‘No beverages allowed’
By RACHAEL ESPINET Tuesday, September 24 2013
A WOMAN who was found to be breast-feeding her 12-month-old son at auditorium of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port-of-Spain on Sunday during the play The Phantom of the NAPA, was told by a male usher that, “no beverages are allowed” in the auditorium.
Antonia Sealy and her husband Roger were at the play when their son Giovanni became “fussy.” Realising her son was hungry, Sealy proceeded to breast-feed him. The usher saw what she was doing and told her that breast-feeding was not allowed in the auditorium.
“When we were seated, Giovanni started to get fussy and I started to feed him. The usher bent down and told me ‘no breast-feeding’. When I watched him in amazement, he repeated ‘no breast-feeding’,” Sealy said.
She added, “When my husband asked the usher why I was not allowed to breast feed he (the usher) said beverages are not allowed in the auditorium. My husband told him it was not like I was bottle-feeding our son. But he usher said rules are rules.”
A female usher, who noticed what was happening, motioned for Sealy to follow her. Sealy and her son were taken to NAPA’s VIP lounge where the woman was allowed to breast-feed her son in private. Sealy told Newsday the female usher had told her she (the usher) was not aware of an anti breast-feeding policy at the public venue.
By this time, an upset Roger went to the box office and demanded a refund. “I was upset. I could not sit there watching the play while my wife was missing out. We have done international travelling, and normally where you have a baby and are breast-feeding the mother could feed her child in peace,” Roger said.
Adepeju Oyesanya, founder of OMO and Best Start, a family education and nutrition company, stated that NAPA is a public state-run place and as such, Sealy should have been allowed to breast feed.
While commending the female usher for providing an alterative space for Sealy to nurse her son, Oyesanya said it was unfair for Mrs Sealy to miss the play which she paid to see. “In a public space like NAPA, where she paid to see the show, she should have been allowed to nurse,” said Oyesanya.
She said a woman breast feeding her child ought not to fall under the no-beverage rule. “You would not categorise breast milk as a beverage. A beverage can be dispensed and shared.
This is a mother providing nutrition for her child. When a woman breast feeds it does not disrupt anyone,” Oyesanya said.
Ruth Dubar-Paul of the Informative Brest-feeding Service (TIBS) said she was “flabbergasted” that in 2013, a mother was stopped from breast-feeding her child. “To tell a mom, ‘no beverages allowed’...that is a sad and uninformed statement,” Dubar-Paul said.
Dubar-Paul commended Sealy for having the courage to continue feeding her child. “The mother should be applauded for feeding her baby. This is natural,” she said.
Dubar-Paul noted that TIBS has not received many complaints about women breast-feeding their children in public because of more education programmes sensitising people towards breast-feeding.
Eleanore Wells, administrative manager at NAPA, contacted for comment yesterday, said she was unaware of the incident and declined further comment.
Efforts to reach Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Lincoln Douglas for a comment yesterday proved futile.