A tired hungry baby

Yesterday I was asked to stop breastfeeding my baby.  And I’m pissed.

I was shopping at Orchestra, a kids’ clothing store at the Complexe Les Ailes shopping centre in downtown Montreal. They have a small semi-secluded seating area for kids with movies playing. My older kids were sitting in their stroller watching the movie when my youngest got hungry. So I fed her. She’s 5 months old and she eats breastmilk. From my actual breast. Shocking, I know!

I wasn’t even the only mother breastfeeding. I was being discrete, as if it matters, which it doesn’t (but that’s for another blog post). And I hadn’t finished shopping.

And that’s when the store clerk showed up and asked us both to stop.

Actually, she asked the other mother first.

“Why? I’m buying things…”

“Vous ne pouvez pas. [You can’t]”

Then she looked at me.

“Vous ne pouvez pas allaiter dans le magasin. [You can’t breastfeed in the store]”

Well. That’s not true. And I said as much. The Québec charter of rights and freedoms protects women against discrimination on the basis of sex. And preventing someone from breastfeeding in public constitiutes discrimination on the basis of sex. It’s even been tested in case law.

When it was tested in court, both the individual who asked a breastfeeding mother to stop and the business where that person was employed were required to jointly pay damages of $1000. It’s not a lot. But mentioning it was enough to get the sales clerk to pay attention and she hurried off for reinforcements.

The Canadian charter of rights and freedoms also prevents discrimination based on sex. However, no legal case has specifically evaluated the charter’s application to public breastfeeding. In BC and in Ontario [Added January 12: as well as Nova Scotia] there are laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in all public places.

I knew the law. I knew my rights. But I was still upset. And not the angry, self-important, righteous  kind of upset. The teary, scared, “they’re going to kick me out of the store”, “I’m here with my kids” type of  upset. It was clear I was about to be thrown out, and I was pretty sure that if I was going to be forced to justify feeding my baby, I was going to cry. And I felt truly alone.

I don’t just think women have the right to feed their kids (breastfed or not) how and when and where they want to – and dad’s too. I think they should be invited to do so, really welcomed. Being a parent is hard work, and really it’s just one of those civilized things that nice people do for one another.

So I got up and stopped feeding my hungry baby. And then I went to the front desk. And I paid for the clothes I had planned to buy. That is the only part I regret. I think I was in shock. I think it hadn’t all sunk in.

The manager was up at the front talking to two clerks, including the one who had asked me to leave. And of course they didn’t realize I was the one who had brought up those nasty legal impediments to their request. So I had the pleasure of listening to them badmouth me, hear how I was ridiculous and how I should go to the mall breastfeeding room, and I was able to confirm that the store manager was fully aware of what was going on. I just made it out the door before the tears.

Now I should mention that Complexe Les Ailes does have a fabulous breastfeeding room, which I use often and truly appreciate. It is spacious and inviting and clean. And there are even tables and chairs for older siblings. But just because I like it does not mean I should be confined to it just because my baby is hungry (another blog post to come on that, but read this in the meantime).

So, what next? Well, there’s this blog now. Feel free to add some comments, if you support me. And I’ll be contacting the store, the store’s head office and the mall where the store is located. All I really want is an apology and an enforced, store policy that respects Canadian law and ensures that no other mothers will get the same shoddy treatment. Feel free to send your own letter, as well. [Added January 8: I’ll be filing a human rights violation complaint.] I’ve just been invited to a nurse-in on January 19. There is a Canadian petition to sign and a Québec petition to sign too. And after that, well, we’ll see.

À mes lecteurs francophones… Il est difficile face à un tel événement, émue et fâchée, de choisir les mots pour bien s’exprimer, encore plus dans une deuxième langue. Mes excuses de ne vous offrir qu’une version en anglais. Toutefois vous êtes bienvenues de laisser vos commentaires dans les deux langues.

For your letter writing pleasure:

(There is also a longer list here.)

Orchestra – Montréal
Vêtements Orchestra Canada Inc.
1010 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, suite 2402
Montréal QC H3A 2R7

Tel: 1.514.842.5225

Orchestra-Kazibao – Head Office
400 avenue Marcel Dassault
34170 Castelnau Le Lez

Tel: 0499130800

Complexe Les Ailes
650, de Maisonneuve Boulevard West,
Suite 630
Montreal QC H3A 3T2

Tél : (514) 288-3759

Although Orchestra is a French company with only 4 locations in Canada, the Canadian company Panda also distributes their clothes, so feel free to contact them too.

