By Hoa Quach
Breastfeeding in public isn’t always comfortable for mothers, but it’s often a necessity.
Megan Lubesnick, a Carlsbad mother of a 7-month-old boy, knows the practice well. She said she has breastfed her son, Logan, in every place imaginable. But after an incident last Saturday, she feels less secure about it.
Lubesnick said she was at Crush, a restaurant in Solana Beach, breastfeeding Logan when the restaurant owner, Eduardo Ciulli, asked her to do it in the restroom. It’s an incident that Ciulli denied happened.
“It took me a few seconds to realize what he asked me to do,” said Lubesnick, who was dining at the restaurant with her husband and another couple and their baby. “We were all just caught off guard so we got up and left. We were visibly upset.”
Lubesnick said she didn’t think twice about breastfeeding her son while at the restaurant.
“I nurse him everywhere and I use a cover,” Lubesnick said. “When he’s hungry, I’m going to nurse him. I feel like California is such an open environment. I’ve never really thought twice about it.”
California is one of 47 states that allow mothers to breastfeed in public or private areas, “except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and child are authorized to be present.”
On the same evening of the incident, Lubesnick shared her experience in a moms group on Facebook and it sparked outrage among local mothers. Her experience was shared in other social media groups, and prompted a wave of negative reviews for Crush on its Facebook and Yelp pages. The mothers vowed to boycott the restaurant in support of Lubesnick, some even discussed planning a breastfeeding sit-in.
But Crush owner Ciulli denied the incident happened. Ciulli simply offered Lubesnick the “lounge area” to nurse her son, according to his attorney Elizabeth Aronson.
“He disputes every word of it,” Aronson said. “He does not have any ax to grind against nursing mothers. He is a family man. Quite frankly, he doesn’t understand this viciousness against him.”
Aronson said the two spent the majority of Monday cleaning the restaurant’s online reputation. She said Crush had a high rating on Yelp but received 87 bad reviews after the encounter.
“It is illegal to have these campaigns on Yelp,” Aronson said. “We’re talking about filing a small claims case against the individual but I don’t think (Ciulli) would want to go further. If you knew this man, he would reach out to her and offer her a free meal to make it right. He’s not the type of guy to try to offend anyone. I don’t think he’s going to sleep for a couple of nights.”
Robbie Gonzalez-Dow, executive director for the California Breastfeeding Coalition, said mothers often face challenges when it comes to breastfeeding.
“The challenge is that many women who want to breastfeed face barriers like the one you are writing about,” Gonzalez-Dow said. “To give all mothers and babies the strongest chance at breastfeeding success, we need to change our culture and build support in communities, hospitals and workplaces.”
Gonzalez-Dow said breastfeeding provides preventive health measures for both babies and mothers.
“These medical facts are in addition to the undeniable qualitative benefits for both mothers and babies,” Gonzalez-Dow said. “We know that breastfeeding is best, benefiting the health of both babies and mothers.”
The lack of knowledge about breastfeeding is why Lubesnick shared her story. The first-time mother said she simply wants people to be educated on the importance of breastfeeding.
“I’m not looking for retribution,” Lubesnick said. ”I would love for the restaurant to be more open… to be educated.”
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