SUNRISE, Fla. – A Sunrise IKEA store is offering breastfeeding and baby-wearing mothers free breakfast at 10 a.m. Thursday after what appears to be a misunderstanding with one of its customers.
Amanda McLaughlin contacted Local 10 News after a shopping trip Tuesday afternoon at the IKEA at 151 NW 136th Ave.
McLaughlin said she was shopping when her 5-month-old daughter needed to nurse. She said she draped a cover over her breast so that only her baby's head was visible.
But McLaughlin was disturbed after the store's music stopped playing seconds later and an audio recording came on informing parents that the store has private baby-changing areas that are available for nursing mothers to use.
The recording states: "Did you know IKEA has a baby care room located in the lobby on the first floor? There is a changing table with a comfortable sitting area, a perfect place for that feeding."
"My initial reaction was shock, because I'm nursing my daughter and I've never heard such an announcement at IKEA or anywhere else," McLaughlin told Local 10 News reporter Sanela Sabovic.
McLaughlin said she felt like she was being singled out for breastfeeding her daughter in public.
"I felt like I was being shamed," she said.
McLaughlin said an employee told her that she hadn't heard the recording before and believed that IKEA prefers for mothers to nurse their babies in private.
However, McLaughlin said a manger in customer relations told her that the recording plays on a loop and that they were not trying to single her out.
"(There are) a lot of moms who breastfeed in public, and if they hear a message or audio like that, that they would feel intimidated, especially first-time nursing moms," McLaughlin said.
After receiving backlash on Facebook from other mothers, IKEA responded in part: "The announcement that was heard in our Sunrise store was a prerecorded, general message that's regularly played to make customers aware of our baby-changing areas with soft seating and a sink. Women are always welcome to breastfeed anywhere in our stores. We love mothers!"
Despite IKEA's claims, McLaughlin said she feels that the recording "brings unnecessary attention" to nursing mothers in the store, making it seem shameful to breastfeed in public.
"At IKEA, we support breastfeeding moms in all store locations, with private areas to nurse their babies, if that is what they prefer," the company said in a statement to Local 10 News. "Note that IKEA supports mothers' rights to breastfeed openly. We are a family friendly company who strives to provide a comfortable environment for all of our customers."
IKEA learned that a group of South Florida mothers planned to breastfeed over breakfast Thursday in protest to the recording, so the company offered to host and pay for the womens' breakfast to show that it fully support all mothers. The company said it will also consider putting up signs in the store to inform mothers that they are free to nurse where they'd like.