American University Professor Adrienne Pine Breastfeeds Infant In Class, Sparks Uproar

Adrienne Pine; breastfeeding; professor; american university

A professor at American University gave her class, "Sex, Gender & Culture," a real world demonstration earlier this month, when she breast-fed her baby in front of her students. Her decision sparked a media frenzy, national debate and campus uproar, with the university questioning her judgment and students both for and against her decision.

Assistant anthropology professor Adrienne Pine awoke on the first day of class earlier this month to discover that her baby girl had a fever. Unable to take her to daycare and with no babysitter on hand, Pine chose to bring the sick child with her, as opposed to canceling her first lecture of the year. She later wrote that she felt like she "had little choice."

The baby crawled on the floor of the hall, according to her account, and at one point Pine removed a paper clip from the child's mouth and ushered her away from an electrical outlet. When the baby got restless, Pine decided to feed her, without pausing her lecture.

More: If You Can't Breast-Feed At Work, Call The Government

Paul Grobman, one of the 40 students in the class, told the student newspaper The Eagle that the feeding lasted "45 seconds at most." But some students thought their professor's behavior crossed a line.

"I found it unprofessional," 18-year-old Jake Carias told The Washington Post. "I was kind of appalled."

A student reporter got wind of the incident, and decided to investigate. Worried that the publicity would paint her negatively, Pine decided to pre-empt the coverage with her own online essay, "The Dialectics of Breastfeeding on Campus: Exposéing My Breasts on the Internet."

In the piece, she wrote that she thought the whole thing had gone smoothly. And she didn't expect any reaction at a place like American University, a $49,500-a-year school that U.S. News & World Report ranked 77th in the nation, and which is an especially open and inclusive place (the student body president came out as a transgender woman last year). So when Pine received an email from a student reporter, she was "shocked and annoyed" that this was considered newsworthy, and thought that treating a woman breastfeeding her child as a bizarre and uncomfortable "incident" was "outrageously sexist."

More: University Employee Charged With Secretly Taping Breast-Pumping Co-Worker

Pine went on in her essay to mock the student reporter, and accuse the newspaper of having "a solidly anti-woman slant." She published the phone numbers of the reporter and the paper's editor-in-chief, although they were removed a day later at the university's request, reports The Eagle.

Pine later apologized to the students.

The university does not have an explicit policy about breast-feeding in the classroom, but under Washington, D.C. law, a woman has a right to breastfeed wherever she wants. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 extended protections for breastfeeding mothers, requiring workplaces to offer reasonable break time for feeding, and a private place in which to do it. Dollar General, Dillard's, Starbucks and McDonald's already have received citations for failure to comply.

But university officials questioned the wisdom of Pine's decision, given the health issues raised by the presence of the sick baby, as well as the general issue of appropriate conduct. In a statement on Tuesday, the university said that professors should take advantage of sick leave, break times and private areas, and "maintain a focus on professional responsibilities in the classroom."

"Every working parent can empathize with facing the choice of an important day at work when a child gets sick," officials added later that day. "... There is no easy alternative."

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University officials were a little more pointed in response to Pine's blog post, saying in a statement that, "Freedom of expression comes with responsibility," and expressions outside school limits "have the potential to affect the educational relationship between faculty and students and effectiveness in the classroom."

As local TV stations descended on campus, a small group of students responded with an evening protest on Tuesday, reports The Eagle, chanting "Give it a rest, it's just a breast" and wielding signs saying "This is not news" and "Feeding your child is normal."

Pine is the latest in a series of recent "lactivist" incidents, which have mostly taken the form of mass nurse-ins anywhere from airline counters and Target outlets to the headquarters of ABC. But Pine claims she never thought she was fighting for the right to publicly lactate; she didn't think she needed to.

"I was not trying to make a point," Pine told a local Fox affiliate. "I was merely trying to feed a hungry baby the best way I know how."

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Velya Jancz-Urban

America has become a very strange nation. We consider it okay that dead, brutalized women sell films, yet consider it obscene when a woman's breast is visible.