Panda Headquarters
259. Labelle Blvd. #201
Rosemère (Québec) J7A 2H3

Tel.: (450) 818-9741

173 thoughts on “A tired hungry baby

  1. I’m so sorry this happened to you, it shouldn’t have happened and was entirely unprofessional of them to badmouth you at ALL and then for you to actually HEAR it was even worse! Shame on them! I am in Virginia so I cannot do the nurse-in but I would very much like to be there in spirit nursing my 10 month baby girl! I have 6 children, all whom I nursed in public and I have been blessed enough to not have been asked to leave….YET. I am not done breastfeeding so it could happen but I am always ready to fight my rights!!!!


  2. I would have been shocked, especially in a children’s store. Can’t believe they were so ignorant in this situation.


  3. I breastfed my baby girl for a year, and I can definitely say how hard it is when your baby gets hungry and you want to feed them and have to cover up. Its so tough! I would have been more than crying if I were you! They were completely out of line, not you!


  4. I’m so sorry you had to go through that experience- and at the hands of other women! You are very brave to talk about it and complain. We need to stand together. Congratulations on breast feeding your little girl!!


  5. In a kid store??? Le comble du ridicule.

    29 months of breastfeeding and counting (with two different babies) and nothing so outrageous as ever happened to me. And I hate breastfeeding rooms and never use them if I can find a correct seat elsewhere.

    I hope you do get the apologies you deserve and that they understand the lesson.


  6. I am thoroughly disgusted by the treatment you recieved in the Store. I think it’s wonderful that you stood up for yourself, I can only imagine how hard it must have been. They should be ashamed of themsevles. I hope they receive many letters of complaint in addition to my own.


  7. As a mom who has breastfed two babies and plans to nurse my next, I find this so infuriating. We live in a culture where women wear clothes that reveal so much more than breastfeeding and I walk my kid through a store with perfume ads that leave nothing to the imagination, yet people are “disgusted” when I nurse in public?! I know you regret leaving the way you did and not making a scene, but I totally understand how shocked you felt and can relate to the fact that you were keeping the emotions of your other children in mind. I am grateful that I have never been openly confronted about nursing in public, but I’ve received some glares, stares, and comments. Women should not be ridiculed, shamed, or bullied out of breastfeeding in public! Private nursing areas are nice, but not always practical. You picked an absolutely appropriate place to nurse and these employees should be educated!


  8. I’m so sorry you felt alone and overwhelmed. As right as we are when we stand up for breastfeeding, it can leave us feeling emotionally vulnerable when we are attacked and condemned with an energy of disgust around our children.
    I remember when this same thing happened 15 years ago in Westmount square. In very little time we rallied together an astounding number of breastfeeding women to support the woman and to educate the public. I was tandem nursing at the time and boy and that certainly turned some heads. Even though I’m no longer breastfeeding, I stand with you in solidarity.


  9. i fully support you! if i was the other mum sitting next to you, i would have said a thing or two, as well. and you would have not felt alone.


  10. We had a similar situation in our local shopping mall last year and organized a nurse-in. It was very successful in promoting awareness of the law, but unfortunately not in changing people’s minds about the appropriateness of NIP. Sadly, people will cling to their weird notions about nursing.

    Sending you big time support from MD in the USA.


  11. C’est terrible! J’ai aussi posté ton blog sur facebook. Bonne chance dans tes démarches. Nous sommes plusieurs derrière toi.


  12. Completely shocked.
    I nurse everywhere too. I use a wonderful Kiokko nursing cover, and you can barely tell what’s going on under there. Honestly, I use it for my own benefit, not for bystanders. I can’t believe that in a children’s store, of all places, they would give you attitude. We should find a “Nursing Welcome” sticker and stick it on their door.
    I will gladly participate in the nurse-in – just tell me when!


  13. This is infuriating. Particularly at a children’s store! I have been on the receiving end of a few raised eyebrows and stern looks when I’ve breastfed my baby in public but no one has had the nerve to ask me to stop.

    I completely understand how frazzled you would have been though. However, now with the clear head you used to write this post, you need to not only carry out your correspondence to everyone in that company but you also need to go and take those clothes back and with the same clear and proud head tell them that they are complete cows and that until they make a concerted effort to demonstrate understanding and acceptance of their clientele, you won’t shop there. AND you’ll tell every single person you know to not shop there.

    Good for you for writing about it and keep doing what you will always do best – be your children’s mom.


