Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Day I Was Told to Stop Breastfeeding at the YMCA

Because we live in Texas where it is HOT, we do a lot of swimming.  With that swimming come swimming lessons.  When we moved here in January I joined the local YMCA because of their reasonable prices, family friendly atmosphere and benefits it would offer my family.

For the last 4 weeks my children have been in swimming lessons through the YMCA.  On Monday we started a new session at a different pool than the one we had previously attended. This pool has a zero-depth entry area and a small step in the pool where I can sit and watch Libby swim.

While Seth and Amelia were swimming I was sitting on the step with my rear and feet in the water, watching Libby, when Elliott needed to nurse.

Now, I would have preferred to sit in a comfy lounge chair but that would have required getting Libby out of the pool.  So, since I can nurse discreetly, and my torso wasn't in the water, I decided to sit on the step and nurse him. Full disclosure - I had on a Maternity Tankini, so everything but a part of my side were covered.  There was no breast showing at all.  In fact, some Moms were showing more skin than I was.

I sat there watching my kids, talking to another Mom for about 5 minutes when the Swim Lesson Coordinator approached me. She informed me that I couldn't nurse in the pool.  When I asked her why she said it was because it was making other people uncomfortable and children were around and could see it. 

I looked at her, wondering if she really had just said that to me, and said, "So? Then it can be a teaching moment for those children.  They can learn what breasts are intended for."  I say this because I think there is nothing traumatic or pornographic about breasts.  There were other Mothers there showing more of their breasts than I was.  Again, I was showing my SIDE BELLY FAT.  And while I agree my side belly fat isn't pretty, the only person it is traumatic for is me.

She also told me I was welcome to nurse on the deck of the pool or in the bathroom.  I asked if she wanted to eat in the bathroom.

She then said, "Well, it is making other people uncomfortable.  They didn't want to come tell you, and I can't tell you who it is to protect their privacy."

I replied, "Well, I'm sorry they are uncomfortable, but that is their issue not mine.  The law states that I have the right to breastfeed anywhere I have the right to be.  So, I am going to nurse my baby".

She then looked at me (I could tell she was not sure what to do since I wasn't ashamed and was not apologizing to her for doing with my breasts what nature intended) and said, "Ma'am, you need to leave the pool because it is against pool policy to have bodily fluids in the pool.  If you got milk in the pool we would have to clear everyone out and decontaminate the pool."

Yes she just said that.  Decontaminate the pool.

I looked at her, stifled a laugh, and said, "Then you really should ban all pregnant and nursing Mother's from the pool because milk leaks all the time."

I got up, knowing I could get more flies with honey than vinegar, took Libby by the hand and told her we had to get out of the pool so her brother could eat.  She burst into tears, and my heart just broke.

I sat down, took advantage of the free WiFi at the Y and sent out this tweet:


Then, I posted the same thing on Facebook.  Within minutes, I had over 40 replies in both places.

The responses were generally of this variety:

 As I sat there the girl (because let's face it, there are few adults who work at swimming pools) came over to me. She said, "Ma'am, I just checked with our pool director to make sure I was right and she said that you can nurse on deck or in the bathroom, but not in the pool because of the bodily fluids that could contaminate the pool".  Again, I pointed out to her that with that logic all pregnant and nursing Mothers should be banned from the pool.  She didn't know what to say, so I said, "Someday, you are going to be a Mom.  I want you to remember this conversation".  She then walked away.

By now it was time for Amelia's swim lessons.  Other Moms were sitting around me and just couldn't believe what was going on.  They were appalled just like me.

After I got Amelia into her lesson, I spoke with the pool Director.  She reiterated what the other employee had said about the whole bodily fluid thing.  She said she didn't know of anyone complaining, it was just not clean.  I said, "I can assure you my breastmilk is a lot cleaner than the pee that hundreds of kids do in this pool everyday.  It is also safer than the chlorine that is in the pool."  She told me she understood where I was coming from, as she has a 1 year old herself.  I assured her that I would rather be in the comfy lounge chair nursing, but was watching my toddler at the same time.

After a short discussion, she said it was fine to breastfeed in the pool.  She said that her employees were just following the guidelines for bodily fluids, but that it was okay.  I thanked her and asked that she please be sure to inform all of the employees about this situation.  She said I was the first woman ever to breastfeed in the pool at the YMCA, so they had never had this situation before.

I have been breastfeeding for 8 1/2 years.  I have breastfed in many different public locations; the cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery, walking through the streets of Philadelphia, on several airplanes, in airports, in Church, at the park, the Children's Museum, the mall, the grocery store...the list goes on and on and on.

Can you even tell he is nursing?
Twice I have been asked to stop doing it in a public place.  Once at Church* and the second time at the YMCA.  Both of which are very family friendly establishments.

Every State but 3 (Nebraska, West Virginia and Idaho) have laws protecting the rights of breastfeeding Mothers.  Some States have better laws than others and it is always good to know the laws where you live.

The Texas Law states:

Sec. 165.001.  LEGISLATIVE FINDING
The legislature finds that breastfeeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurture that must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. In compliance with the breastfeeding promotion program established under the federal Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. Section 1771 et seq.), the legislature recognizes breastfeeding as the best method of
infant nutrition.
Sec. 165.002.  RIGHT TO BREAST-FEED.
A mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother
is authorized to be.

Though these laws are on the books at the state level, there is still an incredible lack of education at the local level and in many places of business.

So now I call for change.  I want for there to be more than just a public outcry when a Mother is asked to stop nursing in a public place.  All establishments where mothers may frequent should be educated and have policies in place to protect nursing mothers in keeping with state laws.


I want the YMCA to make a universal breastfeeding policy for all of their locations.  I want them to educate their staff about the OSHA guidelines that reinforce the fact that breastmilk is not a hazardous bodily fluid.

I want a place where a Mom can go to nurse her baby when the baby is in the childcare area.  Currently, all the YMCA's I know of, don't have anywhere for a Mom to nurse her baby other than in the hall or bathroom.  This is surprising, especially when the focus of the YMCA is Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.  Isn't breastfeeding part of all three of those?

If the Texas law specifically states that "breastfeeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurture and must be encouraged in the interest of maternal and child heath and family values" shouldn't employees of any establishment where breastfeeding Mothers may frequent be educated about this?

I have stopped asking why people are so uncomfortable with breastfeeding.  This is an answer I will never fully receive.  I know people are uncomfortable, but that is their issue, not mine.

My issue is feeding my 11 week old baby and keeping my 2 1/2 year old safe in the pool.  My issue is nursing my baby and hoping that I am not going to be asked to leave.

My issue now is the anxiety I have wondering if every time I sit down to nurse someone is going to come and tell me I am making them uncomfortable.

My issue is that I didn't want to be an activist, but now it is my responsibility to speak up for those Mamas who can't and won't.

So that is what I am doing.  I am writing letters to the Twin Lakes YMCA where this occurred.  I am also writing a letter to the Greater Williamson County YMCA and all Austin Area YMCA's.  After I have done that, I will write to the national YMCA headquarters.

If I don't speak up, who will?  Honestly, I am glad this happened to me.  I am the type of person who will question, know my rights, and not back down.  I am the type of person who will advocate for myself, my children, and others when I know there is a need.  I am glad this happened to me so that I can help.

If you want to help too, here are addresses of who you can contact.  Please be kind and remember we are trying to educate not inflame.  Together we can peacefully make a change for the better.

YMCA of the USA
101 N Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
fulfillment@ymca.net

YMCA of Greater Williamson County
Jeff Andresen
President/CEO
1812 N. Mays Street
Round Rock, TX 78664
jandresen@ymcawilliamsonco.org


*disclaimer - it is not Mormon Church policy to ask me to stop breastfeeding in public.  It was a couple of people in my congregation who were not comfortable with it and I took the opportunity to educate them :)

I have tried to leave comments up, but civilized conversation has gone out the door.  I really had hoped we could be adults about this, but apparently that is not possible.  So for that reason, comments have been closed. 

Tahirih wrote a fabulous sample letter.  I want to share it with any of you who want to use your voice for good.
To Whom it May Concern:

As an advocate of breastfeeding and of women's rights in general, I am dismayed to hear of recent events both locally and nationally (Caldwell, Idaho and Twin Lakes, Texas, respectively) where women were asked to refrain from discreetly feeding their young infants in the pool while supervising their older children.

