Nursing Mom Booted From Casino

A casino in Maryland booted a nursing mom from its lobby after declaring her and her infant a security risk. A casino security guard told Alanna Panas that because the seven-week old baby was underage, she could not be there. But Panas said that she was in the lobby, not by the gambling machines, and should not have been kicked out of the Casino at Ocean Downs. Panas, angered and humiliated by this, turned to social media and spread the word about her shoddy treatment. In fact, Maryland does allow women to breastfeed their babies in public and private locations.

Panas posted about her experience on breastfeeding support pages and the story went viral. In response she did receive a phone call from the casino’s assistant executive director and a response on Facebook. The mom still contended that she and her baby, Lilly, were treated poorly and not given a proper apology.

Time Magazine image, care of CBS News
Time Magazine image, care of CBS News

Breastfeeding in public is a flashpoint topic for many Americans, with strong opinions both for and against. Time Magazine in 2012 caused a fuss with the above cover photo, and stories pop up regularly about moms nursing in public.

Meanwhile when Pope Francis baptized 33 infants at the Sistine Chapel this past Sunday, he stated publicly that the mothers could “breastfeed them, don’t worry.” His remarks have been praised, and the Catholic news has reported on it, choosing not to hide this information.

Let’s compare the two scenarios: an American casino says “No” to public nursing, but the Pope says “Yes” to public nursing, and in a religious setting at that. Was the casino worker afraid the nursing babe would place a bet or pull a lever? We know that underage gambling can be a problem, but this is a bit absurd.

It is fascinating how one of the most basic acts, that of nursing one’s infant, can be so controversial. I have seen a few women nurse their babies in the back of a synagogue sanctuary, and in the playrooms of other houses of worship. I have taken note of women breastfeeding babies in parks, playgrounds, museums, restaurants, shopping malls, and elsewhere. As well, I nursed my younger child in public but discretely, while holding up opened newspapers and draped jackets as “shields”. Many people do not care or barely notice the act, but there are people who do get upset. Will the Pope’s statement help calm down the screeching anti-breastfeeding voices? We shall see.

Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013), all published by Avotaynu. She is a lifelong New Yorker, a veteran public school teacher, writer and photographer. Bird lover as well.