  14. Bonjour,
    Si vous saviez les endroits o ù j’ai allaité mes bébés… même dans une église lors de funérailles!!
    Et bien souvent, les mères font cela si naturellement, si facilement et si discrètement que personne ne le remarque…
    Comme certaines d’entre vous l’ont dit, je me demande si le haut d’un sein de mère qui allaite est plus visible que ceux que l’on voit sur les affiches des boutiques de lingerie…!
    Pour moi, l’allaitement de mon fils se terminera dans les prochaines semaines… je n’en ai que de bons souvenirs…


  15. Sadly I can believe it happened. I’ve been nursing on and off in this town for 14 years as of next month and somehow I have NEVER been asked to stop. I’m actually annoyed about that because my husband is a lawyer and we’re convinced they have some sort of “don’t mess with the lawyer’s wife!” radar. Grrr. And I know exactly that teary scared feeling. So sorry this happened to you. The Indian Restaurant near me has a nursing mother sticker on the door to signify they are nursing friendly (I am in the Point by metro charlevoix) and I smile every time I see that sticker. How many times does this have to happen before people LEARN? Ailes is going broke, they should be glad anyone was in there even if they were buck naked. Jerks. And why is it always WOMEN tripping about this?!


  16. Here is my brief letter. (BTW, I found the address of an Orchestra PR person on their investor page, so I sent it there, too.)

    To: ‘jcyana@orchestra.fr’; ‘infos@orchestra.fr’; ‘service@complexelesailes.com’
    Cc: ‘Garneau.M@parl.gc.ca’; ‘jchagnon-wsl@assnat.qc.ca’
    Subject: Retailer violating human rights in Montreal


    It has come to my attention that the children’s clothing retail store Orchestra in Complexe Les Ailes in Montreal is in violation of the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms for refusing to allow customers to nurse their children in the store.

    The incident in question is reported at the link below:

    This outrageous disrespect for Canadian laws and children offends me both as a mother and citizen. It is an act of wanton shamelessness on the part of a foreign-owned retailer that expects to take our hard-earned consumer dollars. I demand that Orchestra take steps to remedy the situation with the mother involved, and to educate their staff on the civil rights laws of this country, if they expect to generate revenue here. This note is copied to local political representatives in case Orchestra management requires additional encouragement to comply with our legislation.

    Until then, I will spread the news through my personal network and urge every mother I meet to boycott Orchestra, Complexe Les Ailes, and Panda Shoes (an Orchestra distributor).


    Jennifer [surname redacted]


  17. Je suis une maman qui allaite mon petit garçon de 8 mois presque chaque fois que je sors et même s’il ne m’ est rien arrivé de la sorte , je me sens directement interpellée par cette histoire. J’abonde dans le sens de tous les autres pour dire que c’ est INADMISSIBLE et bien sûr Orchestra est retiré de ma liste pour toujours. QU’en 2011 on vive des situations semblables me semble iréel.
    Merci d’avoir partagé cette expérience, peut-être que ça sensibilisera certains hommes et femmes de croc-magnons.


  18. Sending support from Calgary. I’m proud that you knew your rights, and I totally understand the feeling of being overwhelmed by emotion and not being able to say and do what you really want to. Wish I could reach out and hug you right now. Good for you, momma!


  19. I breastfed my two daughters now aged 30 and 25. Way back then, we would see this kind of thing happen all the time. Many woman fought for this very natural and beautiful gesture!
    I am now a very proud grandmother of 2 adorable children which the last one is still being fed breastmilk. I used to buy my grandchildren some really nice cool clothes at this store (0nly on sale…way too expensive). I will no longer ever go there! And If I didn’t work on your sit-in, I would be there to cheer all you great mothers who chose to breasfeed your children! It’s very sad to see that even 30 years later, some people are very retarted on this topic!! And I know just how you must of felt when they asked you to get out!! I would of cried my eyes out too!! We are so vulnerable when the babies are so young and hungry! Be proud!! And don’t ever stop yourself from breastfeeding your baby wherever you are!! Good luck!


  20. I am so sorry to hear this happened to you, in Montreal, in 2011! I’m a new mom proudly breastfeeding my 4 month old son and I know I would have been shocked, teary and frazzled if this ever happened to me. Props to you for knowing our rights and voicing them. Education is power! No one should ever have to feel uncomfortable for breastfeeding. A post on another blog gave me a great idea to print out and carry a copy of my rights with me in the diaper bag so thanks for all the great links in your post! http://blog.applecheeks.com/posts/2011/1/7/nursing-in-public-exercising-our-rights.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    Thank you for sharing your story. You have my support!


  21. I am disappointed you bought the clothes after that. I would have said, “I will not be buying those now, or ever.” The store does not respect you – don’t help it survive by buying from it.