In both instances the employees were grossly mis- or under-informed about public health and safety regarding breast milk, both in relation to the spread of disease via breast milk and the nutritional importance of breast feeding. In the Twin Lakes situation, the employee was also uninformed about the legally protected rights of nursing mothers.

The CDC states that: "HIV and other serious infectious diseases can be transmitted through breast milk. However, the risk of infection from a single bottle of breast milk, even if the mother is HIV positive, is extremely small. For women who do not have HIV or other serious infectious diseases, there is little risk to the child who receives her breast milk." Taking into consideration that a significantly smaller amount of milk would have potential to enter the water, and that aquatics staff take great care to maintain chlorine levels in the water, it can safely be surmised that small amounts of breast milk pose no health risk to other swimmers. It should also be noted that any woman who is pregnant or nursing can still potentially leak milk into the pool and it would be absurd to ask them to refrain from enjoying the facility simply because they are lactating, so it is equally absurd to ask a mother to refrain from feeding her infant while simultaneously keeping her other children closely supervised.

As a family advocate and a member of a community enriched by a YMCA , I am also dismayed by the clear lack of support for such a vital foundation of the families you advocate for. I find it negligent of all three of "[Y]our Areas of Focus" to either actively or passively permit an environment that does not openly facilitate such a basic and important act. Breastfeeding is the first way to nurture the potential of every child. Breastfeeding is the first step to improve the nation's health and well-being. Breastfeeding is socially responsible, and breastfeeding mothers and their children deserve the utmost support from their neighbors.

Lastly, I can't help but note the irony of the Y's efforts to fight child hunger and obesity while all but ignoring the cheapest and healthiest source of nutrition for children; and also at the wellness programs in place to deal with cancer, when breastfeeding is known to offer protection to both mothers and children from several types of cancer. From the American Institute for Cancer Research: "According to Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, published by the American Institute for Cancer Research, the evidence that breastfeeding protects women against both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer is convincing. Protection against ovarian cancer is suggested as well, but that evidence is currently limited. Hormonal changes associated with lactation – those that delay the return of a new mother’s menstrual periods– reduce a woman’s lifetime hormone exposure. According to experts, this seems to be the main reason that women who breastfeed have a lower risk. The AICR report also notes that physical changes that occur in breast cells while lactating may provide some protection as well. [...] The AICR cancer prevention report notes that babies are likely to receive cancer protection from breastfeeding, too. The evidence shows that breastfeeding probably reduces the chances that a child will be overweight for at least the early years of childhood. This is an important finding as childhood overweight tends to carry over into adulthood, and increased body fat clearly increases risk of at least six different types of cancer."

If the YMCA is serious about building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities, then this first vital building block should not be overlooked, but strongly reinforced. A few small changes could make all the difference in the world. A few suggestions would be to:
-Begin with staff training on the importance of breastfeeding, and how to help protect the rights of breastfeeding mothers and their children;
-Use signs to indicate that your facilities are breastfeeding friendly (one suggestion is the International Breastfeeding Symbol found at breastfeedingsymbol.org);
-Provide discreet and comfortable areas (not restrooms or locker rooms) for nursing mothers, including in the childcare facilities;
-Offer wellness programs designed to support nursing mothers.

I truly hope that the YMCA will take steps to live up to its own standards. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely

71 comments:

Loralee Choate said...

Proud of you, friend.
xo

Emily said...

You go, girl!

ShawnaC. said...

Hmm, I actually am surprised by this. People are making the comment that so many worse things happen in a pool, nursing a baby (and the possibility of leaking) is nothing. Why would you want to nurse a baby where the option of so many bodily fluids could be a problem for the baby? To me it actual appears irresponsible and appears as something you just want to "win" without thinking of the consequences.

Also, I get that everyone has their rights, but it is also my right as a parent to not expose my young children to another person and their unclothed body. Of course there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding a baby and parents can teach their children that, but it is still up to each parent to decide how and when they want to teach that and quite frankly, having my children see another woman's breast doesn't work for me. Whether it is for good or not. And that is my right as a parent, the same as you have a right as a parent. So to assume your right is greater than mine is pretty prideful in my opinion and I honestly think you should rethink why your right to breastfeed is greater than my right to let my children go to the pool or church or to a party without having to watch you nurse.

My last thought is that there are some women who care so dang much about being able to nurse in public, they take it to extremes. I think breastfeeding is wonderful and good and incredible! And other people who honestly see it as something wonderful for the baby, take the time to calmly cover up or go somewhere else, instead of making everyone else feels that they have to watch. Are certain moms trying to prove something? Do they feel more of a mom if they can do it publicly? Using the bathroom is also very natural and normal and happens on a regular basis, but I sure as heck don't need my children watching other people doing that in public. I think modesty and decency has gone out the window in so many regards and unfortunately, this seems like another instance. There is a way to still nurse a baby and not have everyone else watch. It appears this has turned into something to make a point and not be inconvenienced at all, rather than what is best and considerate of those around you.

Kristen Chase said...

So they're comparing breastmilk to poop? Because they certainly don't decontaminate a pool when people pee in it. Then the pool would be closed constantly.

That aside, I find it ironic that you were asked to stop at a pool, where people were probably showing way more skin that you were breastfeeding. In fact, I would put MONEY on it.

I've seen plenty of moms give their kids bottles and sippy cups, even snacks, sitting right next to the pool so they could watch their other kids. Would they have received the same warnings re: fluids? Probably not.

And in regards to the above commenter, it's attitudes like yours - likening nursing to public urination, or saying things like "I don't need my children to see that..." that continue to foster the notion that breastfeeding is somehow explicit or wrong.

The AAP and WHO don't recommend bfing up to 1 and 2 years because it's cool.

It's because it's healthy and good for moms and babies. It's natural. (Last time I checked, boobs weren't just for stuffing in a bra and showing off in a tight shirt).

And they certainly don't make caveats that moms have to stay shut inside their home or sitting in some crappy public restroom in order to do it.

Teri said...

You're fighting for something you believe in and I applaud you for it.
Some will agree, some will not.
I happen to agree with you.
In reply to ShawnaC, if you do not want your child exposed to breasfeeding, that is YOUR right. It would then be up to you to remove your child from the situation. It's not up to the breastfeeding mom to make sure you and your child are comfortable.

Rowan Mayfaire said...

I can see both sides to this but really, I think you should have grabbed a towel and covered yourself. I would be FURIOUS if I was the parent/party you had made the comment, "So? Then it can be a teaching moment for those children. They can learn what breasts are intended for." to. I may have taken it to a physical level I feel so strongly that that was wrong of you. I don't want my children knowing what breasts are for until they are of an age where they can use them for that purpose. That's just wrong.

Ronda said...

Excellent post Prairie Mama!

To ShawnaC, I think that if you are uncomfortable with a nursing mom, it is your problem, and you can leave and remove your children. No baby should have to eat in the bathroom just to make you feel better. You said: "There is a way to still nurse a baby and not have everyone else watch." Apparently to you this means that a nursing mom should always leave the room? Maybe you should stop looking if it makes you uncomfortable!

Also, I wonder if you are looking at a nursing mama as someone who is waving her breasts around like a flag or something? It is possible to nurse without showing any breast. And sometimes a blanket can actually attract more attention. My babies hated to be covered up to nurse, they come off the breast and scream and wave their arms around trying to remove the blanket.

Maybe you could show your kids pictures of other nursing animals and explain that we are mammals as well and we nurse our babies. I have the impression that you feel that talking about nursing is somehow sexual and it is not! We are not nursing our babies and hoping that folks are looking at our breasts as sexual objects, they are not and were never intended to be.

Stephanie said...

While I completely agree with your stance in that breastfeeding is natural and should be permitted anywhere that you are physically and that you should not be made to feel uncomfortable in any way about it by any person, there are a few problems with this situation.

First, in response to your question to the girl who asked you to get out of the pool, would she like to eat in the restroom? The answer to that question is probably no. On the same side of the token, you are arguing FOR feeding your baby in a situation that permits this response from you later: "I can assure you my breastmilk is a lot cleaner than the pee that hundreds of kids do in this pool everyday. It is also safer than the chlorine that is in the pool." Essentially feeding your child in a restroom of many. I wouldn't want to eat in a pool OR a restroom, let alone both, simultaneously.

Secondly, is it not safer to deprive your toddler of 20-30 minutes in the pool while you cleanly and safely feed your 11 week old preferable to the situation that would arise should something happen to your toddler and you have to jump in after her? I feel like that would cause a mess in itself, especially since it sounds like you had time before the lesson started.

