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Like many parents, Ashley Cooper and her husband recently took their three kids to the mall for pictures with the Easter Bunny. But as they were waiting, her 8-month-old baby got hungry. So Cooper ducked out of the line, found that the mall's one breastfeeding room was already occupied, and sat on a bench to breastfeed her child. And although she is legally allowed to breastfeed in public, she was told by a security guard that she had to leave, and couldn't breastfeed her baby.
So once the security guard walked away, Cooper live-streamed herself breastfeeding her baby and caught the reactions of women who witnessed her harassment.
"Thanks ... for trying to shame a nursing mom and try to scare me out of feeding my baby," she originally wrote on the post. "Know your rights nursing mamas!"
Cooper added an update after the live stream ended, adding more context to her story.
"First I want to say thank you to so many people who have shared messages of support! Nursing, bottle, formula, gtube - no matter how your baby is fed, moms are allowed to feed their children anywhere and in any way," she wrote.
She then explained what happened after the camera turned off.
"I finished feeding my baby, I went back in line with my husband and toddler, and my 2 kids got their photo with the Easter bunny," she wrote.
"We then went down to guest services to speak with mall management. The women behind the counter were very apologetic and kind. They offered apologies and train tickets for my family to take a ride (my 3 year old loves the train). I hold no grudge toward the mall and will continue to shop and nurse there," she wrote. "I hold no ill-will toward the security guard - she thought she was doing her job... I am frustrated that she thought nursing women aren't allowed to feed their babies in public. I am frustrated with the lack of training and education regarding nursing mothers rights."
The mall promised to add training on the laws regarding public breastfeeding to their security guard training, so that future security guards know that breastfeeding people are allowed to feed their babies anywhere.
Although 49 states (all except Idaho), plus DC and the Virgin Islands had laws protecting public breastfeeding as of late 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, people who breastfeed in public are still shamed.
But in order to stop frustrating moments like what happened to Cooper, we need more than just awareness that these laws exist. We need to stop sexualizing bodies of people who are simply trying to feed their babies.