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'Humiliated' Mom: Doc Balked When I Went to Breastfeed

Jennifer Howard says doctor at her appointment requested she cover herself during feeding
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2018 8:17 AM CDT
Breastfeeding in public is legal in Oregon.   (Getty Images/AlekZotoff)

(Newser) – Shaming women for breastfeeding in public is still more common than it should be, but Jennifer Howard likely didn't think it would happen in her own doctor's office. The Salem Statesman Journal reports the 38-year-old Oregon mom was at an appointment at Salem Clinic when it came time to feed her 3-month-old daughter, Evelyn, and so she reached for the infant to feed her. That's when, she says, Dr. Dennis Barnett asked her if she had anything she could cover herself with, as the clinic had rules in place to keep staffers safe from lawsuits over inappropriate behavior. An "embarrassed" Howard looked in her diaper bag and found a blanket, which she says the doctor helped her put in place before the feeding. "It was humiliating and uncomfortable and I felt judged and shamed for trying to feed my baby," Howard says, adding to KOIN that Barnett could've left or asked for a nurse.

Breastfeeding in public is legal in Oregon; the American Medical Association does recommend doctors use a chaperone during certain exams to avoid problems. Howard says she called the clinic back later to ask about its breastfeeding policy (she says she was told there was none), filed a complaint with the Oregon Medical Board, and asked the clinic if she could switch doctors. The clinic sent her a letter denying that request, and Howard took her complaint to social media, which quickly went viral and ended up making national newscasts. A petition calling for Barnett's firing has so far gathered more than 18,000 signatures, though Howard tells the Statesman Journal she hadn't known about it ahead of time and doesn't endorse it. She just wants the clinic to say it's sorry and to train staff to not shame breastfeeding moms in the future. (Read more breastfeeding stories.)

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