CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An employee at the Medical University of South Carolina has been disciplined after telling the husband of a breastfeeding mother to "tell her to stop breastfeeding."
Brandon Branham says the comment was made after he asked why the hospital wouldn't pay for his wife's meals.
The Branhams' three-week-old son was a patient at MUSC earlier this month, and his mom needed the meals to continue breastfeeding him.
Ellen Branham assumed the hospital would pay for her meals.
"She should have been provided meals for her since she had to nurse the baby," Brandon Branham said.
The couple soon found out MUSC would not pick up the tab for Ellen's food.
"We were told that no meals would be provided to even a nursing mother. I didn't expect it for myself, but for a breastfeeding mother, I think they should be provided, but we were told that's not possible," Brandon said.
Brandon Branham believes since he was already being charged for meals as part of room and board, the hospital should give those meals to his wife.
He called the billing department and was told MUSC would not provide meals to his wife, but could provide formula for his son.
"When I said this is a breastfeeding baby, I said ,'what other options do we have?' and the employee said on the phone from the billing department, 'just tell your wife to stop breastfeeding,'" Brandon said.
"That was outrageous, ridiculous. I worked very hard to keep up with that for my child because I feel like it's the best thing for him," said Ellen Branham.
The Branhams got an apology from the employee's supervisor and the children's hospital administrator, who explained why the hospital couldn't pay for Ellen's meals.
"They said they could not financially support paying for a breastfeeding mother to eat, in order to be able to feed her baby," Brandon said.
In an email to Live 5 News, MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said MUSC takes responsibility for the "erroneous and inappropriate comment" and says they strongly recommend breastfeeding in the first year.
Woolwine went on to say "at this time it is not financially viable to provide free meals to all our families, and it would be unfair to do for some and not all."
The Branhams wound up paying for Ellen's meals so she could breastfeed their son, and are hoping MUSC will eventually change its policy.
Woolwine also pointed out there are volunteers and community members at the hospital who provide free meals several days a week.
The Branhams said the volunteers were not at MUSC during their son's stay there.
The couple did have praise for the doctors and nurses who did their son's surgery, saying they saved his life.