Ikea looking for employee who called breastfeeding mother 'disgusting'
Brea Rehder and her daughter are pictured in this undated handout photograph provided to CTVNews.ca. (Handout / Brea Rehder)
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:22PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 6:31PM EDT
An Ikea representative says mothers can breastfeed “anywhere in our stores,” after an Ottawa woman says a manager called her “disgusting” for nursing her daughter while she waited in line.
Brea Rehder says she was at the Ottawa Ikea store on Monday and asked about the price of an item she was purchasing.
According to Rehder, the cashier went to get another employee who could help. That employee, she said, finished a long conversation with a colleague before making her way to where Rehder, her two children and a friend were waiting.
By then, she told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview, she was nursing her nine-month-old daughter, who had begun to fuss.
“She came over to me and I asked her my question and immediately she said, ‘When you’re done being disgusting, we can discuss this. But in the meantime, take it to the bathroom because you’re holding up the line,’” Rehder quoted the employee as saying.
“But the only reason I was holding up the line was because I was waiting for her.”
After she paid for her items and left, Rehder took to the company’s Facebook page to complain about the incident.
“I have never been more insulted in my life,” Rehder wrote on Facebook, adding that not only will she reconsider shopping at the store in future, she is also mulling a harassment suit.
Ikea has apologized to Rehder and says it’s attempting to track down the employee who was involved in the incident.
“It’s not acceptable, which is why we’re looking into it and who was involved,” Ikea manager Isabelle Auclair told CTV Ottawa on Wednesday.
Auclair said the company is taking the complaint very seriously, and stressed that breastfeeding mothers are welcome in the store anytime.
A company representative also responded to Rehder’s Facebook post, saying: “We do not accept anyone saying something negative to a mother breastfeeding. This is not consistent with our culture and values.”
The statement continued: “Ikea supports mothers’ rights to breastfeed openly. We do provide private rooms for anyone who is interested in a quiet moment, but welcome mothers to breastfeed anywhere in our stores.”
Rehder said she was contacted Tuesday evening by a company manager, who “apologized profusely before she said anything else.”
She also said she has visited the store “countless times,” and has nursed both of her children there, knowing that it has supportive policies.
“I don’t blame Ikea for this, because I know what their family values are,” she said. “But unfortunately this person was representing them while in uniform.”
After Rehder posted her complaint to the company’s Facebook page, other users posted to express their dismay, with many nursing mothers saying they would take their business elsewhere.
“This is a disgrace,” Facebook user Manuela Pucher wrote. “Breastfeeding is a vital and natural part of mothering. Ikea is supposed to be family friendly. If mothers are no longer welcome there, I will no longer be comfortable shopping at Ikea.”
Some Facebook users called for the employee to be fired, while others called for mothers to stage a “nurse-in” at the store, a breastfeeding version of a sit-in whereby mothers would gather at the store and begin to nurse.
Rehder says she will wait to see what comes of the company’s internal investigation before deciding whether to take any further action. But she said that while she is used to comments about breastfeeding -- “I get them all the time,” she says -- she is concerned that her 2-year-old son thinks they are doing something wrong. He was beside her and overheard the comments.
“We went to go nurse at night and he said, ‘No mommy, I don’t want to, it’s yucky, the lady said it’s bad.’ I tried to tell him, I said, ‘No, it’s not yucky, you love it.”
Rehder said she’s worried the comments caused her son Evan psychological damage.
She added that she also wants to help break down the stigma that remains over breastfeeding in public.
“The stigma’s not just going to go away with my story, but I’m hoping that more women will go public with their stories because I know so many women are shamed for breastfeeding, which is a completely natural thing to do,” Rehder said.
“I think in modern times when we are so advanced in every other aspect of life, we can’t accept something we’ve been doing forever.”