Barista defends woman after complaint over 'disgusting' breastfeeding
In this undated photo, Ottawa resident Julia Wykes is seen with her son. (Photo courtesy Julia Wykes)
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, July 2, 2014 10:38AM EDT
A young male Starbucks employee stood up for a nursing Ottawa mother after another customer complained about her breastfeeding her newborn son in the coffee shop.
Julia Wykes was in line at an Ottawa Starbucks last week waiting for her drink order, when her five-month-old son started to fuss.
In an attempt to soothe him, Wykes sat down and started to nurse him while she waited for her drink. This caught the attention of another customer.
"While I was feeding him, this woman walked up to the counter and said really loudly 'Could you get that woman to stop doing that in public, it's disgusting,'" she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.
The barista smiled and told the complaining customer that he'd take care of it, Wykes said.
Bracing herself for an argument, Wykes was instead shocked when the employee came over, apologized and offered her a voucher for a free drink the next time she came in.
"He said really loudly so the woman could hear 'I'm sorry you had to deal with so much unpleasantness today,'" she said, adding that the complaining customer overheard the entire exchange and left the store in a huff.
A company spokesperson confirmed to CTVNews.ca that the incident did take place, and that the company received notification about the encounter from both Wykes and the barista.
"In this particular case, our (employee) was using their good judgment and wanted to improve this customer's experience and make sure she felt welcome in our store," company spokesperson Laurel Harper said.
Wykes, who works as a midwife, said she was really touched by the employee's actions.
"I was really, really happy about this, because I thought this was a really great attitude to have, especially from a young, teenage man," she said.
She was so pleased by his actions that she thanked him "profusely" and rewarded him with a fat tip. She later went home and shared her experience with her parenting group on Facebook. She said she's also written to the store's management praising his actions.
Wykes said that while she generally believes that most people are OK with seeing a mother breastfeed in public, she's still surprised by the "loud" minority who voice their contempt for it.
As the child of a diplomat, she spent many years growing up in developing countries where breastfeeding in public is completely normal, she added.
And the only way for the behaviour to be normalized here in Canada is for people to get used to seeing it more regularly in public so that they understand that it's not "disgusting" or something that should be "hidden away," she said.
After the encounter, Wykes said she has a message for other new moms out there who may feel embarrassed by feeding their child in public.
"If a woman feels comfortably trying to nurse in public then she should. It is a legally protected right," she said, adding that mothers who don't feel comfortable doing it in public can ask the store for a private corner to breastfeed.
"As a midwife I always say to my clients 'Just feed your baby, because the best thing for your baby is for them to be happy, loved and fed…However you want to do it, feed your baby."
She also has a message for those people who have a problem with public breastfeeding: "If you don't like looking at it, just look away," she said.