’t imagine the staff in any way risking the well-being of the infants by not allowing breast-feeding on one of the possibly rare occasions when the poor little devils are willing to actually eat. The oncologists would descend like the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and verily there would be a wailing and gnashing of teeth…

  12. I think this is more an artifact of the culture of Texas rather than anything done or approved of by the charity.
    I don’t think it’s even entirely fair to say that it’s Texas culture, despite their very low rate of breastfeeding. RMH in the States has said it’s not their policy, and most people seem mystified by whatever the hell was going on.
    Seems to be more a case of a couple of wowser bullies getting on their high horse and then blustering when called on it.

  13. It’s worth noting that this issue has been going on for over a week now, including many, many people contacting the individual House, RMH headquarters and major sponsors. Yet the charity still hasn’t even come out with an apology, much less implemented a policy that respects nursing families and obeys the law.
    If it’s one individual making an error of judgement about breastfeeding, what typically happens is they realise they’ve stuffed up, HQ comes down on them, they rapidly and unconditionally apologise, and they fix the problem. Going by recent events with other USAn corporations, this tends to take around 24 hours.
    Instead, in this case, the defensive, obstinate stance has spread through the charity, betraying a more systematic problem. The “multicultural residents” blustering, and the “however, we don’t advocate for causes” as a defence reads as a big RMH fuck-you to the complainants, from Texas to New York.
    I just can’t believe that this happens over, and over, and over. It’s not even enough for higher-ups to hastily buy a clue and apologise. All organisations that deal with actual humans need to have simple, written staff policies on things that are recurring issues in their cultural environment. This is one of them, sadly.
    It could read something like “Children eat. People who don’t like it may look elsewhere. If uncontrollable fixation results in discomfort, there is a blanket kept in cupboard 3. Place over head.” Translate into corporatese as desired.

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