As Summer Heats Up, So Does Harassment for Nursing In Public

It is hot outside and the kids are home for the summer. Moms are enjoying the summer months by hitting the pools to cool off and have some fun in the sun with their children. As the temperature rises it seems the frequency of nursing in public incidents are as well. Maybe it’s because moms are out in public with their kids more during the summer, or maybe it’s because breastfeeding is a HOT topic.

Here is a list of the latest incidents where mothers who were engaged in the act of nurturing and nourishing their child at the breast.

  • On July 8th Charlotte Dirkes was asked to stop breastfeeding her 10-month-old son while watching her other children play in the kiddie pool of the city-owned water park Pirate Cove in Englewood, Colorado. Supporters staged a nurse-in on July 13th at 10 am. Englewood’s deputy city manager and public information officer issued a personal apology to Dirkes and vowed to train all employees to ensure that state law is obeyed in the future.
  • On July 10th, just two days after Dirkes’ water park incident, a mother named Maria was asked to leave the Napa, California Social Security Office  after a guard spotted her breastfeeding one of her children. She was forced to leave the building (and her place in line) to tend to her child. Supporters gather outside the office on July 16th in response to the incident. A spokesman for the Social Security Administration said they will use this “unfortunate event” as an opportunity to educate all employees on the California statue protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed her child in public.
  •  Stay-at-home mom Jenn Youakim was asked by the North Carolina Dowd YMCA child care coordinator to refrain from breastfeeding in the childcare room and instead use the facility’s family locker room. A nurse-in was held on July 19th in the lobby of the facility. The YMCA staff welcomed the mothers and listened to their thoughts on how to make changes to the YMCA’s nursing policies so they are in compliance with state law. One quick Google search and you will find that the YMCA is no stranger to breastfeeding incidents in previous years from a Texas mom in 2011 to the Greater Boston Area YMCA in 2010 and dating back to a Michigan incident in 2006. Hopefully the YMCA will get tired of being in the news for uneducated employees who violate the legal rights of nursing moms and they will implement a solid employee training toolkit and education program.
  • Just 4 days after the Colorado waterpark incident and 2 days after the Social Security Office incident in California, comes yet another report of nursing in public discrimination at a Denny’s restaraunt in Sedalia, Missouri on July 12th. Tiffany Morgan was told to either cover up, stop breastfeeding her 6 month old daughter, or to leave her table at Denny’s. Tiffany suffers from PTSD, an anxiety disorder, which she reports in combination with poor breastfeeding support and education, nursing in public fear, and struggles with milk supply caused her to fail to meet her personal breastfeeding goals with her first child. Tiffany was conquering her fears while nursing in Denny’s only to have her fear become reality as she was asked to cover, stop nursing, or leave. Tiffany reports that Denny’s has stated it is their corporate policy to ask mothers to stop or leave if they are nursing in their establishment without the use of a nursing cover. A national nurse-in took place on Sunday at 12 pm, reports from the Facebook group “Hey Denny’s, Breastfeeding Isn’t Shameful” are encouraging.  Denny’s too, is no stranger to nursing in public incidents dating back to 2009. The goal is to encourage Denny’s to abide by state laws, to be more welcoming breastfeeding mothers and their families, and to get Denny’s to change their corporate breastfeeding policy.

Looking at these incidents listed all in one place tends to shed the light on the frequency of breastfeeding incidents that occur across the US everyday, most of which go unreported. I believe more people are becoming aware of the fact that we have a problem here. Being a mom is a tough job that deserves cheers not sneers. Stronger legislation is needed not only to promote or encourage breastfeeding but to protect that right through enforcement of those laws as well.  Social marketing is needed that can lead to a greater cultural acceptance and appreciation of breastfeeding.  We need a national, well-marketed program that recognizes and rewards companies (whether public pools, restaurants, non-profits, museums, airports, etc.) for putting in place excellent corporate policies regarding breastfeeding customers and for doing an exceptional job training employees; we need a TOOLKIT that companies can use as a template so they don’t have to re-invent the wheel.  Peer pressure is a powerful tool for change, and companies respond to it!  If you are interested in helping to create this toolkit, please contact takeaction@bestforbabes.org.

