This isn’t news of the sort that will bring down a government.
But it does demonstrate that cleaners – one cleaner, anyway – should clean up their act and learn something about the Human Rights Act.
It furthers shows that a mother who was chided for breastfeeding her baby should learn the glorious art of giving out-of-order cleaners the brush off. This can be done with just two words.
The story that prompts these observations can be found today in the Waikato Times (on a light news day, obviously).
A woman breastfeeding her six-week-old daughter says she was made to feel ashamed of her actions after a cleaner at Hamilton’s Te Awa food court firmly told her to stop.
Mother of three Angula Manga has breastfed all her children but the incident at The Base shopping centre left her feeling embarrassed and self-conscious.
Management at the centre have acknowledged the incident and said it was the unauthorised action of an individual staff member.
So what’s going on here?
We are told Manga had just bought dinner for her 8-year-old and 18-month-old children from a food court when her newborn baby began screaming.
Apparently this was a sign the baby was hungry.
Turning her back from the majority of people, Manga said she discreetly began feeding her baby.
“I purposefully had turned my back from everyone, but it was about 5:30pm, so there were not many people around,” she said.
And what happened next?
Manga said a Te Awa cleaner then approached her and said “I am going to have to ask you to stop”.
“I thought she was joking.
“What was I meant to do – take my other children to the toilets to eat their dinner while I fed my baby?”
Let’s think about this.
Who was trying to lay down the law?
Yep. A cleaner.
And where do cleaners stand in the command structure of your typical shopping mall?
Alf wishes no disrespect to cleaners. But the answer is they sit on the bottom rung.
The mum in this case – alas – has reacted unfortunately to this attempt by a cleaner to rise above her station.
Manga said she was so embarrassed by other people staring at her she took her baby off the breast and tried to calm her by placing a dummy in her mouth.
“I wanted to curl up under the table and hide,” said Manga.
She wasn’t the first target for intervention.
The cleaner told the family she had told four mothers that day to stop breastfeeding and directed them to a family room which provided a private space.
If the cleaner is as diligent with her cleaning duties as she has been zealous in policing the breastfeeding of babies, the shopping mall will be spotless.
So what do the mall bosses have to say?
Centre Management issued an apology on Facebook to customers, saying the company did not restrict mothers from breastfeeding.
“We recognise our customers’ human rights to raise their children in the best practice they see fit.”
In the same written response, centre management reiterated it was “the unauthorised actions of a staff member” and said they were addressing the issue.
Sue Manga is sceptical of the management’s response and claims “they are just trying to cover it up”. We may assume she is referring to covering up something other than her breasts.
Obviously she is not as readily pacified as her baby.
According to the NZ Herald, the managers of a mall have apologised more directly to the mother-of-three.
Mike Pohio, chief executive of Tainui Group Holdings – which owns The Base – said there was no policy banning breastfeeding in the mall’s handbook.
He said the contracted staff member made a mistake and the incident had been an error of judgment.
“We’ve apologised and that shouldn’t have happened.”
But Miss Manga felt the issue was unresolved. “My 8-year-old doesn’t want to go anywhere with me in the holidays because she’s scared that her baby sister is going to need to be fed … and she doesn’t want that shame and humiliation again.”
Maybe she should take a few sucks on the pacifier too and get things in perspective.
The Waikato Times story goes on to say the Waikato District Health Board and several other health organisations are pushing to raise the profile of breastfeeding and its health benefits.
Moreover, it says that under New Zealand’s Human Rights Act, it is illegal to stop someone from breastfeeding in public.
Sue Manga accordingly should be emboldened to do next time what she should have done this time.
It’s to utter two simple words – “bugger off” – and, if need be, to give emphasis, to raise two fingers in a very rude but easily understood upwards gesture.
There is a more vituperative two-words option. But it might land Manga in trouble with the bad language police.