Restaurant chain has surprising response to breastfeeding protest

Sadie Durbin, a mom of two in Kentucky, says a manager at a restaurant tried to cover her with a napkin while she was breastfeeding her 7-week-old daughter. (Photo: Sadie Jackson Durbin/Facebook)

This seemed, at first, like many other stories of public breastfeeding that we’ve read before: After being told to cover up while nursing at a restaurant, a mother complains about it on Facebook; debate ensues; people on all sides are outraged. But the resolution of the dispute at a Texas Roadhouse in Louisville, Ky., seems to have ended with a great deal more progress than usual, in the eyes of breastfeeding advocates.

It all began on Thursday, when Sadie Durbin was feeding her 7-week-old daughter, and a manager at the restaurant approached her with a napkin and tried to place it over the baby’s face as she nursed because another patron had complained about her.

“I politely explained to him it is against the law for him to ask me to cover up and that I was well within my rights to feed my baby,” Durbin wrote on Facebook, referring to a Kentucky law that’s been in effect since 2006 to protect mothers. It states that “no person shall interfere” with a mother breastfeeding her child anywhere that she is authorized to be, and that it is not considered indecent exposure.

“He didn’t apologize,” Durbin continued. “He didn’t acknowledge he was wrong. He said ‘well as a manager I am obligated to tell you we are getting complaints and ask you to cover up,’ threw the napkin down in front of me, and angrily walked away with a huff.”

Servers at the restaurant apologized to Durbin, but she said she felt humiliated after the argument. Still, as a local leader of La Leche League, she said she was glad this happened to her and not a mother new to breastfeeding, who might have been discouraged by the conflict.

After her Facebook post went viral, Texas Roadhouse issued a statement of apology, according to local station WDRB.

“Texas Roadhouse supports the rights of all mothers to breastfeed their children in public, including in our restaurants,” said the statement. “Unfortunately, our manager’s handling of this situation was misguided and wrong. His offer of a napkin to cover up was not to embarrass or prevent her from nursing her child but in reaction to complaints from other guests. This is a great opportunity for us to reinforce our commitment to women’s right to breastfeed in our restaurants, which we will do.“

A spokesman for the restaurant chain said the manager in question would not be fired, but he is taking some paid time off because he was very upset by what happened.

Meanwhile, local breastfeeding advocates decided to make sure the company and other restaurants really did understand the law and the rights of nursing mothers. La Leche League organized a “nurse-in” at the restaurant on Saturday, attended by nearly 40 people, according to ABC affiliate WHAS.

Jeff White, the restaurant’s managing partner, shared a photo of the protest on Facebook and apologized again.

“As we discussed, we will use this incident to educate our employees to the rights of nursing mothers as part of our commitment to providing a welcoming and family-friendly dining experience for everyone,” he wrote.

La Leche League of Louisville also seemed satisfied with the outcome. On the organization’s Facebook post about the protest, Alex Turpen said they were told Texas Roadhouse will be doing a company-wide training on the matter and also offered to do a fundraiser for the organization.

“I feel like it went as well as it could have,” Turpen wrote. “Their actions in the next few days will prove whether they are all talk or not. They listened to a lot of moms and their stories. I hope they gained perspective, and as an organization they make big changes that can have a big impact locally and nationally.”

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