I hope that everything you wish comes from your efforts and that you are able to be anxiety free.

Sylvie Williams said...

Rowan, she was wearing a maternity tankini and I will bet a year's salary that there were women showing more boob than her eve when she was breastfeeding.

I could not breastfeed my son but I wish I could. Stories like this make me mad. Would you feed your toddler in the bathroom? Would you eat in the bathroom yourself? No and no? Well then, don't ask that a baby be fed in the bathroom.

Oh, and I totally eat by my pool or even with my feet submerged in the water. There's nothing unsanitary about it, like there is about eating in the bathroom. I can't believe somebody would even try to compare those.

I also can't believe the women who are speaking against this.

JBorch said...

Before I comment I need to disclose that I am Kim's husband. The opinions I express are my own and are not to be attributed to Kim. We don't always agree but on this topic we mostly do.

I would like to specifically address the ignorance present in comments like that of ShawnaC.

Her first "concern" of nursing with so many bodily fluids present being a problem for the baby is disingenuous and a petty attempt to make Kim look bad. She was not nursing in the water. As was clearly stated in her post most of her body and the baby were out of the water.

The second concern of exposing her children to somebody's unclothed body is another overstatement intended to sensationalize. I can guarantee you that Kim was showing much less of her unclothed body than many other women at the pool. That is not a real issue and to use that as an excuse to mask your true feelings is dishonest. Nobody is advocating for the right of women to lift up their shirts and "let it all hang out". The vast majority of women who breastfeed in public do so very discreetly and show very little if any of their breast. The skimpy bikinis women wear at the pool leave much less to the imagination. And nobody is asking you to watch; it's really kind of rude to stare.

Third, ShawnaC is absolutely right in that there are some women who go overboard. Just like there are religious extremists or political extremists, there are breastfeeding extremists. You can't demonize an entire population based on the actions of a few.

Lastly (and this is what bothered me the most), the fact that ShawnaC implies that breastfeeding is immodest and indecent and is a subject that needs to be approached delicately and taught to children at an "appropriate" time is direct evidence of the general ignorance of breastfeeding and over-sexualization of women in our society. To suggest that breasfeeding is a topic that must be handled with as much sensitivity with children as sex is ridiculous. So would you sit your children down and have the breastfeeding "talk" with them? How about the bottle-feeding "talk"? And to address the concern of seeing someone's "unclothed body" do you have the bikini "talk"?

In my opinion, the over-sexualization of women and their breasts is really at the heart of most people's objection to public breastfeeding. Most people in our society view women's breasts as more of a sexual object than as nourishment for a baby, their true intent and purpose. But guess what, that is THEIR problem and a societal attitude that needs to change. That is what Kim and many other women are trying to accomplish. They are trying to educate and change societal attitudes about breastfeeding and women's breasts in general so that the foremost thought in people's minds when they think of breasts is not of sexual gratification but of feeding children. In that effort I fully support Kim and all the other women who have ever been shamed into nursing in a bathroom, or felt unwelcome somewhere that is supposedly family-friendly because of other people's ignorance.

Mandy said...

I think you are awesome! I myself had an experience in a Starbucks where I was asked to stop nursing (by another customer). When WILL people realize that breasts have an important function, not simply a sexual object? Kudos to you for standing up for what's right, not only for yourself but for breastfeeding women everywhere!

Jen said...

As I am about to have my 4th baby to nurse, I am very proud of you for standing up for nursing rights. While you may say you don't want to be an activist, you are...and have been for many years! I feel much more comfortable nursing in public now than I did with my first and I feel sad for those who are too uncomfortable knowing that a woman is feeding her child. I hope my boys can all grow up knowing how wonderful the human body is and all the amazing things it can do, including providing nourishment for our children. I'm glad the director agreed that you could BF in the pool and I hope you and I and many others don't encounter too much conflict on the subject. Good luck to us all!

Melissa said...

One of the best-written comments is by a MAN. What does this tell us about women's attitudes towards breastfeeding? How many times has this situation come up because a MAN asked a woman to nurse on a toilette? In any of the struggles I've personally had with breastfeeding/pumping outside of my home it has been with WOMEN including my own mother who breastfed us all! Why is this?

If you are sexualizing breastfeeding then YOU are an irresponsible parent! You have no place telling another mother she is irresponsible for nursing her baby any where at any time whether out in public, private or on a blog in comments. You also have no right to tell any woman HOW to nurse her baby, how to cover up, how to hold the baby or where to sit.

Anyone who even suggests they would "take physical action" toward a woman holding a baby in water needs to be reported to the authorities.

Do you still eat tapeworm and wear a corset?

Bottom line is that mothers should be able to nurse their babies any where at any time and we shouldn't be afraid of criticism if baby pulls off the blanket and exposes some skin or even a nipple for a nanosecond. Do you cover your children's eyes when they show how to milk a cow on Sesame Street? Do you run and hide when in the presence of a cat or dog nursing its babies? You don't go around putting black tape over magazine covers or putting blankets over cows, cats or dogs so why do it to us?

If we're going to split hairs over what is polite and considerate around others then I think it's inconsiderate to stare at a nursing mother whether she's covered or not. We don't want you gawking at us while we're nursing. It's rude, so stop looking and mind your own business.

Breast Health is the issue here and this country needs some serious reform when it comes to educating the public about our reproductive systems! People need to get a clue and stop living in the Victorian Era. It wasn't healthy for us then and it isn't healthy for us now. Women do have the right to vote, wear pants and own property yet we still feel shunned by society for nursing our babies at our breasts in private and in public. This is just plain wrong. Sometimes I wonder why they call it Women's Lib when it really isn't very liberating at all.

When we experience these injustices and report on them publicly it is an outcry for reform and to educate others, not some source of in-your-face flag-waving. If you think that way, you're missing the point completely.

Christy said...

THANK YOU! Thank you for posting about your experience that others may learn from you. Thank you for standing up for what's right. Thank you for continuing to fight to raise awareness & bring light to a cause so dear to my heart. God bless you as you continue to fight for the rights of bf'ing babies everywhere!

The Lewis Family said...

Sorry you had to endure this, it's sad the ignorance level of some people. And the human mentality of "if I am uncomfortable, I need to make you feel the same way" proves that the old misery loves company lives strong.

Chin up, shoulder back, boobs out and march on ;)

~C

Jackie said...

I am sorry this happened to you, but happy you have a voice to stand up and let your point be heard.

I too breastfed every where, resturant (where it was so un-assuming that I was doing so, someone asked if they could see the baby. I poiletly said "yes, when he's done eating"), hockey arena airports, mall, whenever my baby was hungry and where ever I was when that happened.

The only time I was asked to stop and leave the room, was in chuch, by my husband ;) He didn't have a problem anywhere else, but in church he did. We later talked about it :)

I'm sorry you have to deal with some rather ignorant comments.

Tara said...

Jborch said it all. MOST women who breastfeed in public DO NOT show their breasts and are most of the time more covered than other women in the establishment.

Women in regular dress shirts that dip down in the front (not even necessarily "low-cut") show more skin that most nursing mothers.

Liz said...

What a frustrating situation. You handled it beautifully, by the way. I breastfed both my kiddos whenever or whereover they needed to be fed, just like my bottlefeeding friends did with their kids. No difference. With my first, I practiced in front of the mirror first to get up my confidence that I wasn't "flashing the world." Guess what? I wasn't!

In fact, like Jackie, most of the time, when I was nursing, it just looked like I was holding a sleeping baby, and people didn't know he/she was nursing until they got closer or asked.

I was fortunate enough never to encounter someone who made me feel unwelcome. Of course, I'm not very sensitive, so maybe I was getting strange looks and just didn't notice.

Since both my kids were breastfed, they've asked me about bottles and kids who drink from bottles. It's simple, I tell them. Some babies drink from bottles, and some babies get mommy milk from their mommy's breast. A bottle-feeding mom could say the same thing and move on.

I'm glad to see you have people being supportive. I came here from Loralee's blog, and really appreciated her post. Good luck with your activist campaign! I hope you spur some educational efforts!

mommabird2345 said...

First of all, Jeremy took the words out of my mouth. He said everything perfectly!!!

