All she wanted for her 37th birthday last Sunday, Dec. 30, was a celebratory glass of champagne at a restaurant on the beach with her friend of 20 years.
But when San Francisco resident Madonna Herman Graham was refused service at Miramar Beach Restaurant because “I was nursing my son at the table outside, my day was suddenly ruined, and I was left shocked and upset,” she said. “I also left the restaurant in tears.”
Graham knows there are people who believe that one should not nurse and imbibe, she said.
“However, my story is not meant to elicit a thousand opinions on the subject, nor to result in an all out boycott of Miramar. It’s just to give nursing mommies a heads up that this restaurant does not feel comfortable serving alcohol to a breastfeeding woman,” she said.
That’s exactly what the manager said to Graham after placing her order with the waitress.
“My friend and I were seated with our babies at a table outside on the patio," said Graham. "I took my 2-month-old son out of his car seat because was starting to fuss a little. I covered up with a blanket and started to nurse him. The waitress came over and asked if we wanted something to drink and then said, ‘Obviously a non-alcoholic one.’”
Graham and her friend told the waitress that in fact they would like a glass of champagne.
Not too long after placing their order the manager came over, said Graham.
“She knelt down between us and said, ‘We don’t feel comfortable serving alcohol to a nursing mother.’ We said OK; we’ll be leaving then. We weren’t rude or loud. We packed up, and we left. I was totally shocked. My feelings were hurt, and I left in tears. We then went to another restaurant in Half Moon Bay, where we ended up having a nice lunch and a glass of champagne,” said Graham.
Since then, conflicting viewpoints on the issue are popping up on the Yelp reviews for the Miramar Beach Restaurant, with the first one posted by Graham’s friend. Here are some excerpts from the Yelp thread:
“ … when a restaurant chooses to exercise its right to refuse service to a woman who is neither breaking the law nor going against mainstream medical advice, then I feel compelled to share my negative experience. I do not consider my review a bash but rather a narrative of events. I'm sure the waitress' unfriendly manner was a reflection of her own moral discomfort with our actions, and my opinion of my prior dining experiences here stands. I feel no guilt for my behavior or that of my friend …"
“As a mother of two myself, who has been known to order an occasional glass of wine with my infant literally attached to me, I was absolutely appalled at the audacity of this restaurant staff! Besides the fact that the breast-feeding community supports each other in imbibing in the occasional (and VERY much deserved) glass of wine or beer, it is not only inappropriate but just despicable for someone to impose their opinion, masked as 'morals' on another person and completely dismiss actual medical advice. As a fellow breast feeding mom who has had a glass of wine with my baby in tow, I take personal offense to judgments made by other people about what is right and wrong on the subject …"
“Food aside, I won't continue to support a restaurant that dictates if a nursing mom is allowed to enjoy a glass of wine or champagne. Ridiculous. Every pediatrician will tell you it's when you are nursing that is the best time to enjoy an occasional glass, thus it passes before need to nurse again …"
Others on the Yelp thread are in support of the restaurant’s decision to refuse serving alcohol to the breastfeeding mother:
“NO AMOUNT of alcohol is safe to consume while nursing a baby. An infant eliminates alcohol at half the rate of am adult. Can you say, 'Impaired motor development?' When you drink alcohol, it passes in to your breast milk in concentrations similar to those found in your blood stream. You have to wait two to three hours before you breast feed again, for your milk to be clear of alcohol.”
“I want to commend the management and staff at the Miramar for refusing to serve alcohol to two nursing mothers today. I would have done it myself but not only am I just a patron, I was having trouble pulling my jaw off the floor after I overheard both women order alcoholic beverages while nursing their babies! I am having a hard time believing the post written by these women, bashing their server and the overall quality of the Miramar Beach Restaurant. I dine there regularly and the food is fantastic and so is the service. Last time I checked, it is NOT socially or even MORALLY acceptable to drink alcohol while nursing an infant or while pregnant. I don't care what the medical community says about it. Now lets all get real; any one who reads that sad, sorry, poor attempt at shifting blame and guilt from yourselves, on to the innocent wait staff, can see that you are pretty embarrassed not at your treatment but that you made a public spectacle of yourselves over a couple of glasses of alcohol …"
Graham says that she’s not angry at the Miramar staff, but feels “shocked and upset.”
“It’s upsetting that they would do this," she said. "Moms should know that the Miramar has a policy about not serving alcohol to breastfeeding women.”
However, there is no such policy, according to the Miramar restaurant manager who was working that day. To not serve a patron is up to the discretion of the server, who then has to go to the manager, she said.
"My gut feeling was that this just was not right and I told her that I'm really sorry but I don't feel comfortable serving her alcohol when she was nursing a baby," said manager Sheri Lewis.
But after a discussion with the owners, Lewis says she now feels differently, and "I realize this was a big mistake. It's her choice to do that, not ours," she said. "If she were ever to come in again, we would serve her. I'm so sorry this created such an ordeal."
“I should be able to make the decision as a parent,” said Graham, "not the restaurant. This is my second child, and I’ve read what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say on the issue, that an occasional single alcoholic drink is acceptable. If I have one glass of wine on a special occasion I shouldn’t be judged for it.”
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.