On Sunday, a mother (who identifies herself as Betsy Herman Feldman on a rather intense Facebook thread) was asked to stop breast-feeding her child at Maxfield’s Pancake House (333 E. Brown Deer Rd., Fox Point). On Father’s Day no less.
That same night, owner Gus Zarmakoupis issued an apology on the restaurant’s Facebook page:
Hello, my name is Gus and I am the owner of Maxfield’s. I would personally like to extend my sincerest heartfelt apologies to the mother who was asked to refrain from breastfeeding, and anyone else that was offended by this situation. I understand and appreciate that this is a natural, sacred bond between mother and child. I have never asked or would never ask anyone to leave my establishments for breastfeeding. I was home celebrating Father’s day with my family and was not in the building. If I had been there, by no means would this have ever happened. I acknowledge this was wrong and can assure everyone this incident will never occur again. The only reason I would ever decline someone from my restaurant is if I had proof they purposely stole from me. I would also like to add I am the only person that has that authority to do so. Myself and the entire Maxfield’s staff would like everyone to feel welcome, and know that we do not discriminate. I plan to contact the mother personally to apologize to her.
The dozens of comments that follow the apology range from sympathetic to downright vile – directed toward both the breast-feeding mother and the server that asked her to stop.
On the thread, Herman Feldman describes her son as a “verbal 23-month-old who gets about 50% of his nutrition still from breastmilk.” She says she started to breastfeed her son because he was getting fussy and started to scream. “I'd rather see a nursing toddler any day than see a screaming, tantruming one,” she wrote.
The law is on her side. In Wisconsin, statute 253.165 guarantees the right to breast-feed. The text of the statute is as follows:
A mother may breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breast-feeding her child, direct a mother to move to a different location to breast-feed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breast-feeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breast-feeding her child as provided in this section.
The ick factor is what many of the negative comments cite. But, as Herman Feldman herself wrote, “you DO have the ability to look away.”