Society and Culture

Cleveland Museum Called Out For Shaming A Breastfeeding Mom

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A disgruntled mom of three, Emily Locke, posted a lengthy Facebook status Monday about the experience she had while breastfeeding her youngest child at the Cleveland History Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The family was there for her sister’s wedding and, during pictures, her nine-month old decided it was dinner time. The mother reportedly sat down there in the museum to breastfeed, and it wasn’t long before a museum worker tried to stop her.

“I was approached by a woman who told me ‘you aren’t allowed to do that here.'” Locke says in the post. “I responded that I was actually legally allowed to nurse my child. She said it was against the museum policy and I had to stop. I refused and she said she would have to get her manager.”

The woman Locke assumed was the manager spoke to her as well, informing Locke there were areas of the museum she could “do that” and that she would need to move because it is a “family museum” and they were trying to “protect the innocent children.” Locke repeated her earlier statement that women are allowed to breastfeed wherever they need to, and eventually the manager left her alone.

Locke’s post has been shared thousands of times in the last 24 hours, and many enraged social media supporters have lambasted the Cleveland History Center to express their outrage.

“I was so disappointed and saddened by this,” Locke goes on to say. “I was treated as if I was doing something disgusting and inappropriate. That I was in some way hurting the innocence of children.”

The museum has since come out with an apology, claiming it has no policies against women breastfeeding on its property, and it will be re-training staff on its policies:

This evening, we were made aware of an unfortunate incident over the weekend where a nursing mother was urged to refrain from breastfeeding her child in a public museum area by museum staff.

We offer our sincerest apologies to this mom and her family. Cleveland History Center does not have any policies that prohibit breastfeeding in our public areas. We do not condone the behavior of the staff involved, and have begun taking next steps to address this issue.

Our hopes are that this incident will serve as a teachable moment and an opportunity to improve our guest experience as we continue to provide a safe and family fun environment for all.

This is not an isolated incident. Women are shamed for breastfeeding in public daily, even though 49 states plus D.C. have laws allowing women to do so (with the exception of Idaho — what the hell, Idaho?). Many of those same states also exempt breastfeeding women from public indecency laws.

But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean women won’t get harassed. YouTube social experiments, like the one from Joey Salads below, showcase just how prevalent the misunderstanding about breastfeeding is:

It’s extremely disheartening to see the number of women who shame a mother for breastfeeding, because that means those women have been taught that breasts are something to be ashamed of or to be hidden, when the purpose of a mother’s breast is simply to give sustenance to her child. There is nothing shameful in that. Mothers should know their rights and stand up for them, like Emily Locke did, but they should not be harassed in the first place.

To learn more about breastfeeding laws in your state, click here.

Morgan McMurray
Morgan McMurray is an editor and gender equality blogger based in Seattle, Washington. A 2013 graduate of Iowa State University, she has a Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism, and International Studies. She spends her free time writing, reading, teaching dance classes, and binge-watching Netflix. Contact Morgan at



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