ShawnaC., when a woman breastfeeds, it DOES NOT mean that her "modesty and decency has gone out the window". I don't know Kim personally, but I do know the morals she lives by, and I assure you, she is very modest. If you feel so unconfortable having a woman breastfeed her baby near your children, YOU have every right to move your children away from her. Kim never said her rights are greater than yours. You have every right to go to the pool, church or a party without having to "watch" a woman breastfeed, it's called NOT STARING. Teach your children that while it is natural and healthy to breastfeed a baby, it is also RUDE TO STARE at the breastfeeding baby.

Rowan, seriously? "I don't want my children knowing what breasts are for until they are of an age where they can use them for that purpose. That's just wrong." That statement sounds like you think breasts are only used in sexual situations. Society has sexualized breasts, not the babies who need to be fed. And to say you would get physical with someone who said you could use breastfeeding as a way to educate your children what breasts are for? Teaching them that violence is a way to solve problems is a LOT worse than teaching them about breastfeeding.

I breastfed my kids. I've breastfed in restaurants, at Disneyland, at the park, in friends' homes and many more places. I did so without letting it all hang out. Even when I would find a place that was off to the side, people would stare. For those people who think women should just go to another room or place, think about the mom for a moment. I find the suggestion that a woman feed her baby in the bathroom highly disgusting. I don't even like to use public bathrooms when myself or my kids have to use the bathroom. Having to feed one of them in it? GROSS. Also, it is very isolating to go another room while you are at church, a friend's house, or a party. Depending on the baby, it could take an hour for them to eat. And they eat often. So every couple of hours you are gone from your social situation for an hour. Before you know it, it is time to go home and you haven't seen anyone. People need to get over their own issues with breastfeeding. If you have a problem with it, walk away or at least don't stare.

Good for you Kim for standing up for yourself. You are an awesome mom!!

*Lissa* said...

Good for you, momma!!!

Rachael said...

You go girl!!!

I am old.. I was pregnant and/or breastfeeding during my whole 20's, which was 1983-1993. It seems to me that the whole 'hysteria' surrounding breastfeeding outside of the four walls of your own house has really ramped up over the last few years. I hope this is the 'getting worse before it gets better' part.

When I had my babies, bottle feeding was still very popular, and seen as maybe even better then breast, but I chose to breastfeed in good part because of the cost of bottles and formula and in part because I just didn't want the fuss and muss of washing bottles all the time, heating them, and in the middle of the night! Or out somewhere -who has a stove top in their diaper bag? But breastmilk- free and portable. A no brainer to me. Anyway... I breastfed in public long before it was a 'thing'. I was going against the norm of the day, but, it wasn't like I was doing criminal behavior or anything egregious. I got glances, but more often than not it was simple curiosity- for some generations it was rare to see it done at all. Novelty factor if you will. I got a lot of kind grandmotherly smiles. I used a receiving blanket to cover.. not out of modesty so much but as to shield baby's eyes from the blazing Texas sun. I would make a whole tent deal to make shade on nursing babes.. and also it happened to cover me up.

I'm just.. really, just appalled at the level of vitriol this topic stirs in some people. The passive aggressiveness in some comments (here and elsewhere) is astounding, but I honestly do not get it- why is this even a topic of public discussion?! I can't think of a decent thing to say about that so I'll shut up now...

But you, YOU ROCK!! Rock it to the wall, sister!

Kate said...

Ah, another zealous breastfeeding mother taking to the streets to make people dislike mommybloggers even more than they already do.

Karlynn J. said...

I saw your article on BlogHer and had to comment. Let me start with I am a co-sleeping, baby-wearing, extended nursing mama ( my longest was 3 years) and I am so pro-breastfeeding it's ridiculous.

But I actually cannot get on board with this one. The ONLY reason is that pools have very VERY strict regulations on body fluids in pool, and for very good reason. These are health regulations, at least here in Canada and I had them explained to me when we had our swimming lessons cancelled because a child threw up in the water. CANCELLED. They had to shut down the whole blinking pool and do the complete cleaning works. Which I don't understand. But it was regulations, so I didn't complain.

And don't give me the "OMG you are comparing breastmilk to vomit" I am simply comparing bodily fluid to bodily fluid.

Do you know that to donate breastmilk here you have to have a barrage of tests done and THEN your milk is pasteurized? Yes, I've donated my breast milk because I think it's THAT important, we have a Breast Milk bank in Canada. The reason is that a variety of dieaseas can be found in breastmilk. That inlcudes HIV. It may feed our young but it also can carry our diseass. Check out the CDC http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/faq/index.htm. SMALL chance, but it can!

We can't just pick and choose all the time. If the health regulations state no bodily fluids, then it's no bodily fluids.

They gave you permission to sit on the deck in full view of everyone breastfeeding, which isn't asking you to hide in a closet. So they didn't sexualize your feeding of your child, ask you to cover up OR act like the poster Shauna C. in the comment above.


When we swam, I was prepared with towels for my son and I and we took a nice little rest on the side to feed his sister. And no one ever asked me to cover up or move. But if I was feeding her in the water, I would fully expect they have the right to ask.

I was never approached ever in all my years to be asked to stop breastfeeding, but there comes a time when we have to stop, take a good look at WHY and realize that not everyone is out to "get us" breastfeeders. Sometimes we come across as far too militant and it gives us a bad name.

Darcy said...

wow i can't believe the commenter Kate. how sad that comment makes me. how very very sad. i'm not sure where to begin with how many ways in which that comment saddens me, ugh. I pray for her understanding and I pray my children are never hurt by a comment such as that.

Kim said...

So, I just wanted to clarify a couple of things.

First, I would MUCH RATHER be nursing the baby in a comfy lounge chair, we had JUST gotten in the pool and I didn't want to take Libby out right then. I can and DO nurse very discreetly. Usually people don't even know I am doing it.

Second, I am not a militant breastfeeder. I do not think it makes me militant asking to have some kind of universal policy about breastfeeding in the pool. I think it makes me an advocate, not militant.

Third, If the reason was bodily fluids, then that should have been the reason from the get go. I don't need 3 different reasons why you want me to stop. If there is a universal policy about this, it won't be an issue again.

Fourth, for those of you who come here just to gawk and berate me, go ahead. If it makes you feel better, do it. But know this, I am working peacefully for a change. Even if that change tells me I can not breastfeed in the pool, I just don't want this to happen to someone else.
So, if it makes you feel better to put me down, that is your perogotive, but just know it won't hurt me one bit.

Morgan -Ing said...

@ Rowan- So your daughter is going to grow up, seeing women wearing bikinis and next to nothing, and think "That's what boobs are for! Showing off!" Then she'll get married, have sex and think "THAT'S WHAT BOOBS ARE FOR!" Then she'll get pregnant, have a baby, and you'll say "Guess what dear? Your sexy, showy-offy boobs are actually for nourishing and feeding your baby! I didn't want you to know until you were able to use them!" Really? That sounds way worse than having a beautiful and simple lesson with your small child, "Women have breasts so they can feed their babies. Not all mommies choose to but it is the best and healthiest thing a mommy can do." THE END. I mean, come on!

Next, to anyone who thinks that the majority of women who bf in public are doing it for the "SO PEOPLE CAN SEE IT'S NORMAL!" lesson, you're wrong. Dead wrong. Women breastfeed in public because their babies get hungry. I have been breastfeeding almost nonstop for 6 years. I have nursed in every place imaginable and NO ONE has ever told me to stop. Why? Because I'm discreet and modest. If anyone ever told me to stop no matter where I was, I would assure them that they could go take a flying leap. Nicely of course. I'd be very polite.

Finally, breast milk in the pool? This is an issue? Those pools are so chlorinated the moment it hits the water it's gone.

I have seen entirely too many women being punished and made to feel ashamed for feeding their children recently, and it really REALLY chaps my hide. I can't stand it. It's food, it's God-given, and holy moly if you don't like it, then for goodness sakes go hide YOURSELF in a bathroom stall until it's over.

Melissa said...

Kimberly, I love you and am proud to call you my sister (in-law) and the same goes for my brother Jeremy :) I love you guys!!!

kmfm said...

I love you and your nursing ways Kim!

AzĂșcar said...

I'm so glad this happened to you because you are extremely capable of handling it. Go Kim! 100% support you!

Anonymous said...

