A breastfeeding mother who was asked by a mall customer service employee to leave the play area of Pine Centre Mall gathered together a group of nursing mothers and staged a "nurse-in" protest Saturday afternoon that resulted in a change in the mall's policy.
On Friday, Tara Turcotte, 33, was feeding her three-month old baby Lucy while watching her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Audrey using the indoor playground near the northeast entrance to the mall when she was told the mall did not allow breastfeeding or bottlefeeding in the play area.
"I was asked to stop breastfeeding, and I told the employee I am allowed by law to breastfeed wherever," said Turcotte. "I went to mall administration and they told me they didn't want people breastfeeding in that area because it could make a big mess and they said the same rule applies to formula-fed babies."
Turcotte then asked if the mall could install a bench in front of the opening to the play area to accommodate breastfeeding but was told that would not happen.
"They wanted me to either leave my 2 /12-year-old in there and go over to the Drummer Boy [ice cream kiosk] or go to the bench facing outwards that was not near the opening, and I did not feel comfortable with that."
Turcotte left the mall and got busy on her computer, posting her experience that day on Facebook pages Baby Bling, Prince George Breastfeeding Cafe and Mommy Swap, and the idea was born to stage a nurse-in Saturday at the mall, attended by about 30 nursing moms. Turcotte found out her protest was effective when she went to the mall's Facebook, which posted a revised policy that will allow moms to feed their babies in the kids' play area.
The posting by Pine Centre Mall management reads: "Pine Centre would like to sincerely apologize to all those affected by the breastfeeding issue in our play area. After careful review and consideration of your comments we are revising our policy on this issue. Breastfeeding will now be allowed in our Pine for Play area."
In an earlier statement that has since been taken down from the website, the mall said it did not want mothers to breastfeed their babies in the carpeted play area "to protect the health, safety and overall enjoyment for the thousands of children who use it" and advised them to do so in the washrooms near that part of the mall.
Pine Centre Mall general manager Sonya Hunt said the revised policy will be posted Monday on the mall's main website, pinecentre.com.
"We certainly appreciate the concerns expressed by our customers," said Hunt. "The benefit of social media is that you get immediate feedback which allows you to respond accordingly. We are thankful for the opportunity to be able to correct the situation and address the needs of our customers.
"The alternative would be potentially losing their business. All comments negative and positive enable us to continuously improve Pine Centre. We have changed the policy and sincerely apologize to all those negatively affected."
Turcotte, who has never before had anyone complain about her breastfeeding, is satisfied with the mall's response.
'Now you're welcome to breastfeed and bottlefeed in that area because of me being aggressive about it," said Turcotte. A baby should never have to wait for their meal and you shouldn't be running around trying to find a place to feed them. I just want everybody to have the right to feed their children anywhere, anytime."