Cafe Manager Berates Breastfeeding Mom

What would you do if you saw a manager harass mom for breastfeeding in public?

May 12, 2010, 2:22 PM

May 13, 2010— -- You're sipping your morning coffee at a local cafe when you overhear the manager loudly reprimanding another customer.

"Excuse me, could you do that somewhere else?" he says. "I don't want to be rude, but geez, I'm trying to run a restaurant here."

But the woman isn't causing trouble, she's just breastfeeding her baby.

The manager is relentless: "Yeah, I mean seriously, whipping your hooters out here in front of everybody?"

Suddenly the whole cafe is paying attention, but what do you do: speak up or look away?

Watch "What Would You Do?" Fridays at 9/8c

Public breastfeeding can be a touchy subject -- with strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Still, in all but three states, it is legal for a woman to nurse her baby wherever and whenever she wants.

It made us wonder: Would anyone care if a nursing mom was thrown out of a cafe for breastfeeding?

ABC News' "What Would You Do?" set out with hidden cameras to Jean Danet Bakery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to test it. We hired actress Traci Hovel to play our nursing mom and used a lifelike doll as her baby. Thomas Kelly played our incensed cafe manager.

In one of the first scenes of the day, a middle-aged couple comes into the cafe to order some items to go when Tom begins his rant: "Oh, God! Could you do that somewhere else?"

The couple seems to notice right away, but we're not sure whose side they're on until the wife speaks up: "I have two small kids and I wouldn't do that out in public."

"It doesn't offend me, but it definitely makes me uncomfortable," her husband chimes in.

The couple isn't alone. In fact, 57 percent of Americans disapprove of public breastfeeding, according to Babytalk Magazine. Even Bill Maher has made public breastfeeding the butt of his jokes, calling it an "intimate act" he doesn't want to see in public.

Public breastfeeding has also made headlines; stories of women getting kicked out of restaurants, clothing stores, even Victoria's Secret, all because they were nursing their babies. Would anyone stick up for our nursing mom?

Patron Comes to Breastfeeding Mom's Rescue

Back in the cafe, Traci starts to unbutton and Tom starts his tirade when another mother sits down nearby. As Tom lashes out at Traci, customer Carrie Ryan-Keough starts to get visibly uncomfortable.

Finally, she turns around and confronts Tom directly. "Actually, what you're telling her is against the law," she says. "It is a law that you can breastfeed your child in public anywhere you want to."

Once we let her in on our experiment, Carrie tells us she is a mother of two and has breastfed her babies in public.

We wondered, would the support for our nursing mom change if her race did? After all, we were filming the scenario in an area that was 78 percent white.

To find out, we hired Bianca, an African-American actress, to play the breastfeeding mom. Disgusted-manager Tom begins his rant once again, this time offering to set up the bathroom for Bianca to nurse her baby.

"Yeah, I don't want to see your jugs in public," he says.

"Jugs?" Bianca replies, "These are breasts. I cannot believe you!"

Other customers couldn't believe it either. A UPS man stopping by the cafe to make a quick delivery pauses to tell Tom he can't talk to a woman that way.

Bianca thanks him just as Stella Kokolis, an elderly woman, approaches the counter. When she overhears Tom's protests, Kokolis stops what she's doing and says, "It doesn't turn me off to see a lady breastfeeding. It's nothing wrong!"

When we catch up with Kokolis outside, she tells us that she is a grandmother and that breastfeeding is the most natural act there is.

But what would happen if instead of a middle-aged woman breastfeeding, we swapped actresses for a teen mom? Would reactions change? Would people be as supportive? The answer might surprise you.

Find out what happens on "What Would You Do?" Friday, May 14, at 9 p.m. ET.

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