Rowan Mayfaire states:I may have taken it to a physical level I feel so strongly that that was wrong of you. I don't want my children knowing what breasts are for until they are of an age where they can use them for that purpose. That's just wrong.
Hilarious... You feel so strongly about a natural and nurturing subject, yet you're commenting using the name of a witch character from an Ann Rice book, and saying you might have been violent in this situation! Um- I'm a little confused... Wondering how you respond to breast cancer awareness and education?!?!

Anonymous said...

HIV can be transmitted through breast milk. HIV is not transmitted through urine. This may have had something to do with the pool's policy regarding "bodily fluids" and decontamination. I am not an Aquatic Facilities Operator, and do not know to what degree the chemicals in the pool would counteract breast milk infected with HIV.

Meg said...

I literally teared up reading JBorch's comment. What a nice thing to hear from a man. Very well said. I amen to it all. I agree that the problem people have with breastfeeding stems from the oversexualization of women and that banishing breastfeeding mothers to the bathrooms to nurse only extends this line of thinking. I don't think we should feel awkward or shameful when we nurse our kids. Thanks, Kim, for being brave enough to say how you feel. Thank you for being dedicated enough to take the time and effort to try to educate and make a change. And, thank you for doing it in a way that isn't offensive to others. You never have said anything judgemental about mothers who choose not to nurse or cannot nurse. You simply stated what you believed and stood by it. Good for you. I hope to be as brave as you should this or any similar circumstance arise in my life.

growingupmo said...

Oh my friend, I wish I had been with you because I know the pool director at the Y since I have been going there for so long. I have seen you BF the wee one and you're about as discreet as discreet can be. I agree, it's about the policy- whatever it shall be- should b e communicated clearly to those working at the Y and those of us who are members.

For the record, I have BF my babies everywhere and have NEVER been told to cover it up, but of course, I am one of those moms who did it discreetly, like most of us are. I didn't want everyone seeing my ta-ta's!

Hang in there girl- you're doing the right thing. You're not asking for special favors- you're just asking for a clearly stated policy that all are aware of, right?

Alice Wills Gold said...

Funny I posted about this too today. Someone turned me on to your post...no, not turned me on, that would be the wrong words to use when talking about breastfeeding.

http://imsofunny.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-husband-loves-boobs.html

I am all for your right to breastfeed wherever you want, but I wonder how discrete you were being if someone noticed to have a problem with it.

I think there is a happy medium called being discrete. I also think that every public establishment should have to provide a mother's lounge.

Alice Wills Gold said...

P.S. I am going to come back to read this whole post a bit later...just skimmed it. I have to run out to scouts, but I just wanted you to know that the color of font you have chosen makes it really hard to read your blog from my screen.

sewaneecook said...

I'm proud to call you a friend! If I were in a similar situation I hope that I would handle it as well as you did. If more people saw children breastfeeding, it would be more accepted as normal and beautiful!

Anonymous said...

De lurking here to give you a perspective from a different culture. I live in Argentina, South America where breastfeeding is and has been completely socially acceptable for years. Children take it perfectly naturally, people breastfeed on buses, trains, restaurants, concerts, cinemas, pools, and it is never a big deal. We are talking about a strongly catholic chauvinistic country here but this is just not a thing. I find it amazing that it is still such a thing in the U.S. Sheryl Macnie

Elaine A. said...

I loved you before but now I love you even more! Good for you for taking a stand, Kim. I kinda can't believe this is an issued in Austin, TX. I thought "anything goes" in my hometown... ;-P And ESPECIALLY breastfeeding. Such a natural and beautiful thing... geez.

Holly said...

I saw your tweets about this yesterday and couldn't wait to read your post! Oh boy. The pee issue -- I was thinking the same thing. Regular swim diapers don't hold pee (only the swim diaper covers do), so who is the YMCA fooling with the "bodily fluids" line? Good for you.

Heather Guymon said...

I can not believe some of the comments on this post Kim. Let me be the first to say, I know Kim PERSONALLY, and have been around her while she nurses that beautiful baby boy, and never ONCE have I ever seen her nipple or felt uncomfortable with her sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME. I am not a prude, and I am not one that could just let it all hang out, however I teach my children that breastfeeding is natural and guess what...I don't NURSE!!! My oldest child even brought up one day, "remember when you used to feed Connor from your boobs?" to which I quickly replied yes (because I did attempt it for about 36 hours with my second child). I told her it was something a lot of mommies do, but that I decided that it was easier for daddy to help when mommy just used a bottle. Such a lame excuse to not nurse, I know, but still...get my drift? I don't nurse, and I am all for privacy and modesty...but oh my GOSH people...seriously??? If you are so uncomfortable with your children "seeing" someone nurse then what the hell are you gonna tell them when they start asking questions about "where babies come from" or "what's a penis or vagina???"

It's just ridiculous to me that this is 2011 and people are still feeling this way. There are women and girls that walk around half naked in the mall, and yet you don't run and cover your children's eyes then do you? You don't find the mall police and tell them to throw that person out. It's natural to nurse and unless the mom is being blatantly obvious about her rights to nurse in public by just lifting her top and letting everything flop around, then I have no problem with seeing a mom nurse and sit on the edge of the pool. Lets be adult about this people...God gave us boobs to do exactly what Kim does and so many other women out there (uh except me lol) do. I have so much respect for moms who nurse. Kim, you are awesome girl. I will be contacting the people I need to to voice my opinion and concerns on this. You went about this the right way, with dignity and respect...which is the least they could have afforded you to begin with, and didn't.

mom2nji said...

Wow. This post is bringing out the ignorance huh? First people do you read at all? She was not IN the pool, her feet were. Unless she lactates from her toes, I think we are safe on the bodily fluids issue. Kim has a great point on that as well, I am not even nursing yet, still pregnant, but my breasts are leaking. So am I banned from public swimming? I don't at all understand the over sexualization of breastfeeding. What I do find interesting is that this is not coming from the children, or the men, it's from overly conservative extreme WOMEN. Breastfeeding is what God intended our breasts to do! I am certian, as Kim is a modest women (from what I can gather) she was not flashing anyone or letting it all hangout.

Marty said...

Bless your heart. I can't believe you still have comments open. There are some real gems posting here.

Keep on keepin' on, Kim. Those of us who read your words because we care know your heart and know what you are trying to do.

oh, jenny mae said...

I am as pro-breastfeeding as they come, have 4 babies who i nursed in public (except when tandem feeding the twins) and I was also a pool manager. of i had on my manager hat, I would have asked you to feed your sweet elliot in the designated eating areas, just as I would have asked a kid eating in the pool (or on the edge) to do the same. if it's pool policy to not allow food in the pool, it just makes sense to me. nursing babies can eat where everyone else can eat. I nursed my babies in lawn chairs on plenty of occasions & think it's wonderful that you feel so strongly about it. I think the way the pool handled it was insensitive and misguided. and i'm serious when I ask how you would feel had they simply asked you to leave per pool rules about not eating in the pool?

The Farm-Marm said...

Kim, when I was a young teenager, my mom had my little sister, then a year and a half later my brother. I was mortified when she decided to nurse during sacrament meeting. She opted not to go out into the lobby, or to find the bathroom that had the rockers in there. She just covered up with a blanket and latched the baby on. Again, I was a mortified 14 year old. Who. Knew. Nothing.
fast forward many years.....
I am now a Mama to 6 kiddos (and 5 angels), I have nursed in the eating area of many malls and retail stores, I have even nursed WHILE shopping at the local Goodwill. No-one ever knew. The one time I left the restaurant and sat in the car, a woman parked next to me and looking in cautiously asked if I was nursing. I answered I was and she then questioned why I was outside in my car and not inside the restaurant. I told her that I had a fussy baby who hated being covered up. It was just easier to take him outside for a few minutes to get him settled down. Power to you! I'll be here as a cheerleader! GO KIM!

Kim said...

oh, jenny mae - I wish I had your email address, so I really hope you come back to see my answer to your question.

First, I really appreciate your comment. Had the girl come over and said, "Ma'am, we don't allow food or drink in the pool, I am so sorry, I need to ask you to nurse your baby on deck.", I would have happily done so.

What bothered me most was them trying to shame me into stopping nursing in the pool. I completely understand that reasoning, and would happily comply with it.

Loralee Choate said...

@Jenny Mae...and if you had asked Kim to nurse her sweet Eliot in the designated eating and drinking areas you would have been in violation of Texas law.

Kim's opinion about eating designation doesn't even come in to play (though I know you are just asking out curiosity)

Sec. 165.002. RIGHT TO BREAST-FEED. A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.