  22. I am disappointed at the behavior of the employees at Orchestra and hope that the complaints are heeded by Les Ailes de la Mode. How dare they contravene our civil rights! I nursed my daughter for 13 months (until she decided she was done, much to my disappointment), a memorable period of my life when I felt deliciously female. Friends who chose to bottle feed their children never made me feel uncomfortable with my decision to BF (and I tried to keep my BF beliefs, and the applicable documentation in its favor, to myself). For purely personal reasons, I rarely nursed in the open and am thankful not to have been stared at or admonished when I did. Seeing women nursing in public makes me smile (and brings back amazing memories) and I encourage everyone who wants to BF in public to do so, whenever the need arises. It is THE most natural activity for mother and baby. Faith and perseverance can, and will, dispel archaic attitudes.


  23. I’m so sorry you had this happen to you.
    I hope that everyone spreads this message on your behalf, and on behalf of all nursing moms.
    Good luck!
    And shame on Orchestra.


  24. I think that it’s a sad state of affairs that mothers cannot feed their children when their kids are hungry. Breastfeeding is much more than getting food into hungry bellies. It’s bonding, loving, and so beautiful. Disgusting? I think not!
    To be perfectly honest, I used to adore watching my kids feed from their mother. There was a sense of pure beauty in that. Alas, the kids are grown now. So, “Another Mother”, please take some small comfort in knowing that there are many out here who feel for you, for what it’s worth. It’s just so…criminal that someone would even ask you to stop.
    Anyway, that’s my two cents.


  25. Outrageous!!! This should not even be an issue in 2011. Keep up the fight.
    Former Montrealer and nursing Mum of a 7mos old.
    Heather, Kitchener ON


  26. I fully support your right to breastfeed in public, and THEY need to be made aware of this. I nurse my babies in public and anyone who tries to stop me…beware. And exactly, this should NOT even be an issue these days. Make them fully aware.

    Mary in Alberta.


  27. Lettre envoyée!

    J’irai ailleurs acheter des vêtements pour mes petits-enfants!

    Et je continuerai à encourager les mères qui allaitent. J’ai allaité mes enfants à une époque où il fallait se cacher et je croyais sincèrement que les mentalités avaient évolué. Faut croire qu’il reste des néanderthalien(ne)s hélas….



  28. Even without kids of my own I think this is ridiculous.
    Since when feeding a kid has become disgusting ???
    This just should not happen.Period.


  29. Voici ma lettre de plainte envoyée au magasin:

    Suite aux événements dégoutants survenus au magasin Orchestra du complexe les Ailes de la Mode, à Montréal, où pas une mais deux mères se sont fait interdire de nourrir leur bébé affamé, je tiens à signaler ma rage face à cette attitude arriérée. En 2011, nous n’avons plus à établir les bienfaits de l’allaitement. Cependant, le personnel de ce magasin su faire preuve de manque de civisme, bien au-delà de leur simple devoir professionnel. Il est allé à l’encontre des droits des bébés, si innocents soient-ils. Il est certain que jamais je ne mettrai les pieds dans ce magasin pour enfant. De toute façon, il est voué à faire faillite, étant donné que sa politique consiste à faire mourir les enfants de faim, et que ceux-ci sont leur clientèle cible. Iriez-vous manger votre lunch aux toilettes? Pourquoi les bébés devraient-ils, eux?

    je vous invite à voir cette pub australienne:

    c’est excellent!

    J’invite également toutes les mères à qui ce genre d’histoire arrive d’avoir le courage de le médiatiser. C’est en étant entendues que nous serons écoutées!

    Courage et merci!


  30. OMG – I feel for you so much. I am currently breastfeeding my 2 month old and its tough enough just to get out of the house, let alone be shamed because you’re feeding your baby. With all the sleep deprivation and stress of juggling a baby and a toddler, tears are never really that far away on a good day. The LAST thing anyone should be doing is making you feel bad – for anything! I’m so disgusted with the store personnel in your story – they should be publicly humiliated for their ignorance and poor manners.

    Fortunately for me in Calgary, I’ve never had such a problem. In fact, store clerks have offered me change-rooms to feed my baby in so I would feel comfortable. They’ve even gone and got me a seat. I tell you, it was WELL appreciated. Yes, there are nursing rooms – usually just one and they always seem to be waaaaay off on the other side of the mall when you need them.

    Good for you for taking this as high as you can. People need to be made aware. Mothers need to feel welcomed, comfortable and appreciated. Afterall, we only have the most important job in the world!

    Best of luck. You have my full support.


