Stranger Pays For Breastfeeding Mom's Meal

 Jackie Johnson Smith. Image via: abcnews.go.com

Jackie Johnson Smith. Image via: abcnews.go.com

It’s no secret that women routinely get shamed for breastfeeding in public. But one nursing mom received a pat on the back — and a free meal. 

According to the parenting site Mommyish, a woman named Emily (last name unknown) from Pittsburgh, PA was recently breastfeeding her six-month-old son during dinner with her family at a local restaurant.

When the check arrived, it included a note that read, “I noticed you breastfeeding in public & I think that’s awesome and admirable. Pay it forward. Happy holidays.” Turns out Emily’s meal had been paid for by an altruistic stranger, who told Emily that she works in a restaurant herself and never sees women openly nursing. 

 Image via: mommyish.com

Image via: mommyish.com

“I sometimes worry about having to defend my right to nurse when feeding my baby in public, since you typically hear about women being harassed or asked to leave/cover themselves,” Emily told Mommyish. “I definitely never expected this response! This was so heartwarming and I look forward to doing something to support another mom.” 

The good deed echoes a similar gesture that occurred in 2013, when a mother of three named Jackie Johnson-Smith was eating in an Iowa restaurant on her birthday. When her 12-month-old baby began crying, Johnson-Smith started nursing him but eventually took him to the car to finish.

After her husband left the restaurant, he showed his wife the dinner receipt, on which the waitress had written a note that read, “I bought one of your pizzas. Please thank your wife for breastfeeding!” Afterward, Johnson-Smith posted a photo of the note to her Facebook page and it went viral, racking up thousands of likes and shares. 

These stories are a sharp contrast to what women often experience while nursing in public. In August, a mother named Ingrid Wiese Hessonpaid for $700 worth of items from a Beverly Hills based Anthropologie, then sat down in the store to nurse her crying baby.

She was approached by a manager who reportedly said, “I’m here to escort you to the ladies room where you can finish feeding your baby.” The only available seat? The toilet. When news of the incident spread on Facebook, a group of moms organized a nurse-in at the store.

And in October, a woman named Erin Pena was reportedly asked to leave her ob-gyn’s office at University Medical Center in Texas after she was spotted nursing in the office lobby. Pena claims a receptionist threatened to cancel her son’s vaccination appointment if she didn’t comply (UMC later apologized). And most recently, a 28-year-old mother named Jodie Tangikara was scolded for nursing at a playground by a woman who was, uh, smoking a cigarette in the vicinity. 

In most states, women are allowed to nurse anywhere they are legally allowed to be. But it’s difficult to accept public nursing when the breast is still primarily seen as a sexual organ, according to Diana West, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

“The act of breastfeeding is also shocking to many because we don’t see enough women doing it,” West tells Yahoo Parenting. “What’s lovely about Emily’s story is that someone is reinforcing her behavior, supporting her for it, and encouraging her to pay it forward by offering that same encouragement to someone else.” Let’s hope for more stories like Emily’s in 2015.