JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Controversy is stirring online after a Johnson City family says they were berated while the mother breastfed their daughter in the aisle of a local store.
They are hoping to raise awareness about a topic they believe is often swept under the rug.
“I fully support women in their right to breastfeed anywhere, in any situation. It’s a natural part of life. For people uncomfortable with it, you can look away,” said father James Neeley.
The family says they were shopping at Lowe’s in Johnson City when mother Candy De La Fuente began breastfeeding their 2-year-old daughter Luna.
“It was embarrassing, it was shocking more than anything honestly,” said De La Fuente. Neeley added, “To tell us ‘this isn’t okay’ and it’s ‘disgusting’ it caught me off guard, and to be honest it made me angry.”
De La Fuente confirmed she did not cover the breastfeeding child with a blanket and did not feel she should have to, as it is uncomfortable for her child.
The family says they felt threatened by the man after several minutes of intense conversation. They say he told them he was a medical doctor with multiple degrees.
The family says all parties ultimately left the store without further incident, and the family did not feel the need to report the confrontation to Lowe’s store management.
News Channel 11 confirmed the other party in the confrontation is Dr. C. Allen Musil, a Johnson City child psychiatrist and former pediatrician.
In a statement today, Dr. Musil says: “I expressed an opinion on a situation in which a mother was breastfeeding her child. I regret that my comments have since led to a contentious online debate, and I’d like to make it clear that I fully support breastfeeding, including a woman’s right to do so in public.”
Dr. Musil’s employer did not wish to comment on the incident.
For mother Candy, this can be a lesson-learned for the community.
“He and other men need to realize that to them it may just be an off-handed comment they feel they need to make, but it has very severe consequences for the people they are attacking,” said De La Fuente.
Following the incident the parents took to Facebook to express their frustration, publishing a post that has now been shared nearly five thousand times. It is starting an important conversation among thousands of mothers about the right to breastfeed in public. De La Fuente hopes to encourage other moms to not be ashamed to feed their children in public.
“That’s my right to do as a mother. My priority is her health and her nutrition and her happiness. Even if it’s hard, I’m going to do it,” De La Fuente said.
This is the full statement released by Dr. Musil to News Channel 11 on Tuesday:
“On Sunday, June 27, I expressed an opinion on a situation in which a mother was breastfeeding her child. I regret that my comments have since led to a contentious online debate, and I’d like to make it clear that I fully support breastfeeding, including a woman’s right to do so in public. The medical benefits of breastfeeding are many, including but not limited to, fewer infections, less SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), fewer allergies, less likely to develop asthma, and parents missing less time from work. There are also studies that link breastfeeding as an infant with decreased chance of some adult diseases like MS and breast cancer to name a few.”Dr. C. Allen Musil, Jr.
Tennessee law protects a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, it includes:
- A mother may breastfeed in any public or private place she is authorized to be.
- Breastfeeding shall not be considered public indecency or nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct.
- Local governments shall not prohibit breastfeeding in public by local ordinance.
- Employers must accommodate breastfeeding mothers at work.