Dental office apologizes to mom whose Facebook post went viral after she was shamed for breastfeeding

Tiffany Elliott was hesitant at first, but now she’s happy she shared her breastfeeding incident on Facebook. (Photo: Facebook/Tiffany Elliott)

A mother who took her 5-year-old daughter to a dental appointment on Saturday was humiliated when the dentist reprimanded her for breastfeeding her other little girl, a 9-month-old infant who got hungry mid-visit. The mom, Tiffany Elliott, reported being shamed in a Facebook post that’s gone viral — and the owner of the medical facility has now issued an apology.

Elliott claims she had walked up to the reception desk at Wilson Dental in Rochester, N.Y., and was answering standard questions posed by Robin Craig, DDS, when the baby, Ember, became fussy. The mom started breastfeeding on the spot, prompting Craig to react in a way Elliott interpreted as unprofessional.

According to Elliott, Craig allegedly said, “OK I’m uncomfortable and whatever you are doing there needs to stop!” while gesturing at her chest. But Elliott says she was being as modest as possible, writing, I had Ember cradled and one hand at the bottom of my shirt, with ZERO skin exposed.”

After her “jaw dropped,” the mother reacted to the conflict by citing her right to breastfeed in public by New York State law — specifically New York Civil Right Law 79-E, as stated on the website of the Department of Health:Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.”

Elliott claims Craig invalidated her rights, saying, “I guess MY rights don’t matter.” The mother — who by then decided that her older child, Vayda, would not be having her teeth checked after all — announced she would not leave until she had a chance to speak with the manager. The manager, however, allegedly chose to side with the dentist.

“She was useless!” Elliott wrote. “She DEFENDED the doctor’s behavior and told me ‘GOOD! GO AHEAD!’ when I told her I would be letting the world know how they treated me.”

Elliott says she left the office embarrassed and in tears. She told Yahoo Lifestyle she’s not only a nursing mom, but also a breastfeeding advocate for other new moms — both strangers and friends.

“It’s a huge passion of mine,” she said. “I have women who contact me every single day, saying, ‘I’m struggling with nursing or latching.’ What I do is I provide my own tips based on the education I’ve gained over the last years. I struggled the first time [I breastfed] and that’s what motivated me to learn all about it.” 

The Facebook post she created to vent about the ordeal now has 13,000 reactions, almost 8,000 shares and more than 3,600 comments primarily from fellow moms who applaud her decision to speak up. “I am so sorry that happened to you,” one mother wrote. “I am also glad you stood up for yourself and your child. I don’t understand how someone can be so ignorant. You feed that baby wherever, whenever needed!”

Out of the shaming moment, though, emerged a silver lining: the owner of Wilson Dental, Mike Wilson, DDS, issued an apology, which he shared with Yahoo Lifestyle. It includes a pledge that all staffers will be educated about breastfeeding going forward. The statement reads:

“There was an unfortunate comment made on Saturday to a breastfeeding mother by one of our employees at our Rochester office. I want to apologize to the mom, on behalf of Wilson Dental, for that comment. In response, I just wanted to make it crystal-clear as to where [I] and Wilson Dental stands when it comes to the subject of breastfeeding moms. We completely support all mothers’ right to breastfeed their children in public. We do not accept, condone or believe in any kind of discrimination against breastfeeding moms or their breastfeeding children. We will immediately perform additional breastfeeding education awareness and training for our entire staff, at all of our locations, so that everyone in our practices is fully aware of the company’s position and perspective on this very important subject and to make sure that these situations are handled accordingly going forward.”

Elliott, who says she “went back and forth all weekend” about creating the post, is pleased with her decision to be transparent.

“I think my situation at the dentist’s office proves that even medical professionals are ignorant and do not understand everything that goes into breastfeeding,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle, explaining that breastfeeding is not always a preference — sometimes it’s also a necessity. “I actually don’t respond to the pump,” she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I have a great supply, but I just can’t pump. The suction of a pump is different.”

Elliott explained that what bystanders may not realize is that she and other mothers like her would have to pump for an hour just to get three ounces of milk. “That’s not even enough for a bottle,” she said. Plus, she says some babies — like Ember — refuse to take a bottle, especially if they’re used to their mom’s nipple. “People are always like, ‘wouldn’t it just be easier to use bottles?’ and I’m like, no it wouldn’t!” she said, noting that breastfeeding guarantees her milk will always be the right temperature and the right amount — not to mention the myriad reported health benefits for the nursing moms themselves.

Elliott says she’s also grateful for the groundswell of support she received from breastfeeding advocates far and wide. “I have learned that I have always been right in my ways of promoting breastfeeding,” she wrote in a second Facebook post. “I have also learned though, that for every person I may have upset over the last three days, I spoke with hundreds who were in support of me and my family. I learned that people are generally good.”

The mom told Yahoo Lifestyle she finds it “ironic” that Wilson Dental staffers will receive breastfeeding awareness lessons, considering how dismissive she says they were to her about the act. “The exact words she said to me when I told her I was going to post this on Facebook for my friends were ‘Go ahead,’ and she laughed in my face,” Elliott said. She said that no matter who was offended — and even putting her own baby’s feelings aside — “when it comes down to it, the law is the law.” 

Elliott said she’s still holding out for an apology from Craig and the office manager she dealt with on Saturday. That said, “at the end of the day, I am glad that it happened to me and not a new mom, young mom or a mom struggling with nursing already.” And she said even 5-year-old Vayda came to her defense. “[Vayda] said to me, ‘That doctor was confused. She didn’t even know what it was,'” Elliott told Yahoo Lifestyle. “She called it ‘whatever you’re doing there.'”

Elliott also said that although this was the first time she was ever shamed for breastfeeding, she’s glad it happened to her and not someone else. Her message to first-time nursing moms or those who succumb to shaming is to stand by their rights.

“This is why we SHOULD nurse in public,” she wrote. “It normalizes it not only for the society we have but for future generations too!”

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