WHEREVER she is ALLOWED TO BE.

Not wherever the establishment permits eating and drinking. Wherever the mother is allowed to BE.

That is the crux here.

The law changes, then your comment absolutely comes into play. Until then, it's rather moot, no?

Yes, I believe in designated eating and drinking areas. I appreciate the sanitation and cleanliness it brings to places but infants are a different ballgame. I would no more ask a mother bottle feeding to move into a designated eating and drinking area than a nursing mother. They are not toddlers or kids that throw food around. They are not adults that will leave wrappers all over the place. They are tied and dependent on a mother or parent to eat a bottle or suckle on a breast and the law recognizes that the nutrition of a baby takes a higher priority than eating and drinking area designation.

Loralee Choate said...

@Kim. Nah. You don't need to move, IMO. I've thought about this since we talked. You have the right to nurse right where you were. To have Libby be able to swim with parental supervision AND to accommodate Eliot's nutritional needs without pulling your screaming and heartbroken daughter out of the pool to go off to some other area. When babies need to eat they need to eat. The law about this could not be clearer, the YMCA is not clear at ALL in their policies. They need to be.

Anonymous said...

This is the dumbest complaint I have ever heard of for breastfeeding in public. People don't eat IN pools, therefore you should NOT breastfeed IN a pool. What a ridiculous time to take a stand. You make other women who want to breastfeed in public look really bad. Seriously pathetic excuse...

Anonymous said...

So can I eat a Subway sandwich in the public pool? For me this isn't even about breastfeeding. No matter what you think, every public pool I've been to has the rule of no eating in the pool. You can't just disregard the rules because you don't like them. Other people use the pool too and it would inconvenience YOU if THEY broke the rules. I think it is extremely discourteous to think that and your child's rights are more important than anyone else's. If you feel that strongly, save up for your own pool. If you swim in a public pool, you have to follow the rules. By your logic I should roller skate into a McDonalds and then throw a fit and refuse to leave if they ask me to stop roller skating through their store.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your enlightening perspective. You are not condesceding in the least when you tell other parents that YOU know when THEIR children should be exposed to strangers' nude body parts and reproductive education. Thanks for letting us all know that there is only one "correct" way of educating our children on this. It's so refreshing to hear someone so rigid and unyielding in their position, no matter who else it inconviences or upsets.

Not Hannah said...

Spreading the word, lady. You rock.

dawnrich said...

What is the world coming to when a mother has to be afraid to feed her child in public? I can understand how it would make some people uncomfortable, but if it does they can either leave or not look. Good luck!

DragonWife said...

This is turning into a really interesting conversation to me. I'm totally behind the idea that woman can breastfeed wherever is comfortable and convenient (and legal, I suppose, depending on the state) but I hadn't considered it the other way around. Would I want to breastfeed my baby where they might get inadvertently splashed with chlorinated/peed in water? I'm going to have to think on that.

I wanted to comment on the whole breastmilk vs pee argument since I was a medical technologist in my pre-kid life. Scientifically, urine is considered a sterile fluid unless there is some medical condition going on. So, technically, urine is "cleaner" than breastmilk from a body fluid point of view. While I certainly don't mind the thought that I'm swimming in both, I can see where the policies come from.

Also, a shout out to my local YMCA which has a section of the women's locker room that is carpeted with a couple of rocking chairs set up for nursing. No bathroom or hallway nursing necessary. Of course, I've nursed there along with the pool viewing area, gymnastics room, sports fields, and dance room without any trouble.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the concept of good public etiquette, common sense, modesty and respect for others. When does breast feeding in a public pool ever sound like a good idea? Breast feeding in public is flat out lazy. It tells us you don't have the wherewithall to plan ahead. You are fighting for a very small minority of lazy women. You are much better off learing some good modest public etiquette. Go fight for something more meaningful.

Melissa said...

I love you Kim and the fact that J posted and was so much more level headed than the women on here, even better. Generally I don't believe in feeding trolls but Anonymous you got on the lazy.

I have three children. Is it LAZY of me to not take them to school because I may have to feed my baby sometime during the morning? Is it LAZY of me to not keep house, mail packages, buy groceries because my baby may get hungry? Apparently I was being LAZY today when Ii took my kids to a play place because in the FOUR hours I was there my baby needed to eat.

I can guarantee you that when I nurse, or Kim, or Jane, Sue, Linda, etc that they see less boob than you see in the checkout line at the grocery store or on billboards along the highway. It's time America stopped insisted on selling sex everywhere and than pretending to be prudes when you use your breasts for what they are for.

Hyacynth said...

Kim, I applaud you for standing up for something that actually is VERY meaningful. The right to simply care for a baby's most basic need, is one that shouldn't need a protection law. Sadly, we do need a law to ensure that we as mothers are able to do what our bodies were designed to do -- nourish and comfort our babies.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Wow, lots of great comments, can't take time to read them all, just wanted to add one more:

If the YMCA stands on that "bodily fluid" excuse, they better get an evacuation procedure in place for every person, kid or adult, who sneezes in the pool! Seriously!!!

Megryansmom said...

Hurray for standing up for yourself and breast feeding your infant. It saddens me that it seems more difficult for mothers to breast feed in public now than it was in 1988 when I breast fed my daughter.

~Tahirih~ said...

Your story prompted me to write a letter to YMCA corporate. As a former YMCA aquatics and child care employee and nursing mom, I was at a complete loss of words while reading your blog. Here's my letter, reworded to be an "open letter" (please overlook any odd formatting from the c&p) that I am more than happy to have used by any and everyone who agrees.
(Posted below due to character limits)

~Tahirih~ said...

To Whom it May Concern:

As an advocate of breastfeeding and of women's rights in general, I am dismayed to hear of recent events both locally and nationally (Caldwell, Idaho and Twin Lakes, Texas, respectively) where women were asked to refrain from discreetly feeding their young infants in the pool while supervising their older children. In both instances the employees were grossly mis- or under-informed about public health and safety regarding breast milk, both in relation to the spread of disease via breast milk and the nutritional importance of breast feeding. In the Twin Lakes situation, the employee was also uninformed about the legally protected rights of nursing mothers.

The CDC states that:
"HIV and other serious infectious diseases can be transmitted through breast milk. However, the risk of infection from a single bottle of breast milk, even if the mother is HIV positive, is extremely small. For women who do not have HIV or other serious infectious diseases, there is little risk to the child who receives her breast milk."

Taking into consideration that a significantly smaller amount of milk would have potential to enter the water, and that aquatics staff take great care to maintain chlorine levels in the water, it can safely be surmised that small amounts of breast milk pose no health risk to other swimmers. It should also be noted that any woman who is pregnant or nursing can still potentially leak milk into the pool and it would be absurd to ask them to refrain from enjoying the facility simply because they are lactating, so it is equally absurd to ask a mother to refrain from feeding her infant while simultaneously keeping her other children closely supervised.

As a family advocate and a member of a community enriched by a YMCA , I am also dismayed by the clear lack of support for such a vital foundation of the families you advocate for. I find it negligent of all three of "[Y]our Areas of Focus" to either actively or passively permit an environment that does not openly facilitate such a basic and important act. Breastfeeding is the first way to nurture the potential of every child. Breastfeeding is the first step to improve the nation's health and well-being. Breastfeeding is socially responsible, and breastfeeding mothers and their children deserve the utmost support from their neighbors.

~Tahirih~ said...

cont'd

Lastly, I can't help but note the irony of the Y's efforts to fight child hunger and obesity while all but ignoring the cheapest and healthiest source of nutrition for children; and also at the wellness programs in place to deal with cancer, when breastfeeding is known to offer protection to both mothers and children from several types of cancer. From the American Institute for Cancer Research:

"According to Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, published by the American Institute for Cancer Research, the evidence that breastfeeding protects women against both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer is convincing. Protection against ovarian cancer is suggested as well, but that evidence is currently limited.

Hormonal changes associated with lactation – those that delay the return of a new mother’s menstrual periods– reduce a woman’s lifetime hormone exposure. According to experts, this seems to be the main reason that women who breastfeed have a lower risk. The AICR report also notes that physical changes that occur in breast cells while lactating may provide some protection as well. [...]

The AICR cancer prevention report notes that babies are likely to receive cancer protection from breastfeeding, too. The evidence shows that breastfeeding probably reduces the chances that a child will be overweight for at least the early years of childhood. This is an important finding as childhood overweight tends to carry over into adulthood, and increased body fat clearly increases risk of at least six different types of cancer."



