Article Courtesy of the NYTimes.com
By Lisa Belkin
There’s multitasking, and there’s taking leave of your senses.
Last week, Genine Compton, a mother living outside Dayton, Ohio, drove her children to school. Apparently the youngest — who police believe is a little less than two years old — needed to eat. Right away. Compton is still breastfeeding, so she took the girl on her lap in the driver’s seat, and, without stopping the Honda minivan, gave the girl breakfast.
Oh, and she was reportedly talking on her cellphone, at least part of the time.
The “reportedly” in the above sentence is courtesy of a passing motorist, who called the police. You can listen to the entirety of the call here. He said that when the woman pulled into the parking lot of a school he approached her and suggested that might not be the safest way to drive, or to feed a child.
“I said, ‘I can’t believe you have that kid in your lap’ and she said, ‘You want to pop your [own breast] out and breastfeed this kid?’ That’s what she said to me. I’m like, ‘You can feed your kid when you stop.’ It’s like wet out here. It’s full of traffic. It’s ridiculous. She’s got like three other kids in the car.”
So the caller gave the police her license plate and they were waiting for her the next day when she dropped the children at school again. She was given a ticket and a summons, and has been charged with a first-degree misdemeanor of child endangering and minor misdemeanor for unlawfully restraining (in other words, not restraining) her child, who, by law, should have been in a car seat. The child endangerment charge carries a potential fine of between $1,500 and $1,800 and a sentence of up to six months in jail.
The officer who issues the summons stressed that the department was not cracking down on breastfeeding.
“Our issue is not the fact that this woman was breastfeeding in public,” said officer Michael Burke of the Kettering police department. “Our issue is that she created the condition that placed her child’s health and safety at risk.”
The next day, Compton was interviewed by WHIO TV. Yes, she told them, she had been breastfeeding and driving at the same time. (No mention of the cell phone.) Her children need to eat when they need to eat, she said, explaining, “If my child’s hungry, I’m going to feed it.” She also said she would do the same again.
“Walking down the street can be dangerous,” she said. “I’m not going to say that this one incident was just going to put us in harm’s way.”