When Danielle Joseph-McKay’s daughter, Nilah, was about 5 months old, she began nursing her while out to dinner.
A man sitting at a nearby table loudly told his wife, “That’s not on the menu!” Joseph-McKay recalled.
“It actually kind of made me laugh,” said Joseph-McKay, 39, of East Farmingdale, who is expecting her fifth child.
But breastfeeding “should be the norm,” said Joseph-McKay, a labor support doula.
Saturday, she joined about 10 other mothers to nurse their children at the Tanner Park Senior Center in Copiague as part of the Global Big Latch On, an effort to normalize breastfeeding and provide peer support to other nursing moms.
While federal law protects a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, many women may feel embarrassed because of public perception around the practice, said Grace Ioannidis, director of the Suffolk County Office of Women’s Services.
The event, sponsored by Suffolk County and local health organizations, aims to “let other women know that it’s okay” to breastfeed in public, Ioannidis said. “Today marks a big day for women who are breastfeeding and working moms.”
The Tanner Park Senior Center was decorated with balloons, bibs and streamers as groups provided information about breastfeeding and other parenting issues in English and Spanish. Pastries, cookies, other snacks and bottled water were also available to mothers. The county also held several breastfeeding events Friday.
It took Melinda Eldora, a certified lactation consultant with the Women, Infants and Children program, 4 to 5 months to become comfortable breastfeeding her son, 10-month-old Jacob, in public.
“You do get the looks,” said Eldora, 36, of Lindenhurst. “I’ve done it in airports, I’ve done it at museums, I’ve done it at the beach. I’ve done it anywhere.”
Sitting on the beach at Tanner Park, Philip Randazzo, 76, said there’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public, but he would feel “a little embarrassed” to see it.
“If I was sitting eating my spaghetti and I turned around and this woman is breastfeeding, I would be a little bit turned off,” he said.
His brother, Anthony Randazzo, 71, said a woman should be able to breastfeed anywhere she wants, whether it’s the subway or a restaurant.
“I think they have the right to do that,” he said.
Neka Anderson, 30, of Copiague, said she plans to breastfeed her daughter, 8-month old Alina, as long as she can, and is undeterred by funny looks from others.
“If she’s hungry, she’s got to eat,” Anderson said. “You don’t want to see it, don’t look.”