Young US mum 'humiliated' after professor tells her breastfeeding during online class is 'weird', 'inappropriate'

A young Californian mum says she was "humiliated" when her professor referred to her request to breastfeed her infant daughter as "inappropriate" during an online lecture.

Marcella Mares started online university courses at Fresno City College earlier this year. She moved her courses online to care for her almost one-year-old daughter Olivia.

She says she liked the privacy online learning provided her with, as she could listen to her lectures while breastfeeding Olivia. 

But Mares' professor in September told students they must keep their cameras and microphones on during the four-hour maths class. The 23-year-old mum emailed the professor explaining she would need to turn her camera off when breastfeeding her daughter. 

Mares spoke of the incident in an interview published on NBC's Today site on Wednesday (NZ time).

"He [the professor] said, 'You should not be doing that during class. Just do that on your own time or do it after class.'

"For him to say something like that it just got me really upset," Mares told Today.

While Mares understood the professor was asking students to keep their cameras on so he could see whether they were participating in class, she said she couldn't understand why hers couldn't be turned off when her daughter needed feeding.

The professor even told the entire online class he had received a "weird" email from a student - referring to her, Mares says. 

"During the Zoom meeting, he said, 'I had a really weird email from a student stating that she needed to do inappropriate things during class time,'" Mares recalled. "[He said], 'You need to be creative with your children and accommodate them so you can pay attention to my lectures.'"

Mares told Today she was furious and humiliated.

She shared her professor's email with her school's sex discrimination coordinator, who sent the information to the professor and explained the law allows mums to breastfeed when needed. 

"He ended up apologising," Mares said. "He said, 'I apologise for my remarks ... You may now breastfeed your baby when you need to and you may turn off your camera and microphone when you need to.'"

Mares told NBC she hopes her story raises awareness for other mums studying from home.

"People with children want to better their lives with going to school," she said.