Breastfeeding and drinking sparks debate in Chesapeake

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – Big Woody’s Bar and Grill was a place Crystal McCullough went to celebrate closing on a new home. But her celebration was quickly squashed.

“I was so angry and so hurt and in disbelief,” McCullough explained. She said what she did there Monday was normal: she breastfed her eleven-month-old daughter and sipped a beer at the same time. She also ordered a shot of whiskey.

“I have nothing to hide. I don’t deny that I had alcohol and was breastfeeding, but it’s how I went about it and how I always go about it that makes the difference,” McCullough said.

She told WAVY.com’s Deanna LeBlanc she only had a few sips of beer and planned to take the shot when she was done breastfeeding. But that didn’t seem normal to restaurant staff.

“Our concern was for the child, really that’s what it is,” explained Craig Davis, one of the owners of Big Woody’s Bar and Grill.

Davis said his restaurant has no problem with breastfeeding moms, but that this was different. Crystal’s drinking caused some customers to complain … and made his staff uncomfortable. Davis admits the manager didn’t handle the issue as well as he could have.

“He kind of said the breastfeeding is kind of bothering a few customers. He didn’t want to say bad mom, didn’t want to judge anybody,” Davis said.

But that did not sit well with McCullough.

“I was just in shock. I was so angry, and I was so upset because that’s my daughter, and she’s hungry, and she needs to be fed, and you don’t mess with my daughter,” she said.

So the manager closed out Crystal’s tab, so she couldn’t buy more drinks. McCullough said she took that as Big Woody’s fishing for a reason to kick them out, so she immediately posted her trouble on Facebook. She has a lot of social media on her side — from mothers to breast feeding advocacy groups. Now, she wants an apology.

But the only apology Davis has for her: “I would say an apology for the fact that we weren’t direct enough on what our concern was, which created confusion,” Davis said.

Right now in Virginia, there is no law protecting mothers who breastfeed in private establishments. They are, however, protected on property owned or leased by the state.

Breastfeeding advocacy groups have varying guidelines as to just how much a mother can drink and safely breastfeed. WAVY.com talked to a spokesperson for a local Commonwealth’s Attorney. She said a mother could be charged with child endangerment if she drinks too much, but there are a lot a of factors at play.

WAVY.com also found media reports of one recent case from Arkansas, but in that case the charges were dropped.

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