Mom files lawsuit after court deputy allegedly tells her to stop breastfeeding

May 31, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Natalie Petrovic says she was breastfeeding in a courthouse lobby in a modest, discreet way. She says she and part of her baby were covered with a small blanket.

"I want all women - and even men - to know that this a woman's right, that they can breastfeed whenever, wherever," she told ABC7. "This is about the child, not about the adults who feel uncomfortable."

Petrovic says she came to the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie on April 18 to apply for state benefits. While waiting she says she took a seat in the lobby area and started breastfeeding her 3-month-old daughter, Lissette. She says a Cook County Sheriff's Deputy approached her.

"She was like, are you breastfeeding? And I was like, yes, I am. She was like you can't do this here. You need to go to the bathroom and do it. When she told me this I felt kind of violated," Petrovic said.

Petrovic says she was sitting just outside the state's Women, Infants, and Children's Office, also known as WIC. Rather than go to the bathroom, she stopped breastfeeding altogether.

"Even though I know it's my right to breastfeed, I didn't want to get arrested or anything," she said. "I didn't want any more problems."

Legally, Petrovic's attorneys say the lobby area, and any area, public or private, is protected under state law if women want to breastfeed.

"The issue is the Sheriff of Cook County not being educated about the state of the law in Illinois, that woman have virtually an unfettered right to breastfeed wherever they are," said Neil Toppel, Petrovic's attorney.

The attorneys say Petrovic is not seeking financial damages so it's not about the money.

"What we're looking for is an injunction," said Alexander Memmen, Petrovic's attorney. "We want the court to say that my client is allowed to breast feed, affirmatively say that she is allowed to breastfeed at the courthouse."

Petrovic's attorneys say they want courthouse deputies properly trained, and want to raise awareness about breastfeeding and the law.

"I need to take action," said Petrovic. "For me, not only for me, for my daughter and for any woman who tries to breastfeed."

A spokesperson for the sheriff's office said courthouse personnel saw Petrovic breastfeeding in the lobby for a while and says he's not sure what she's talking about.

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