Mum takes a stand after breastfeeding stoush at ‘high-end’ shops

·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·4-min read

A woman is planning to stage a 'peaceful sit-in' at a Gold Coast shopping centre after a staffer told her to 'move on' while breastfeeding her newborn near 'high-end' stores.

Shannon Laverty was at Pacific Fair shopping centre when she stopped to breastfeed her three-week-old son, Shep, at a public seating area.

Shannon Laverty says she was told by a staff member at Brisbane's Pacific Fair shopping centre to 'move on' while breastfeeding her newborn. Photo: Instagram/shannonlavertyy.
Shannon Laverty says she was told by a staff member at Brisbane's Pacific Fair shopping centre to 'move on' while breastfeeding her newborn. Photo: Instagram/shannonlavertyy.

Mum told to 'move on'

Shannon says she was approached by a female concierge who urged her to use one of the mall's private parents rooms, which she declined.

The concierge then reportedly pointed out that the mum-of-two was in a "high-class area" of the centre with various luxury stores and would have to move to another area if she wanted to continue feeding.

Pacific Fair has since apologised to Shannon and pledged to 're-educate' staff on their policies, however, Shannon tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she's not about to let the matter rest.

She's rallied a group of like-minded mothers via social media and plans to stage a "peaceful breastfeeding sit-in" at the shopping centre this Friday.

"What we really want to focus on surrounding this incident is the big picture," Shannon says.

"As much as we need to ensure the facility [Pacific Fair] puts in place standards that are acceptable and positive moving forward, our main focus is to bring awareness to breastfeeding and help to normalise it," she adds.

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Shannon Laverty with her husband, Kent Ashcroft and their two children, Harper, 1, and newborn Shep. Photo: Mel Dixon Photography (supplied).
Shannon with her husband, Kent Ashcroft, and their two children: Harper, 1, and newborn Shep. Photo: Mel Dixon Photography (supplied).
The mum-of-two has organised a 'peaceful breastfeeding sit-in' at the shopping centre where the incident occurred. Photo: Instagram/shannonlavertyy.
The mum-of-two has organised a 'peaceful breastfeeding sit-in' at the shopping centre where the incident occurred. Photo: Instagram/shannonlavertyy.

Breastfeeding 'sit-in'

Shannon admits that, as a second-time parent, she felt strong enough to refuse the staff member's instruction and assert her right to breastfeed her child.

"I felt within my power to stand my ground," she says. "However, I still felt uncomfortable to some degree."

Shannon says that, since sharing her experience on her Instagram account, she's been made aware of the post-natal mental health issues women can face and the negative impact that breastfeeding taboo can have.

She references the fact that one in three women suffer from birth trauma, and that along with cardiovascular disease, suicide is one of the leading causes of maternal death in Australia.

Shannon hopes that Friday's demonstration will help dispel some of the stigma surrounding public breastfeeding, which she says should be as acceptable as feeding in a parents room.

"There are plenty of mothers out there that don't have the strength to speak up [so] if this peaceful movement can help just one mother then we have taken a huge step in the right direction.

"What we need to be clear on, is that it is illegal to prevent a mother from feeding her child in public. Anywhere, any time."

Pre Christmas shoppers lining up at Louis Vuitton store in Chadstone Shopping Centre.
Shannon was breastfeeding her son in a 'high-end' area of the centre, with luxury stores such as Louis Vuitton nearby. Photo: Getty Images.

Centre to 're-educate' staff

In a statement shared with Yahoo Lifestyle, a spokesperson for Pacific Fair confirmed that 'mothers are free to breastfeed anywhere' in the centre.

They went on to say that there may have been a "misinterpretation" between the concierge and Shannon but admitted that the incident 'doesn't meet our standards of customer care'.

The spokesperson clarified that centre security was not involved, contrary to claims made by Shannon in her Instagram posts. Shannon corroborated the centre's claim to Yahoo Lifestyle.

She says that putting the incident down to a 'misunderstanding' doesn't sit right with her.

"Centre management has explained [...] that this was a 'misunderstanding,' that all [the staff member] was wanting to do was provide information as to where the [parents room] facility was.

"Which I would have accepted, however after having to tell the concierge three times, 'No, I was fine breastfeeding where I was,' I don’t believe this was the case."

Shannon Laverty with her husband, Kent Ashcroft and their two children, Harper, 1, and newborn Shep. Photo: Mel Dixon Photography (supplied).
Shannon has been inspired to help dispel the stigma around public breastfeeding. Photo: Mel Dixon Photography (supplied).

Read the full statement from the Pacific Fair spokesperson below:

Pacific Fair remains dedicated to being a safe and welcoming space for every customer and we're sorry to hear of this customer's experience.

It is, and has always been our policy that mothers are free to breastfeed anywhere at Pacific Fair.

Unfortunately while a member of staff was attempting to explain the various options available at the centre, there may have been a misinterpretation which caused offence to the customer. No security was involved, as the customer was never required to move on whilst feeding.

Recognising that this circumstance doesn't meet our standards of customer care, Pacific Fair immediately offered direct apologies to the customer from both senior customer service staff as well as senior centre management.

Whilst truly sorry for the incident, Pacific Fair is also grateful for the opportunity to reaffirm our position that breastfeeding mothers are welcome to breastfeed wherever they are most comfortable and at any time throughout the centre. As such we are undertaking additional training with all staff to re-educate them on these policies.

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