  31. Merci d’avoir créé ce blog pour partager cette triste histoire. Qu’elle mauvaise publicité pour le magasin Orchestra et tant mieux. J’espère que ceci attirera l’attention des médias et servira de leçon. Je M,engage à écrire une lettre comme plusieurs autres mamans. J’allaite actuellement mon deuxième enfant. Une vendeuse de chez Simon’s au Carrefour Laval m’a déjà suggéré de me rendre au salon d’allaitement et j’ai gentillement refusé et continué d’allaiter dans un fauteuil devant sa caisse. J’étais avec une amie qui allaitait elle aussi.
    Merci d’avoir partagé votre histoire.


  32. Je viens de lire cette histoire ! Je ne suis absolument pas contre l’allaitement, bien au contraire, ayant moi meme allaité mes 2 enfants . Je connais bien ce magasin et l’endroit en question où lesdites mamans ont allaités leur bébés . Or, par soucis de sécurité, je ne m’y serais jamais installée. Ces chaises sont minuscules et je ne vois pas un adulte s’y assoir ! Peut etre que le personnel pensait a ca … je ne sais pas …


  33. Just before xmas, I got reprimanded after a mom-to-be complained that me, as a breast feeding godmother (a.k.a. marraine d’allaitement), breast fed my 14 months old baby during one of our prenatal breast feeding class!!! And my breast feeding was so “text book” discreet!!!

    Glad to see to will file a complain to the Human Rights!!! You go mama!!!


  34. Franchement choquant, je vous encourage même à poursuivre légalement le magasin…je compatis avec ce que vous avez vécu.

    Shocking! I encourage you for a legal pursuit againt them, you will win for sure. I’m sad for this bad experience. Continue to nursing in public, please, it’s the best advocacy to defend it.
    Hope that there will be a lot of breastfeeding mothers for the Nurse-in!

    Isabelle Cloutier IBCLC


  35. It’s ridiculous that in 2011 that this is even an issue. Breastfeeding is completely natural and is proven better for babies that formula. I wish you all the best at your nurse-in! Glad that you are standing up for your rights and I’m sure you’ll win! Good luck!


  36. Je vous encourage fortement à porter plainte à la Charte des droits et libertés , et à poursuivre le magasin légalement . Je vais partager votre blogue sur Facebook car j’ai entendu votre cas sur LCN dimanche matin et ça m’a choquée au plus haut point . Je n’ai pas allaitée dans le temps y a de ça presque 34 ans , c’est un choix personnel mais je comprends tout à fait les mamans qui allaitent . Je n’ai jamais magasinée à cet endroit pour mes petits enfants et ce n’est pas de sitôt que je le ferai non plus , jamais ils n’auront mes sous , c’est scandaleux ce qu’ils vous on fait à vous et l’autre maman , voyons ma brue a allaiter ses 2 enfants et y a rien de scandaleux là , c’est tout à fait naturel .


  37. Unreal! I completely understand how it didn’t all sink in until afterwards and only then did you realize what you “should” have said or “should” have done. Hats off to you for breastfeeding your baby which is one of the most demanding jobs a mother has. And congrats on keeping it together as long as you did. If you wanted to really piss off the sales clerks, you could have also taken some clothes into the fitting room to “try” them on…. take you sweet time, and hopefully a line would form outside! Might not be too good for business!

    Best of luck 🙂


  38. Je trouve cela débile de la part du magasin, et pas vraiment commercial, mais de là à parler de violation des droits de l’homme…


  39. Je ne peux pas croire qu’en 2011, dans un magasin pour enfants on fasse a si peu de bon sens. L’allaitement est naturel, les seins sont en premier lieu fait pour ca. J’ai allaité mes 2 enfants PARTOUT et il n’aurait vraiment pas fallu que quelqu’un vienne me dire de me cacher ou sortir, ouf que j’aurais été mauvaise. Bande d’idiot! Et que dire des commis qui commentait l’incident devant les clients dont celle qui se faisait expulser. Franchement! J’ai fais une plainte au bureau chef en France, au magasin meme et au complexe les ailes. Vous ne me verrez plus jamais mette les pieds dans ce magasin, ni même mes amies


  40. Je ne comprend pas comment des femmes de notre génération peuvent encore penser comme ça en 2011. Elles n’ont probablement pas d’enfant et n’ont jamais été confrontées aux pleurs déchirants d’un enfant qui a faim! Pour ma part, il m’est arrivé d’allaiter dans une église, pendant une cérémonie de baptême, une autre fois en pleine cérémonie de mariage, souvent dans plusieurs magasins, dont Clément, dans la section des chaises berçantes a vendre, devant tout le monde. Je ne suis allée que de rares fois dans les salles d’allaitement car je trouvait cela contraignant et préférait allaiter en public. Jamais on ne m’a fait de commentaire négatif. Souvent j’ai reçu des regards attendris et des encouragements. Pourquoi faudrait-il se cacher?


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