We all have nipples, yet there is something very evocative and primal about female breasts. Is it because females use their breasts to feed babies? What is it that makes them sexual?

September 16 2012 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am surprised that a woman with such a job does not have a backup babysitter other than her daycare. Was there mention of a husband?

I breastfed and no one ever saw my breast in public. There are ways to be modest. I am a 200% breastfeeding advocate but this baby had no place in the college classroom that day or any day.

However, my sons college had many crying children brought in by their african american fellow female students. ( not being racist.... he just said there were never any white babies brought in) They too had no
place in the classroom.

September 15 2012 at 9:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am all for the right to breast-feed in public. Personally, I think a nice little blanket for discretion is good, but not necessary. Having said that, breast-feeding in front of your college class is not professional. There are other things that are perfectly natural that also should not be done in front of the class. Basically, any behavior that takes attention away from the lesson you are trying to teach should not be done in front of the classroom. This professor could have planned a little better, pumped, and bottle fed her child briefly (to be honest, having the baby crawl around, while she removed a paperclip from the child's mouth, and moved the child away from an electrical socket indicate that the infant just being there was a distraction, and in my opinion, had no business being there in the first place). Publishing the student reporter's and editor's phone numbers was childish. They are students; she is faculty. They are trying to find their way into reporting, determining what does and does not belong in a paper. They are there to learn, she to teach. She could reject the premise of their article, without making it personal against the reporter and editor. While I have signed petitions supporting women's rights to breastfeed in public, and against businesses (such as a specific Target a few months back) that denied women that ability, or forced them to leave, in this case, I really think the professor is wrong on multiple accounts. First, the issue at hand -- breast-feeding in front of the classroom isn't appropriate. She could have been prepared an bottlefed her baby. Second, her baby should not have been crawling around the front of the lecture hall as she tried to teach -- she was clearly distracted, and it had to be distracting to the students (and of questionable benefit to a sick baby -- putting a paperclip in her mouth, getting her hands and feet filthy on those floors, then putting them in her mouth...) She should have rescheduled class if her baby was sick and there were no care alternatives. Lastly, attacking and publishing the numbers of the student reporter and editor was spiteful and immature. For that, she should probably be officially reprimanded. No matter what, she needs to grow up!

September 15 2012 at 1:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This "professor" needs to make up her mind -- either do her job and teach or stay home and breast feed her baby. The two are NOT compatible in a classroom.

September 14 2012 at 11:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

You don't have to let it all hang out in order to breastfeed, just because you have the right to breastfeed. It can be done discreetly - and I can say that from experience. Use a blanket,and/or behind a stroller and sometimes people can't even tell what you may be doing. She should have told the class to take a break and then fed her child in a corner.
Not sure of the baby's age, but if it's a baby and you have a stroller keep the baby in it- it's doable. Or better yet bring a portable crib/ playpen. Having a baby crawl all over a floor (and who knows if the floor is clean) would be distracting to the class, in my opinion.

September 14 2012 at 9:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No wonder all these kids aren't qualified for any jobs. They're taking "Sex, Gender & Culture" classes. Useless.

September 14 2012 at 7:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This woman is disgusting!! Glad to see that we are spending massive amounts of tax dollars for this type of "so-called" education to be taught in our Universities!! Maybe that is the reason that our kids today are so ill prepared for a future in the real world and expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter!!

September 14 2012 at 7:20 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I respect that a woman may want to breast feed her child, however I think common sense must be the thing first and foremost in her mind. If she needs to breast feed, find the right time and place to do so. Problem solved.

September 14 2012 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Typical nut we have teaching the kids today. Next they will have pots in the room and take a crap during class.
Thats natural too isnt it?

September 14 2012 at 6:06 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Another Claire Gordon article about women. I think feeding your baby from a bottle during work is unprofessional. It doesn't matter whether its breast feeding or bottle feeding. The students deserve her undivided attention, when she's working and the child deserves her undivided attention the rest of the time. Mom's get breaks when Dad takes care of the baby and when the baby sleeps.

No explanation, no excuses, please.

September 14 2012 at 6:04 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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