Tiffany, like many moms across the country, has begun to contact her legislators in Missouri to strengthen breastfeeding laws in her state. Best For Babes has compiled a guide to help moms who wish to pursue legislative change in their state as well.   Keep us updated on incidences in your state by e-mailing takeaction@bestforbabes.org.

Have you felt any disapproval for nursing in public this summer?  



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8 Responses to As Summer Heats Up, So Does Harassment for Nursing In Public

  1. Lisa V says:

    I just wanted to mention that experiences at the YMCA vary by location. Mine welcomed and encouraged me to nurse my child in the child care room, even after she turned 1.

    • Michelle Hickman says:

      Lisa, It is great to hear that your YMCA has encouraged you to nurse your child inside the child care room and it works for you. Unfortunately, the YMCA has had several incidents over the years at several locations in which a woman’s legal right to nurse her child in any location within the YMCA was infringed upon. Not allowing women to exercise their legal rights typically stems from the lack of education on the laws inside the employee training program, or poorly written existing company policies that do not uphold the law.

  2. Jamila says:

    Good job to all the ladies out there trying to make a difference when it comes to breastfeeding advocacy! Our non-profit organization is hosting a breastfeeding photo contest in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week. Another nice way to show your support and raise awareness for breastfeeding Mom’s everywhere. Check it out at: http://www.healthconnectone.org/pages/world_breastfeeding_week/147.php#!/about

  3. Kerrie G says:

    I have a breast feeding in public success story to report. My 19 year old niece is a life guard at a local YMCA. During one of her sessions, a mother of a student was nursing her youngest during while observing the swim class. One of the other mothers complained. My niece defended the nursing mom’s right to be there and she was backed up by a sign on the wall that explicitly allows nursing in that area. I was so proud of her for standing up for what is right and happy that the facility backed her up. (I also told her that the state law backs her up as well).

    I wish more places were this supportive. I, personally, have never had an issue with someone asking me to stop nursing in public and I feel for the moms that have. (but I am also the sort of person who would nurse in the car before going into a store to avoid such this issue and because at least in my car, I knew I had a comfortable place to sit and nurse)

  4. Helen Clark says:

    I have solved the problem of Breastfeeding in public places. This nonsense has to stop. It is women’s right to feed her child where and when the need arises, in public or private.

    My garment gives COMPLETE cover and security for the infant. You can feed on all public transportation, outdoors, and in the presence of family and friends. This garment is being offered to all hospital baby units and will be available soon in most larger retail stores. Going back to work? You can now Breast Pump at your desk or work station without drawing attention to what is going on. It will also allow you freedom to answer the phone, email or read.

    I am a mother of 4 grown children and saw the need for such a garment, let’s stop this contraversy. All you young mothers out there need to do what you can for your rights, and I want to help you.

    • Michelle Hickman says:

      Helen, I wish it was that easily solved. I was asked to move, leave, threatened with public indecency ticketing, and more…but here’s the catch I WAS COMPLETELY COVERED. So, unfortunatley your resolution doen’t work.

  5. Trina says:

    I Bf Basicly everywhere I go. And A lot of the time ppl don’t even know I am. I went to milk mom? A website for clothing and they have videaos about bf in public. I got some ideas and bamm. I have a bunch of under shirts with nipple holes in them I use stretchy or vneck tops and Have easy access to bf. I even where 1 under my swim suit and bf right there by the pools. Most the time it looks like my baby is sleeping. But some ppl are just ……. when it comes to bf, makes them uncomfortable for somereason even if ur covered.? I just try to make it like I’m just putting her to sleep, they r not uncomfortable, I’m covered, I’m not flashing my breast(which some moms do), and I’m being sympothetic to other ppl. :) Btw… I go to stores, the library, restraunts, public pools, the mall, exc exc. What they don’t know don’t hurt them. ;)

  6. Jodine Chase says:

    Have you experienced harassment for breastfeeding at your local pool? Check out the Breastfeeding Action Committee for Edmonton’s “pool report” – all the research you need to make your case to change policy is in the report. Just this summer moms in Calgary were able to get the Talisman Centre, North America’s second largest rec centre, to change its policy to match that of the City of Calgary and the City of Edmonton.
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/bace-breastfeeding-action-committee-of-edmonton/breastfeeding-at-municipal-pools-in-canada-a-report-from-the-breastfeeding-actio/117422918358997

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