Letting breast milk flow in the garden of winter


By Vanessa Romo

With posters saying “Breast milk is love, life, lunch” and “Wall Street Needs Some Mama Love” attached to the back of their strollers, a group of about 30 mothers staged a “nurse-in” at the Winter Garden on Thursday, July 21.

The protest, led by the Tribeca Mommies and the Hudson River Park Mamas was organized after Leandra McCormick, 26, was told by a security guard employed by Brookfield Properties to cover up or move to a more secluded area of the mall if she wanted to continue nursing indoors.

“She came over to me and said, ‘Don’t get mad but you have to cover up because people might get offended,’” said McCormick who had gone into the Winter Garden on July 6 to feed her 7-month-old daughter, Leandra McCormick III. “It was 90 degrees outside and I was afraid [my daughter] was going to get dehydrated,” said McCormick. “So I went inside where it was nice and cool.”

Slightly embarrassed but mostly insulted, McCormick who was accompanied by three other women and their infant children, asked to speak to the mall manager. She was directed to the security manager instead. “No one could tell us the mall’s policy,” said McCormick, “they just told me I couldn’t go exposing myself like that.”

Eventually McCormick and her friends left the Winter Garden and continued to nurse on a bench outside.

Throughout the three-hour demonstration, which was described as “peaceful and quiet,” the women answered questions from office workers and shoppers and handed out flyers containing New York State Civil Code 79-e which grants a woman the right to “breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.”

Melissa Coley, spokesperson for Brookfield, said it was an isolated incident. “We’re sorry that there was a misunderstanding between one security guard and one woman breastfeeding on our property,” she said. “We’re completely supportive of women breastfeeding in the work place or any of our public spaces.”

Since the incident Brookfield security guards have been apprised of New York state law regarding women and breastfeeding, said Coley.

McCormick, for whom the protest was a first activist attempt, said it was a great success. Brookfield’s director of security, Vito Bruno, apologized to McCormick and gave her his contact information should there be any confusion in the future.

“I feel good. I feel like it worked,” said McCormick, smiling broadly. “I got what I needed and I don’t think it’ll ever happen again and that’s the whole point.”

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