A handful of mothers lined the entrance to Tulsa’s municipal courthouse to breastfeed their children after a court officer there reportedly told a woman she could not nurse her child in public.
The mothers gathered in response to a Wednesday incident witnessed by expectant mother Savannah Bannon, who said she and another woman were outside a courtroom when a bailiff witnessed the mother breastfeeding and told her to go to the restroom.
“I feel like we sexualize women to a point where we can’t even use our bodies for what they’re meant for,” Bannon said. “That’s not fair. No mother should be shamed for feeding her child when it’s hungry.”
Bannon and the mother, who was not present at the gathering Friday, both filed complaints that day with the city. Bannon later organized a “nurse-in,” in which several mothers nursed their children Friday outside of the municipal courthouse.
In 2004, the Legislature declared “breast-feeding a baby constitutes a basic act of nurturing,” according to the statute. The law states that breastfeeding is a child’s right and that a mother may breastfeed a child “in any location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.”
Oklahoma also has laws providing women protections to breastfeed or express breast milk at work, including providing reasonable break time and a private place to express breast milk.
The six women, five with infants and one expectant mother, sat along the entryway to the courthouse. For about an hour, they breastfed their children.
“I was really disappointed that a man in authority told a woman she couldn’t breastfeed in public when he, of all people, should know at least the rules,” said Chrissie Demarais, one of the mothers outside of the courthouse.
A city spokeswoman said the interaction between the mother and the bailiff was a personnel matter. She said that individual has been placed on administrative leave.