Mothers assert right to breastfeed at library


A trio of mothers staged an impromptu nurse-in when they began nursing their babies during the morning children’s story hour at the Spuyten Duyvil Library on Friday in defiance of complaints made the previous week by a group of nannies.

Josephine Rustin said that nannies were outraged when she and another mother, Lauren Branco, began breastfeeding during story hour on May 1. Librarians responded by asking her to cover up. Ms. Rustin, 37, said a story hour, consisting of primarily women and children, is the most benign place to nurse a hungry child.

“Two nannies were shouting across the room, ‘is this a nipple sucking class?’ I said, this is very natural and we’re not going to stop,” Ms. Rustin said. 

Tension among breastfeeding mothers, child caretakers and librarians at the branch at 650 West 235th Street  came to a head on Friday when the mothers began nursing their children openly in response to Ms. Rustin and Ms. Branco’s experiences a week prior. Roughly 15 women and their offspring attended story time in the children’s room of the library, where youngsters sang songs and listened to books read aloud by the librarian.

Accompanied by her three-year-old daughter, Lilly, Ms. Rustin said it would be difficult for her to step out of story time to nurse her 8-month-old son, Grant, because she would have to take Lilly with her. Both arms are needed to support a child during breastfeeding, making covering up with a blanket difficult. Ms. Rustin added that instead of being concerned that the children they are watching might see a woman’s breast, the nannies could use it as a learning experience.

“It could have been an opportunity to teach kids what a breast is. We sexualize it in this culture,” Ms. Rustin said.

Amy Geduldig, a spokesperson for the New York Public Library (NYPL), said it is the NYPL’s policy to abide by New York State law regarding breastfeeding.

“The [NYPL] welcomes all New Yorkers to our branches, including moms who are breastfeeding,” Ms. Geduldig said.

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