An Illinois woman said she is still reeling from an encounter she had at a restaurant in a Chicago suburb when the management and owner of the restaurant asked her to cover up while breastfeeding her child in the dining room.
In a videotaped interview (shown below) with WFLD News, Kristal Tomko explained what happened Sunday night at the Big Fish Bar & Grille in Wilmington.
“[My son] got fussy and as per norm I went ahead and started feeding him and I breast feed and I don't use covers, they're too hot and he's too aware now,” she says.
Shortly after she started feeding her 6-month-old son, Ronan, Tomko said a hostess from the restaurant walked over carrying a napkin and asked her to cover up because other patrons had complained.
Under Illinois law a woman may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private.
"My response to her was, no thank you, I'm good, I'm comfortable, thanks and then she continued," Tomko explains.
The restaurant’s owner, John Mathias, also got involved and offered to make an empty dining room available to Tomko so she could finish feeding Ronan or said she could feed him in the restroom.
Tomko eventually left the restaurant, but wrote a post about the incident on Facebook.
She made it clear in her post that she was never asked to stop nursing her child or to leave the restaurant.
But, she wrote: “I was made to feel embarrassed and shamed, as if I were doing something wrong. I went quietly and quickly to my van where I cried and nursed.”
The post drew the attention of breastfeeding advocates in the area, including Sara Castognia, who said they wanted to stage a protest outside Matthias’ restaurant.
Castognia told CBS-Chicago the incident should have never happened.
“Just because you personally may not be comfortable with somebody doing something doesn’t mean you can dictate how they behave,” she said. “She was well within her legal rights.”
Mathias told WFLD he feels the whole situation, since being posted to Facebook, has “spiraled out of control.”
"Unfortunately I got involved in this because I asked her to cover up, I have respect for other people but I won't do that again," said Mathias.
Mathias also addressed the issue via the restaurant's Facebook account.
“I have no problem with breast feeding your child. Our request was made politey [sic] and with respect. The request was made quitely [sic] to you and your husband,” he wrote. “I actually spoke to your husband twice expressing my concern that you did not need to leave, I respect all of my customers.
“Breat feeding is natural and is not effensive [sic] but, we had a older coulpe and a party of nine that both voice uncomfort [sic],” his post continued. “We are simply a restaurant trying to make everyone happy.”
He told Tomko in the post he did not mean to offend her and and was willing to talk more about the situation.
Mathias also apologized publicly during an interview with CBS-Chicago.
“I am sorry,” he said. “If they come in again, I’ll never say a word. They can do whatever they want.”
In light of the apology a protest outside the restaurant, scheduled for Friday, has reportedly been called off.
Photo Credit: Screen shot from YouTube