If the YMCA is serious about building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities, then this first vital building block should not be overlooked, but strongly reinforced. A few small changes could make all the difference in the world. A few suggestions would be to:

-Begin with staff training on the importance of breastfeeding, and how to help protect the rights of breastfeeding mothers and their children;

-Use signs to indicate that your facilities are breastfeeding friendly (one suggestion is the International Breastfeeding Symbol found at breastfeedingsymbol.org);

-Provide discreet and comfortable areas (not restrooms or locker rooms) for nursing mothers, including in the childcare facilities;

-Offer wellness programs designed to support nursing mothers.



I truly hope that the YMCA will take steps to live up to its own standards.


Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

CassT said...

I get that breastfeeding is a natural act, however, I can't see how you would be so irresponsible as to give your child a nipple you hadn't cleaned. You make the comment about urine in the pool, but yet you were perfectly willing to pull out your breast which had been soaking in chlorine and all of the other supposed much worse bodily fluids, and then you plopped it in your child mouth. (whether or not you were in the water as you were breastfeeding is of no importance, only that it had been wet with pool water). I have to excuse myself when I breastfeed simply to clean my nipple, and make sure my child isn't ingesting lint and sweat or anything that might have fallen down my shirt.
In addition, I have a problem with you saying you don't care why people are uncomfortable with you breastfeeding in their faces, and the faces of their children. Perhaps they haven't had that particular discussion with their child, and I don't find it your place to educate ANYONE on those matters. You are a breastfeeding mother, not the embodiment of motherhood in the world. People have a right to be uncomfortable when it comes to nudity, but with your logic, I should have had my 4 year old in the delivery room watching his little sister tear my vagina open as I defecated on myself. Because, as we all know, that's what vaginas are for, and it should be considered beautiful, not traumatizing. What a joke. Did you ever consider that perhaps watching another person not related to a child expose their breast (even slightly, just for a moment) might be traumatic in some way, if they haven't been properly prepared as to what that is, and what that act is? You could literally compromise a child's entire psyche. Don't believe me? Ask a psychologist. (and before your husband tried to rebuke me in ignorance, as with ShawnaC and her bodily fluid comment, really ask a psychologist).

CassT said...

Now, to my main point. Let's forget the bodily fluids issue for one moment. Let's forget she mentioned it. She started with, you are making people feel uncomfortable by exposing yourself, and feeding your infant. You replied with, Good, then they can see my breast, and what breasts should be used for. Your breasts, if exposed, no matter the reason, should be covered if someone (especially parents with their young children) feels uncomfortable. This applies in every place on earth except a strip club. For you to have made the comment you did, is basically putting up your middle finger and saying, f-u, my rights are greater than that of yours, because I'd rather possibly traumatize your child unnecessarily, and make you feel uncomfortable, than be slightly inconvenienced for 10 minutes. See, when you breastfeed in public, you do it because it's easy, not because it's harmful to do it elsewhere. I find that when I breastfeed, I'm more comfortable in private, because it makes ME feel uncomfortable knowing people are uncomfortable with my actions, when I could just as simply excuse myself. Sitting there with my breast in my child's mouth, as natural as that is, I still find the needs of the general majority, far more important. I am the one who got pregnant, the consumers and pedestrians of this world did not ask to get up and see my breast (in my child's mouth or not) at the coffee shop, or the book store. They didn't bring their children to the YMCA thinking they'd have to worry about explaining childbirth or breast function during their swim lesson, because, as inconsiderate as you think the world is to you, not letting you pull your breast out whenever and where ever you feel it's appropriate (wait, according to you, everywhere is appropriate), it still would have been far more considerate to ask the lifeguard or employee who complained to watch your child in your eyesight as you grabbed a towel to cover yourself. Then you could have stayed in the pool, nursed your baby (not that I find that so responsible, as you might remember), and watched your child, while not making other people's day uncomfortable. Why you didn't bring a towel for that purpose I wouldn't know. I have never nursed in public without an apron, and I still noticed people noticing what I was doing and feeling discomfort. It's not my job to change how the majority of the country thinks and feels, I'm sure they don't know why it makes them feel uncomfortable, it's just my job to not make a problem where ever I go. How day you tell that girl, One day you'll be a mother? Probably, but that doesn't mean for any reason she has to be the same person or mother you are, and that doesn't mean she's wrong for being uncomfortable. I'm a BREASTFEEDING MOTHER, and I feel uncomfortable watching other people breastfeed. Not my breast, not my child, not my moment. More so, I make it a point to make sure I don't ruin anyone's deposition that happens to be around me, because that's not my right, mother or not. You are absolutely 100% wrong for assuming that your rights as a mother supersede those of other mothers, parents or children. And I want you to remember that.

CassT said...

And just do we're clear, what you did wasn't lazy. I'm not on Anonymous' bus. It was inconsiderate. It, of course, takes effort to stop what you're doing anytime.

However, let me make this point. Expecially to your husband. No, we don't cover up puppies when they give birth, nor do we cover our child's eyes when the dog goes out on the lawn to squat. We also don't let our children squat in puplic themselves, or teach them a garage or cardboard box is a proper place to give birth. There is a time and appropriate place for everything. You wouldn't squat in public, just because you couldn't hold it. I promise, the baby can wait two minutes for you to put a nursing apron on, mine do and did with absolutely no adverse effects, just like your bladder can wait until it gets to the toilet. For you to say it's more important for your child to be able to suckle your exposed breast in public, than it is for me to be able to say, use the bathroom in public, 5 feet from YOUR child (which i could achieve, I'm sure, while exposing myself less than you ever have to nurse your child, but in no way makes it right), just shows how caught up in yourself and your own comfort you are. I mean, elimination is natural, everyone does it, not just mothers, infact they do it all the time, so why is it considered uncouth to do it in public? Why aren't people lining up and asking you to eliminate so their children can be educated in the ways of using their anus and urethra? They'll never get out of their diapers if they don't, since we're using you and your husband's logic. Why aren't you running around saying the world is a restroom, because it's natural? Hey, everybody eliminates, so therefore it must be beautiful.

Which brings me to my next point. SMOKING IS LEGAL, BUT IF I WANTED TO, I COULDN'T LEGALLY SMOKE IN A RESTAURANT IN MY STATE. Even if I had my own special room TO DO IT IN. (they make very comfortable rooms to breastfeed children in, I know I breastfeed my children there when they are provided.)

Please stop trying to make everyone think they way you do. Just because you think you're right, doesn't mean it's so. Ettiquite, manners, politeness, those are all very important in public. Some people don't want to see your child latched to you, that's just the way it is.

CassT said...

AND JUST SO WE'RE CLEAR, NO ONE WAS TRYING TO SHAME YOU. THEY SIMPLY STATED THEY WERE UNCOMFORTABLE, AND YOU SHAMED THEM. How dare they?

*She informed me that I couldn't nurse in the pool. When I asked her why she said it was because it was making other people uncomfortable and children were around and could see it.*

That's her job, Kim. Her job is to make sure everyone is happy at the Y. People came to her, and expressed their discomfort, and she chose to handle it the best way she knew how, by approaching you politely, and asking you to stop. When you asked why, she politely told you the reason. She didn't lie, she didn't try and make something up (breast milk is a bodily fluid, and it can transmit HIV, urine on the other hand is sterile, save for a bladder infection...and while I'm not too scared of another mother's milk, I can still understand where they girl was coming from. I'm quite sure she hadn't memorized OSHA standards, I mean, breast milk is a fluid and it comes from the body. If you were the employee and you not only had other patrons complaining, but knew bodily fluids weren't to be in the pool, wouldn't you have said something? It was her job to do what she did, and it was your job to comply, the YMCA is not a public facility, it is private. Therefore, they had every right to ask you to stop, and not give a reason why other than, We said so, now stop or leave. I'm so frustrated as a breastfeeding mother that you actually are so audacious to put the needs of you and yours above everyone's as if you are somehow superior.

Kim said...

I will not engage in arguments here at all. That said, I want to clarify a few points:

1. My chest was never exposed to the water as it was a baby pool that didn't get any deeper than 2 feet. AND, since my baby was not nursing on my toes, I wasn't worried about it. I don't think it is irresponsible not to clean my nipple every time my child nurses, I never have done it and have very healthy children.

