The Trouble with Breasts: NY Breastfeeding Boutique Under Fire for Zoning Violation

Recently, New York breast feeding boutique owner, Felina Rakowski-Gallagher, filed a discrimination lawsuit against her condominium housing association, after the organization claimed she broke the zoning laws for her housing unit. Gallagher disputes the housing association’s claim that she should not be using her condo unit as a breast feeding boutique.

The Upper Breast Side is a breast feeding boutique located in the Upper Side of Manhattan. According to Gallagher, the boutique is not a typical retail store, because it provides nursing mothers with a unique, community service found in medical facilities.

At the Upper Breast Side, new moms can try on nursing bras for proper fittings, learn how to use breast pumps, and bring their breast pumps for inspections. Due to the clients serviced by the boutique, Gallagher had to substitute a light weight door, instead of the required brass door, which many expectant mothers and new moms could not open.

Her modification of her housing unit drew great criticism from the Pythian housing association, because all units were restricted to only brass doors. Although Gallagher had previous problems with the housing association and received a $250 fine for the door modification, the claims that her boutique and resource center were improper served as the last straw for Gallagher.

She filed her discrimination claim in hopes of obtaining legal recognition of the importance of breast-feeding education as a service to the public. However, the Pythian housing association contends that Gallagher operates a retail store under the guise of breast feeding.

Historically, women have encountered difficulty in receiving acceptance and support of breast-feeding practices, even though the medical profession still proclaims the benefits of breast milk over baby formula. Nonetheless, even in modern times, women cannot openly feed their babies with breast milk in public without facing scrutiny and criticism, as evidenced by a UK woman escorted out of restaurant for breastfeeding her screaming infant among other instances.

Because little information is shared about breastfeeding, Gallagher argues that her breast feeding boutique is a resource center, since it educates women about little known facts postpartum, such as methods of preventing mastitis and lactation support services. Other breastfeeding boutiques, like the Milkalicious and Evymama Nursing & Maternity Boutique, teach women how to nurse babies with special needs and proper hygiene habits during nursing.

Milkalicious is a breast feeding boutique located in Aliso Viejo, CA. Like the Upper Breast Side, Milkalicious provides lactation support services, nursing pads, and information on breast milk storage. Evymama is the only breastfeeding boutique located in Toronto, Canada.

Still, evident in the low numbers of lactation support services and breastfeeding boutiques worldwide is the fact that society tends to assume women automatically understand breastfeeding, simply because their bodies can produce milk. Unfortunately, many women do not.

This gap in knowledge is where Gallagher suggests her breastfeeding boutique and resource center provides a public service to mothers. If a judge agrees with Gallagher, she will be able to continue to house her Upper Breast Side boutique in the condominium.

Otherwise, the Pythian housing association may win, and she could be forced to close the boutique altogether. At the heart of the matter is whether teaching women about their bodies is a community service based as a medical resource, or simply a niche market addressed by a retail business.

Regardless of what the court decides, Gallagher’s breastfeeding boutique shows that information about breastfeeding is not always as transparent as society would lead a person to believe. Some people still consider breastfeeding in public as an assault on “public decency.”

The opposition towards open breastfeeding may serve as grounds for Gallagher to win her discrimination case against the Pythian housing association. Potentially, Gallagher’s case illustrates that some people still appear concerned over how and where women use their breasts, despite the biological and medical purpose for breastfeeding.

Sources:

Admin. “Milkalicious, A Breastfeeding Lifestyle, ” Milkalicious.com.

Elissa Gootman. “Breast-Feeding Boutique in Feud with Condo Board,” NYTimes.com.