Elissa Scott’s son was so excited to play Little League baseball. Unfortunately, that excitement quickly turned to tears at his very first practice. Jace’s mother was harassed, scolded, and belittled by other adults. And what was she doing that was so heinous?
Breastfeeding her baby girl, Scarlett.
“Everything was fine until I sat down to breastfeed. At that time, a lady stood up and started saying how disrespectful I was for breastfeeding in front of her son. She even started covering his eyes. She kept asking me to cover up because it was so disrespectful. I calmly told her all I was doing was nursing my child and that I have a right to do so.”
It didn’t stop there.
“Then another lady stood up and told me how she was seventy years old and she breastfed all six of her kids, but even she knew better than to breastfeed in public without a cover. Or at a baseball game or anywhere where there were kids or men. I told her that my daughter does not take a cover and that all I’m doing is breastfeeding.”
When a Little League board member stepped in, Elissa thought the situation would improve. Instead, it continued to deteriorate.
“They were all huddled around me, shouting for me to cover up or go somewhere else. I asked the lady who was sitting next to me if she was offended and she said no, all you’re doing is feeding the baby. At this point my husband took our kids to the car because it was becoming heated.”
Elissa tried to defend her right to breastfeed in public, but to no avail.
“I just kept telling them that all I was doing was feeding my baby. I asked them if it would be any different if I used a bottle to feed my child or if I was wearing a low-cut t-shirt. Of course they said that would be no problem. So I just kept saying if I can bottle-feed or wear a shirt with my cleavage hanging out, then why can’t I breastfeed?”
At this point I was getting nowhere with them, so I asked to speak with the coach. The older lady and the Little League board member followed and continued to harass me about covering up.”
Elissa took her concerns to the coach, but found it difficult with the Little League board member talking over her. This board member seemed insistent that she cover up or go somewhere else, but could not offer a rational idea of where she might go.
“I asked her, Where else do you want me to go? The bathroom? I told her there was no way I was going to the bathroom to feed my child. I asked her if would she eat with a cover over her head. Of course she said she wouldn’t. I asked her if she would eat in the bathroom? Of course she wouldn’t do that either. I asked her if there was a specific breastfeeding place on the field where I could breastfeed. There wasn’t.”
With the situation in a stalemate, Elissa left the field after demanding a refund. She posted about her experience on Facebook and received a wave of support. She spoke with Omar, the president of West Oaks Little League, but did not receive a resolution. That is when Elissa decided to call the Best for Babes Breastfeeding Harassment Hotline, 1-855-NIP-FREE.
“I’m so thankful I called the hotline. Everybody was extremely helpful. They’re the ones that told me that I should ask for a policy change! I’m thankful there is a hotline for women who have been through this type of discrimination, because at one point I felt so alone. Now I feel like I have a whole team supporting me.”
After the local Little League organization ignored her request for a refund and then denied her access to any team information, Best for Babes director of advocacy Michelle Hickman stepped in to help. She recalls:
“Omar was very proud of being a volunteer for his community, and expressed a deep respect for the laws of the Little League organization and the rules of the game. Knowing this, I tried to appeal to him by explaining that BfB volunteers operate the hotline, and that since laws were to be respected, breastfeeding laws deserved respect as well. Despite what a person’s opinion of nursing in public may be, the law trumps that opinion. As adults, if we are modeling good citizenship, respect for rules, and a sense of community support, then understanding the need to support breastfeeding moms who are exercising their legal right to nurse in public and are members of our communities should be a no-brainer! Sadly, Omar would never commit to actually doing anything actionable or to offering Elissa an apology.”
Little League response
Elissa finally got in touch with Kelly Campbell, the administrator for District 16, which governs her local Little League organization.
“Kelly was very nice and I told him that I wanted the policy to be changed so that this never happens to a woman at Little League again. This ruined my son’s first experience of playing any type of sport on a team. My son does not want to go back to Little League, and I think that’s pretty sad.”
After speaking with Elissa and hearing about the situation, Kelly posted the following message on the Little League District 16 Facebook page:
Kelly also requested that all other Districts are required to post the same message on their social media and websites. In addition, Michelle Hickman has been invited to a President’s meeting, where she will be able to educate all Little League presidents about breastfeeding laws. Hickman explains:
“Many of the corporations that have refused our efforts to help mediate have been repeat offenders. They will sadly offer up a really well-worded public apology with promises to train their employees, but no verifiable proof of that training is ever provided to us. It would seem that if truly effective training was being conducted, then we wouldn’t have ongoing incidents within the same corporation. Education is key to shifting the culture on support for nursing in public. In my opinion, a well-worded apology simply isn’t enough. That’s why I’m excited the league has agreed to educate and invited me to participate.”
In an email to Best for Babes, Kelly noted:
“Frankly in my 15 years of being involved with Little League, this situation has never come up. I would have thought that being 2016 it never would, or that I would even have to be talking about a mother’s right to feed her child.”
If you or someone you know has been harassed while nursing in public, please call our toll-free hotline at 855-NIP-FREE. If this cause is important to you, please consider donating to help keep the hotline running!
The Best for Babes Breastfeeding Harassment Hotline 855-NIP-FREE has helped over 500 moms advocate for themselves since its inception in October 2012. A dedicated staff of volunteers runs the hotline; many of those volunteers have experienced NIP harassment and can empathize with the moms who call. Best for Babes volunteers have conducted employee trainings, helped corporations write or amend lactation policies, spoken at meetings, and supported families in need.