A Royal Oak Mall manager has apologised to an Auckland mum who claims she was told to stop breastfeeding and move to a parent room by a security guard because customers felt uncomfortable. However, Royal Oak Mall management has denied that was the reason behind asking the mother to move and said the security guard offered her the parent room as a courtesy.
On Monday, Rebecca Kubba, who moved to New Zealand from the UK eight years ago, took her 10-month-old daughter Madison for a day out. The 31-year-old Kohimarama mother thought it would be a nice idea to stop by Royal Oak Mall for lunch.
While the mother was eating at the food court, little Madison decided she needed to have some breastmilk, so Kubba cautiously moved to a quieter part of the mall as it was quite busy in the food court area. However, when she started breastfeeding her daughter, Kubba was approached by a security guard who told her to stop — even though she covered most of her breast with a blanket.
"One older lady came up to me and told me how nice it was to see a mum breastfeeding", Kubba told the Herald.
"Then a security guard came over... and said, 'I don't have an issue with it myself but there are a few customers that aren't really comfortable with you feeding here, so if you do want to carry on there's actually a feeding room upstairs."
Kubba said she was caught completely off guard by the staff member's statement.
I was not expecting that at all," she said. The older lady who she was having a conversation with backed the mother up, however the security guard repeated herself.
Kubba told the Herald she didn't want to go to the parent room, as she didn't want to feed her daughter next to nappy stations. After the security guard and woman left, the mother put her breast away, strapped Madison in the pram and ran away as she felt "horrible" about the situation.
"I kind of felt like I was a little kid and I was told off for doing something wrong", she said.
"It was like I second-guessed myself and when she was saying there was a parent room upstairs I was thinking to myself 'should I have gone to the parent room? Should I not be feeding here?'
"You're just really vulnerable when you're feeding, especially when you're on your own and in public. I was just really uncomfortable."
It wasn't until Kubba got home and spoke to her parents and mum friends that she did some research and realised it was not legal for the security guard to ask her to stop breastfeeding and move to the parent room.
According to the Human Rights Commission, if people are treated unfairly because they are breastfeeding or expressing breastmilk, it is a form of sexual discrimination under the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act says it is illegal for someone to stop you breastfeeding at work, where you are studying, on public transport, in government departments, in public places and in restaurants and shops.
Kubba said if she had known her rights before the incident, she would have told the security guard "you can't tell me to move, I'm fully within my rights to breastfeed here", and continued breastfeeding.
The mother wanted to share her story so other mothers were aware of their rights and to let the public know what it's like to face breastfeeding discrimination.
"If that had have happened a few months ago, for someone who is really struggling and who has just managed to get out for the day, [being told to stop breastfeeding] could really mess someone up." After the confrontation, Kubba contacted Royal Oak Mall, which responded with an apology on behalf of management.
"I have spoken to the security guard who spoke to you on Monday," the email reads from mall manager Peter Grierson.
"There was no offence intended and she was offering you a place where you could breastfeed your baby with some privacy. You bring up an interesting point and I can see both points of view. Our team will discuss this situation in our next staff meeting and we will then be better equipped to deal with this situation in the future."
Grierson told the Herald: "The Royal Oak Mall management understands the obligations under the Human Rights Commission regarding breastfeeding in public. The staff member did not tell Rebecca to breastfeed in the parent room, as a courtesy to Rebecca the security staff member let Rebecca know that there was a parents' room upstairs if she wanted to use it."
This article was first published on NZ Herald by Megan Harvey and is republished here with permission.