Tiffany Elliott and her two children. (Photo: Handout)
A dental office near Rochester, New York has been caught in a social media firestorm after a dentist reportedly admonished a mom who was preparing to breastfeed her child in one of the exam rooms.
Tiffany Elliott, an Irondequoit mother of two, turned to Facebook on Saturday to express her disgust at being “shamed” for attempting to breastfeed her 9-month-old daughter while her 5-year-old daughter was in the exam chair.
According to Elliott, she and her family were new to the dental office. They were discussing their older daughter’s dental history with dentist Robin Craig in an exam room when Elliott “discreetly” raised her shirt to prepare to feed her younger daughter, said Elliott.
Craig then interrupted Elliott and said she was uncomfortable with the situation, and that Elliott should stop, the mom said.
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Elliott explained her legal rights to breastfeed her child in any public location, based on a 1994 state law, but Craig brushed it off and suggested that the family find a new dentist, Elliott said.
Elliott later spoke to other office personnel about her frustration, adding that she would be posting to Facebook about the incident, but was dismissed again, she said.
She alerted other moms to her experience via social media later that day, and the post has since been shared over 7,800 times, with over 3,600 people leaving comments.
“I don’t think anyone felt more uncomfortable than me, my husband, and my daughter,” said Elliott. Since struggling to breastfeed her older daughter years ago, Elliott has been an advocate for other breastfeeding mothers in helping them learn the process, she said.
The law Elliott brought up can be found in a section of New York state Civil Rights law, in which it states that “a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be,” whether or not the woman’s breast is exposed during the feeding.
New York state law also requires workplaces to provide unpaid breaks for women to breastfeed their children or pump breast milk during the workday for up to three years after birth.
Even though Elliott has breastfed her kids in restaurants, doctor’s offices and churches in the past, she has never received this kind of reaction, she said. But other mothers experience similar comments every day, she said.
“I’m proud of being a breastfeeding mother, and I’m proud that it happened to me in a sense,” said Elliott. “If this had happened to a new mom, or one who was already struggling with breastfeeding, it would have crushed her spirit,” she said.
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Dentist office issued a statement, apology
The dental office responded Sunday on Facebook, saying that an “unfortunate comment” was made to a “breastfeeding mother” on Saturday at the Rochester office.
“I want to apologize to the mom, on behalf of Wilson Dental for that comment,” the statement read. The statement appears to have been altered between 9:10 p.m. and 9:35 p.m. to specifically mention the “breastfeeding mother.”
Wilson Dental released a statement Monday regarding the incident. (Photo: Provided)
It’s unclear who wrote it, as the Facebook page had been deleted as of Tuesday morning.
“In response, I just wanted to make it crystal clear as to where myself and Wilson Dental stands when it comes to the subject of breastfeeding moms,” the statement continued. “We completely support all mothers’ right to breastfeed their children in public. We do not accept, condone, or believe in any kind of discrimination against breastfeeding moms or their breastfeeding children.”
The statement went on to say that personnel at all Wilson Dental locations in the area (in Binghamton, Elmira, Ithaca, Irondequoit and Syracuse) would be immediately trained on “the company’s position and perspective on this very important subject,” so that similar situations would be handled accordingly going forward.
The office is closed Tuesday but plans to open Wednesday, an office representative said Tuesday. The Democrat and Chronicle has requested comment about the incident from dentists or management at Wilson Dental.
Elliott found the post to be insincere, she said. The dental office reached out to her Sunday via Facebook and asked if she’d share the office’s statement on her Facebook page. She refused.
Shortly after Elliott’s original Facebook post, local mothers began planning an event to protest the dentist’s reported actions. A number of area residents are planning to arrive at the East Ridge Road office on Wednesday to stage a protest, according to the event organizer Candice Harvey of Webster. The event isn’t just for mothers who breastfeed, Harvey said — anyone is welcome. They will not be entering the office, as it in private property, she said.
Women have reached out to Elliott in recent days, pointing out that stories like this are why they shy away from breastfeeding their kids in public.
“But this is why we should (breastfeed in public,) for women like Dr. Craig, and for little girls like my daughter,” said Elliott. “So they can grow up and future generations can hopefully be educated on it, and know the laws.”
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