2. No part of my breast was showing at any time, other than the top that shows with any woman's cleavage.

3. My husband never said anything about puppies.

4. I never said my needs were superior to someone elses.

5. There were several reasons given, and in the end the director even told me NO ONE COMPLAINED, the staff just didn't know how to handle it.

6. Should I ask Victoria's Secret models to cover up because I am not comfortable with seeing their breasts? Or how about the other women at the pool who are showing more breast than I am?
See, that is the problem here. We have no problem with seeing everything but the nipple, but when there is even a CHANCE of nip exposure (and there was NO BREAST EXPOSURE) we go ballistic.

7. If the staff's job at the Y is to be sure everyone is happy, then this never would have happened. But again, NO ONE REALLY COMPLAINED.

8. Smoking in an enclosed area is NOT legal in my State, so that is a moot point.

9. I do not think MY right as a Mother supercede anyone else's right as a Mother. If anyone thinks that, they clearly did not read my entire post, which brings me to MY last point.

Before you go off on a ranty comment, please read the post in it's entirety, not just skimming it, going off of what a friend told you I did.

Polish Mama on the Prairie said...

As a mama who nursed both kids, I'm going to just say this. It doesn't matter what some people think. It's what the law states. And the law states you can. So the rest can go suck a bottle filled with artificial milk manufactured by pharmaceutical companies who make money off people with a lack of proper education and who are prudes in all the wrong ways.

Also, why is it not ok to nurse wearing a nursing top but it's ok to allow 7 year olds to wear tiny bikinis and shirts that are too tight and say crap like "Future Mrs. Bieber" and let their kids listen to Lady Gaga? How can people say kids are too stupid to know what Lady Gaga is singing about or what is being insinuated sexually in movies but the kids are not too stupid to think that breastfeeding is going on and that somehow it's wrong?

My daughters grew up around women who breastfeed and role play with their dolls as moms. They don't use bottles, they pretend to nurse. My hubby has a prob w it bc he doesn't want them to think about having kids yet at all, but it's not really the nursing for him.

To the woman who said she would get "physical" over someone breastfeeding: You would go to jail, plain and simple. And I would get, and other women who support breastfeeding, would get physical back. And what sort of example is that for your kids?! Grow up.

My husband almost got "physical" with a man who wanted to get "physical" with me for nursing in public (WITH baby covered, on top of it all!) and guess who the cop sided with? My husband. Because it's the law.

My point? The law is the law is the law.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I am so sorry you had this encounter. No matter what the final outcome, it's just ICKY. And would really have hurt my feelings. You were in the right and you know it.

Steph

JBorch said...

So Kim has mostly chosen to stay above the fray in this debate because it has clearly degenerated from civil discourse into something...well...not civil. I, however, feel the need to rebut some of the more unreasoned arguments being made here.

Like Kim said, she was not "in" the pool. Some of you have made it seem like she was swimming around topless with a baby hanging off her chest. She was sitting on a step in the baby pool in about 6 inches of water. Anybody who has NEVER sat in the shallow end of a pool or on the edge, or perhaps in a hot tub, with a drink please raise your hand...what, no one, really? Well I guess we can end that debate.

And to those of you who are so concerned about seeing someone's "exposed breast" or think that nursing women should just "cover up", guess what, 90% of them do cover up and I promise you can see much more exposed breasts on the magazine rack, at the beach, at the grocery store...well, just about anywhere. But covering up does not have to mean draping half of your body with a blanket (especially in blistering 105° Texas heat). The vast majority of nursing mothers are very discreet and very adept at using their clothing, arms, and babies to "cover up". Nobody here is advocating for the right of women to bare their breasts to the world. If they are, I assure you they are fighting a different fight.

And to those of you who are so concerned about children seeing I am calling bulls*$@. Take a minute and ask yourself, really examine why you are opposed to seeing breastfeeding or having a child witness breastfeeding. I have yet to hear any argument other than one that boils down to the fact that breasts are so connected to sexuality in our culture that it makes people uncomfortable to see them used in public for another purpose. Just take a moment and try to imagine disconnecting breasts from sex and then see if there are any objections left (and you can't use the nudity excuse because we have already beaten that horse to death; nursing moms cover up and expose less skin than you will see just about anywhere else). If you find anything left that is not connected to sexuality or nudity I would love to hear a reasoned argument.

If you are so concerned about you or your child seeing something that you, for whatever ridiculous reason, find offensive or uncomfortable, how do you manage to take your children out in public before they are several years old with all the things you need to prepare them for about the world? By having children and taking them out into the world you are taking on the responsibility of teaching them about the world. It's called being a parent. You don't get to choose when events happen in the world that you might need to teach your children about. And while there are some things that certainly should be kept private (that's why we have laws), feeding a child the way God/nature intended isn't one of them. The law agrees with us on that one and it's time for society to catch up.

Loralee Choate said...

Cass,

First off, let's just debunk some of the things you stated right off:

One: Even if Kim had full blown AIDS, HIV cannot live in a pool-- http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/aids/facts/questions/transmission.htm

Secondly: Smoking was banned from enclosed spaces specifically because second hand smoke was medically linked to terminal illness. Catching a glimpse of a nip of a mother who is nursing is not potentially fatal to anyone observing it as far as I know. (If you have a study or stats to back you up, please link. Would love to see it.)

And thirdly, about Kim's right's trumping yours.

Yes.

Her rights trump yours.

100%

I'm not even going to make a single excuse for it or down play it just because it *REALLY* pisses you off.

Why?

Because the nutritional needs of a baby to have unfettered access to its mother come first.

Not your discomfort.

Not your indignation.

Not your lack of ability to have the comfort to explain how breasts and nursing works to children.

Trauma is introduced to children in regards to nursing by the matter it is reacted to by the adults around them. (OR perhaps if there had been sexual abuse but let's not even think about equating the two, m'kay?)

I point my finger at you and ask you to present one study, one actual psychologist or psychiatrist that CLEARLY states that a child observing a nursing woman causes traumatic psychological injury to a healthy child. Because that one is such utter fallacy that I almost puked reading it. Studies like this do not support you but support that people who have a higher view of breast sexualization show negativity to breast feeding in public:http://www.springerlink.com/content/t72688133227r175/

I myself like thinking of my breasts as sexual objects, and I am pretty sure that it ties heavily into the shame and discomfort I have about public nursing. Yes. I have discomfort and shame about public nursing. Don't believe me? http://loraleeslooneytunes.com/2011/07/19/do-mothers-openly-breastfeeding-in-public-make-you-uncomforable-yeah-me-too/

HOWEVER, these feelings? MY PROBLEM. They do not trump the right of a woman to feed her kid where and how she needs to, period.

Breastfeeding is a non-sexual act. The law, the medical profession and the mental health profession qualify it as such.

It is YOUR issue. YOURS. YOU have to remove yourself, not Kim. YOU have to parent your children. Kids see ALL sorts of things that I don't agree with personally and it is my job as a parent to deal with it and their reactions. IF I don't want them drinking beer and alcohol I explain it. If I think homosexuality is a sin (which I don't) I explain it. I don't demand a gay couple holding hands or giving each other a kiss be banned. Would you be insistent that they be kicked out of a public place for doing so? Good luck with that.

And neither of those things provide a life saving function.

Loralee Choate said...

If my kid were to cry "GROSS MOM! WHAT IS THAT WOMEN DOING WITH HER BOOBIES"!? I say "She is feeding a baby." And talk about it.

See, I don't want my embarrassment to be passed on to MY children.

Also, I have made the mistake of equating breastfeeding to urination and defecation before. It's lame. Yes, those things are natural, however, we also teach children to poop and pee in toilets because to do so open would absolutely cause general health issues. Also, breast milk is not human waste. It is human food. Breasts provide a lifesaving function to infants. Genitals do not.

And finally?

"AND JUST SO WE'RE CLEAR, NO ONE WAS TRYING TO SHAME YOU. THEY SIMPLY STATED THEY WERE UNCOMFORTABLE, AND YOU SHAMED THEM. How dare they?"

Really? So you are to gauge what is and what is not shameful? You may not find it so. Groovy. Kim did. I did. Many women did. Your post REEKS of shaming. All over her wanting to sit in a swimsuit (that had NOT had any chlorine exposure, thanks) and feed her kid while there was some of her side fat roll showing.

You may have a problem with the 'kim's' of the world that fight to not be ejected or shamed for nursing but I have a much larger problem with your entire argument.