‘I don’t walk around with baby puke on me’: Breastfeeding mom forced to quit selling at Halifax market

Tanessa Holt opened her first business in the fall, selling dry foods at local farmers’ markets. She said she has been forced to stop selling containers of soup mix, homemade protein bars and energy balls, and prepackaged oatmeal and granola.

tanessa-holtHolt was bringing her 7½-month-old son to the markets, since he has never liked taking bottles and is still dependent on breast milk.

But that was a problem, a food safety inspector told Holt on Monday.

“I have no problem with you breastfeeding at the booth, as long as there is another person that is at the booth with you, who can serve food to the customers,” wrote the inspector in an email provided to CBC News.

Holt said she has no other option but to shut down her stall. As a fledgling business owner, she can’t afford to hire someone.

Holt will soon open a store in Dartmouth, but right now farmers’ markets — in Halifax, Dartmouth and Beaver Bank — make up half her business.

In a followup conversation with the inspector, Holt learned breastfeeding even once at the booth disqualifies her from handling food, no matter how clean she stays or what precautions she takes.

“If I set up there in the morning and I nurse him, at say, 10 o’clock in the morning, then for the remainder of the day, someone else has to handle the food,” she said.

Vomit, feces from baby are concerns, says inspector

tanessa-holtIn the email, the inspector wrote: “The food safety concern is contamination of food through possible throw up and/or feces coming from the baby. This would include you burping the baby after nursing or you having to change the infant’s diaper between serving customers.”

Holt has been food safety certified and said this kind of contamination isn’t happening.

There’s a bathroom nearby to change the baby and wash up. Her clothes are covered with a receiving blanket when she nurses, and, like most mothers, she has extra layers to wear in case the blanket doesn’t do the job.

At the market or at home, “I don’t want to walk around with baby puke on me,” she said.