An Oregon mom sparked outrage after she revealed that the doctor she sought for help with her post-partum depression forced her to cover up while breastfeeding her 3-month-old daughter. Jennifer Howard, a 38-year-old mother of three, made the appointment with a new doctor, Dr. Dennis Barnett.
At one point during the appointment, Jennifer's daughter, Evelyn, began to fuss, as young babies are prone to do. When Jennifer began to nurse her, the doctor became physically uncomfortable and asked her if she had anything to cover herself up with. When Jennifer asked why, Dr. Barnett said it was, "a rule the clinic had to avoid situations that could result in lawsuits against a staff member for doing something inappropriate."
Feeling "embarrassed and flustered," Jennifer was able to fish a blanket out of her diaper bag and the doctor held it up as a shield while Jennifer got Evelyn to latch on, then he awkwardly covered mother and daughter with the blanket.
"It was humiliating and uncomfortable and I felt judged and shamed for trying to feed my baby," she said.
Jennifer Howard with her daughter Evelyn (Photo: ANNA REED/Statesman Journal)
After the appointment, Jennifer said she cried the entire way home. She had gone to the doctor to feel better, but she left feeling even worse than before. Once home, she decided to contact patient relations for the clinic and ask them about their breastfeeding policy. They informed her they had none. That encouraged her to complain to the clinic and file a complaint with the Oregon Medical Board. After she sent in her letter of complaint to the clinic, she requested to switch doctors. That request was refused.
After receiving the bad news, Jennifer decided to take this case to the court of public opinion. She made a post on Facebook about her experience.
"I've spent some time chewing on this and debating whether or not to share publicly," began the post. "Then a respected friend told me that I should complain loudly and widely. I'm mad enough to do just that. In no uncertain terms, I am being discriminated against and forced out of my medical clinic for breastfeeding Evelyn."
The post took off almost instantly, quickly reaching viral proportions.
A petition was filed on Care2Petitions that demanded that Dr. Barnett either be fired outright or penalized for his handling of the situation.
"If this doctor can't handle breastfeeding---a natural part of raising an infant---he shouldn't be treating new mothers, let alone other patients," the authors of the petition wrote. Thus far, the petition has 19,673 out of the 20,000 signatures that it asked for, proving that plenty of people feel very strongly about this issue.
Jennifer herself isn't necessarily chomping at the bits to have Dr. Barnett fired. She would rather receive an apology, from both the clinic and Dr. Barnett, and for the clinic to educate its employees on the benefits of breastfeeding and the laws surrounding it.
"It is my right to feed my baby anywhere, anyhow," she said. "The law says so. And the fact that I was hassled in a doctor's office just blows my mind. That was the one place I thought I'd be free from being shamed."
What do you think? Was the doctor wrong to make Jennifer cover up, or did she blow things way out of proportion? Let us know your opinion in the comments!