"The Princess Bride" had it wrong. The two classic blunders in the world are: Never get involved in a land war in Asia and never, ever piss off a well-informed nursing mother.
The Internet has exploded with an outpouring of love for mom Lynda Mazzalai Nguyen, who posted an image on Instagram of her using a breast pump in a hotel lobby … wearing a hands-free pumping bra and a huge grin.
As Nguyen explains in her Facebook post from August 13, 2016, which has since gone viral with more than 16,000 shares and counting, she was attending a seminar at the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Francisco Airport when she asked the front desk staff for a private space to pump her breast milk.
The response was one that far too many nursing women have heard: We have a bathroom you can use. Nguyen countered with the most basic logic: “I told them they don't eat lunch in the bathroom, so it's gross to expect me to contaminate baby's milk in there.” As the conversation progressed, each explanation provided by the hotel staff grew more ludicrous, ranging from “We have no hotel rooms available (for pumping)” to “I’m not comfortable putting you (in a conference room).”
So the outraged Nguyen decided to enjoy her lunch in the hotel’s reception area with her electric double breast pump fully engaged.
It’s critical for all parties involved to be informed not just what our rights are, but why it’s so important for pumping mothers to have access to a clean and comfortable space.
Nguyen later received a personal apology from the hotel’s general manager, and when Mom.me contacted GM Rudy Ortiz, we received this official statement:
“Embassy Suites San Francisco Airport strives to be a welcoming place for our guests and the community we serve. We deeply regret this situation and apologize for the lack of sensitivity shown to this guest. Celebrating mothers and families is a part of our DNA at Embassy Suites by Hilton and it’s our goal to deliver the very best guest service every day.”
Yet this fails to answer our most basic questions:
How are staff members trained to accommodate guests and visitors who are nursing mothers? Will they revisit their training strategies since this one experience has circulated so widely? Does the hotel provide a private area for its employees to pump, in accordance to federal law under the Fair Labor Standards Act and California state law?
At the time of publication, we have not received further clarification from the hotel or any response from the corporate office of the hotel’s parent company, Hilton Worldwide.
Currently, 49 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. Outside the scope of employee rights, the language rarely specifies whether this also includes expressing breast milk, but logic dictates that pumping milk is an extension of breastfeeding.
As it stands, Nguyen’s humorous-yet-passionate post has clearly struck a chord and provides some much-needed insight: If nursing moms are to succeed in their breastfeeding goals and working mothers are to achieve work-life balance, it’s critical for all parties involved to be informed not just what our rights are, but why it’s so important for pumping mothers to have access to a clean and comfortable space.
Pumping in a public lobby may not be anyone’s first option, but when the choice is between that or a bathroom stall … we say kudos to this mom for taking a stand, er, seat.