Alexandra Shimo and her partner were attending a charity event at the Lambton Golf and Country Club on Saturday night. When they couldn’t find a babysitter, they brought their two-month-old child, Jacob.
During dinner, Shimo said Jacob became hungry, so she found a “discreet corner” outside the restaurant to breastfeed.
Shimo said that while she fed the baby, a restaurant manager came up to her and said people had complained about seeing her breastfeed while they were eating.
She said the manager got out a tablecloth and “shielded” her from the view of restaurant patrons.
He then led Shimo to the basement, she said, saying she’d be “more comfortable there.”
“I was a bit upset, because he sort of made it seem like I had been doing something wrong and what I was doing was shameful,” Shimo told CBC News.
Flooded with online support
When Shimo’s partner, Lia Grimanis, found her breastfeeding in the basement, she took a photo and posted it on Facebook, describing what had happened.
Shortly after posting the photo, the couple’s social media “exploded” with messages from people across North America and parts of Europe.
The dozens of comments and messages were largely of outrage at the country club and support for Shimo.
Requesting formal apology, sensitivity training
Shimo said she didn’t say anything to the manager at the time because she was so surprised.
“I kind of went along with it,” she said. “And then I felt like, wait a minute, what just happened here? And why didn’t I kind of stand up for myself at the time?
“I was sort of irritated at myself. So I was very happy to have the support on social media.”
She said she plans on asking for a formal apology from Lambton Golf and Country Club, and requesting sensitivity training for its staff.
When called, CBC was directed to an employee at the country club, who would not disclose his full name. He said he was not aware of the situation and could not comment.
CBC News was advised to call back on Monday morning.
Law protects breastfeeding in public spaces
The Ontario Human Rights Commission says women have the right to breastfeed in a public area, and they should not be asked to “cover up” or asked to move.
Shimo said she wasn’t aware of the law until this happened, although she’s unsure whether the country club would constitute a public or private space.
“After getting a flood of support, I suddenly realized that a lot of women don’t really know the law, don’t really know that it’s not OK for people to ask you to move and make you feel like you’re doing something wrong breastfeeding,” she said.
“Personally, I feel why should I have to cover up when I’m breastfeeding? The baby’s head covers the breast anyway, this is a perfectly natural thing to do. It’s necessary to sustain life, so why are we made to feel shameful of it?”