Several dozen young mothers breastfed their young children in the McDonald’s restaurant at Budapest’s Nyugati (Western) station on Friday. The flashmob event was organized in response to a security guard requiring a nursing mother to leave the restaurant two days earlier.
The young mother reportedly had asked permission from the employee to nurse her four-month-old child, and then retired to the corner of the restaurant. After consulting with his boss, the security guard asked her to leave, reportedly telling her that nursing one’s child in public “is not an accepted activity here”.
A hail of criticism followed.
McDonald’s responded by claiming that its values are not compatible with those of the security guard’s attitude, and that it had launched an internal investigation into the matter. They have also contacted the young mother. “Every young mother has the opportunity to nurse in our restaurants,” reads the statement issued by the fast-food restaurant chain. “There is not and has never been a rule in force that would have forbidden this. McDonald’s is a family friendly restaurant chain.”
The statement failed to placate several dozen young women who waited patiently with their children at Nyugati station on Friday for Budapest’s oldest and largest McDonald’s restaurant to open at 11 am.
The media interest was huge. The McDonald’s employees were very accommodating. Nobody, not even the security guards, had anything bad to say. The young mothers sat down and nursed their infants while their larger children ate hamburgers and french fries.
One mother told the Beacon that while she herself never experienced a similar atrocity at a restaurant, she felt an obligation to be there in a show of solidarity.
Another mother arrived with her husband. They said it is important to make people understand that this is a completely natural thing, and there is nothing embarrassing about it. Often it was the mothers themselves who felt embarrassed. But if the child is hungry, then it has to eat, otherwise it becomes hysterical, said the father. Everyone grew up on somebody’s breast, he added. The young mother said she believes that a generational gap contributes to the problem. In earlier times many women hid themselves away when nursing but the current generation had socialized differently and was much more open.
The point of the demonstration was that every mother has the right to satisfy her child’s needs without being made to feel humiliated.
Many mothers not attending the event expressed their solidarity by uploading photographs of themselves nursing to the event’s Facebook page.