Breastfeeding Mom Says She Was Told to Leave Women's Hospital Waiting Room

Ariana Elders said she was told she couldn't breastfeed her son in a hospital waiting room.
Ariana Elders

When Ariana Elders' infant son was hungry, she figured she would just feed him — like she had done for the last four months of his life.

But when she began breastfeeding little Deklin in the waiting room of the Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children in Alabama, she said she was shocked when a security guard stopped her.

Elders, who was at the hospital for her 4-year-old son Jayden, said a security guard started looking at her. He then approached her and said she couldn't breastfeed in the waiting room and instead needed to go to another room for privacy, according to Elders.

"I wasn't there for privacy. I was there for my 4-year-old son," Elders told InsideEdition.com.

But the guard, she said, insisted the rule was that she needed to be in a private room.

The mom said she "didn't want to embarrass my 4-year-old or make anyone else in the waiting room uncomfortable," so she followed the guard to a separate room. She described it as a tiny, closed-off medical room with devices and two uncomfortable chairs, pictured above.

"It was not very comforting. It was a medical room," Elders said.

"I was in shock," she added.

Elders said she was so surprised by what happened because she knows she has a right to breastfeed in public. All 50 states have laws protecting breastfeeding mothers. The federal Office on Women's Health reminds people that women "have the right to breastfeed your baby wherever and whenever your baby is hungry." 

The office adds encouragement for mothers on its website: "Remember that you are meeting your baby's needs. It isn't possible to stay home all the time, and you should (and can) feel free to feed your baby while you are out and about. You should be proud of your commitment! Plus, no bottles mean fewer supplies to pack and no worries about getting the milk to the right temperature."

But Elders said she doesn't "speak out that much." So when it came time to defend her right to simply feed her kid, she chose not to make a scene.

In a statement obtained by InsideEdition.com, Hunstville Hospital said it "allows breastfeeding in public" and apologized to Elders.

"In Mrs. Elders' situation a member of our staff made a mistake. ... We want to assure her and our community that we are reviewing our training process to ensure our staff recognize, respect and uphold the rights of breastfeeding mothers," the statement concluded.

Elders has found community around the issue on Facebook by joining women's and mothers' groups, where she can talk about her experiences with others. She said there have been "a lot of people" who have told her that similar things have happened to them. She added that at least three people have told her they were escorted to the very same room at the hospital.

This is why, Elders said, she doesn't agree that what happened to her and other women at Huntsville was just a mistake. "It's a mistake if it happened once," she said.

When asked about Elders' comments, the hospital said it plans to develop additional training programs for its employees. "All employees are educated during orientation that a mother may breastfeed her child anywhere in the hospital she chooses – public or private," the statement reads. "We are now providing additional training on these rights to our entire security team, including contract officers from Security Engineers, Inc. Also, we plan to meet with mothers from the hospital’s breastfeeding support groups to develop a community awareness campaign highlighting a woman’s legal right to breastfeed in public."

Elders thinks more work needs to be done to normalize breastfeeding, "a natural thing for a woman to do; we're born with it," she said.

"I wish that people didn’t see breasts as a sexual product. I wasn't trying to show my body off. I wasn't doing it for attention. ... Nipples aren't a bad thing; Men can walk around with their shirts off," Elders said.

Her message for other mothers struggling to feed their hungry babies in public? 

"Speak out – even if they feel ashamed. Just speak out."

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