Lynda Mazzalai Nguyen recently attended a seminar at a San Francisco hotel. When she asked the staff for a private place to pump breast milk, she was outraged when they insisted she pump in a bathroom. Her response? The new mom pumped in the hotel lobby and posted the photo on Facebook. The image of Nguyen proudly pumping in public, along with her account of what happened, has since gone viral, with many commenters chiming in to say that they, too, have struggled to find private, sanitary places to pump.
In an August 13 Facebook post, Nguyen says that she went to the hotel staff while attending a seminar to ask for a private place to pump. They told her to pump in the bathroom. Unsurprisingly, the prospect of pumping food for her baby in a public bathroom was less than appealing. “F*CK YOU! NO!”, Nguyen responded. “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.”
Nguyen recounts the range of dubious reasons she was given for why there was not a single space in an entire hotel for her to pump:
1) "No, you can't use the hotel rooms since you haven't paid for it." Uhh I paid a fee to attend the seminar which paid YOU, so YES, I am a paying customer. 2) "There are no hotel rooms available. We sold out this morning." LIES. I found rooms on Expedia! 3) "I don't feel comfortable putting you in an uncleaned room." So a dirty bathroom with urine and feces is better than a room someone just checked out of? 4) "As staff, we don't even have offices. Only the GM has an office, but I can't ask him and it has big glass windows." I'm fine with windows! "But I can't have you in his office." 5) So you're telling me in the WHOLE entire building there isn't a single space for me to plug in for 15 min to pump for my baby?? Office? Conference room? Anything? "No, there isn't. The conference rooms aren't private since you can't lock the door and people come in and out." That's fine with me, I just need a room with an outlet. "Well, I'm not comfortable putting you in there." WTF, lady!! Work with me here.
If you’re wondering, “But, wait, what about the hotel staff who need to pump?”, Nguyen thought of that, too: “What about employees who pump? Where do they go? ‘We don't have any employees who pump.’” That seems… incredibly unlikely.
As Elissa Strauss at Slate points out, women in most states are guaranteed the right to breastfeed in public by law, but there are far fewer protections for women who need to pump, especially if they aren’t at work. (The Affordable Care Act requires that employers allow women to pump at work, though that policy doesn’t apply to all workers). Since many women who breastfeed also pump, the common lack of lactation facilities seems like a glaring oversight.
In Nguyen’s case, the hotel staffer eventually said she could use the hotel’s wine cellar, but when Nguyen came back later to pump, she decided to make a statement:
Based on principle, I decided to pump in the lobby next to reception. F*ck you, @embassysuites. I'm livid. I spoke to the GM and expressed their need to train their staff, and reiterated how appalling it was to be quickly dismissed without any attempts to accommodate my need and offered a bathroom because sir, you don't eat where you sh*t, so why should my baby! He apologized profusely.
In a follow up to her original post, Nguyen added that the hotel does appear to have a decent policy in place for pumping moms; the problem was that the staff didn’t implement it. “The GM told me that they do have policies in place,” she wrote. “[P]lan A: hotel room and if those are sold out then plan B: an office. … I believe it's a matter of inconsistency with their staff training.”
Nguyen’s post has been shared over 20,000 times. She writes,
I've received tons of messages from women sharing their terrible pumping experiences in awful conditions AND wonderful experiences at hotels and other places that provided accommodations without batting an eye! There's hope that more places will eventually follow suit and get it right!!