Czech “breastfeeding guerrilla” mums stage “feed-ins” over incident at Austrian bank

A group of Czech mothers known as the “breastfeeding guerrillas” – Kojící guerila – held a “feed-in” shortly before lunchtime on Monday at local branches of Austria’s Raiffeisen bank. The protest was called over a specific incident at a Prague branch, but is part of a long-running campaign to change public attitudes.

Photo: seeseehundhund / Pixabay CC0Photo: seeseehundhund / Pixabay CC0

Every mother can well imagine the scene. While waiting your turn with the bank teller, your baby has had her nap but is getting crankier by the minute. She clearly needs to be fed – now. It’s a public place, so you do your best to be discreet.

But in the case of a young mum named Lenka, the next thing she knew, a security guard had tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to take it outside. She protested, saying she wasn’t some kind of “exhibitionist” – just feeding her baby.

Veronika Němcová, photo: Brian KenetyVeronika Němcová, photo: Brian Kenety Veronika Němcová, one of perhaps a dozen mums who came to this particular bank branch for the protest, said she felt it was important to women to express their solidarity.

“I have experienced it myself, personally. And definitely I can sense an unfriendly atmosphere in the society as a whole when it comes to breastfeeding in public.”

In Lenka’s telling of the encounter – recounted in an April 9 posting on the Facebook page of Laktační liga, or the “Lactation League” – the Raiffeisen bank security guard said he’d be forced to escort her outside if she didn’t comply. She left, feeling humiliated, fed her child – and then promptly came back to give the security guard an earful.

“Breastfeeding guerrillas” co-founder Kateřina Olivová, a co-organiser of Monday’s protest, said while this was an extreme case, similar encounters are all too common in Czech society.

“Some five years ago, I also had a terrible experience at a coffee shop. So, I called some other mothers to come with me to the coffee shop to breastfeed together. It was a healing experienced for me. And I know a lot of mothers who have had some issues with breastfeeding in public space.

“Breastfeeding guerrillas” co-founder Kateřina Olivová, photo: Brian Kenety“Breastfeeding guerrillas” co-founder Kateřina Olivová, photo: Brian Kenety “So, that’s how I started working on this topic. I think every time a woman breastfeeds in a public space, it’s a kind of activism.”

There were at least five journalists on hand Monday for each of the mothers who took part in the “feed-in” at the Wenceslas Square branch of bank, where the incident with the security guard took place.

While the media were not allowed inside, ahead of the appointed hour, Raiffeisen spokesperson Petra Kopecká came outside to explain the bank’s position.

“We made an apology to our client when we got this information that she wasn’t satisfied, and we will do everything we can to prevent such an action again.”

Was there an existing policy about breastfeeding in place? If so, has it changed, or might there be some new guidelines?

“I have to say that at our branches we usually, and always try to, give mothers an opportunity to feed their children in a quiet place. We never said it’s not possible.”