Virginia YMCA directs breastfeeding moms to the bathroom, apologizes

The headlines this week are aflutter with #Bressure – breastfeeding pressure.  They say brelfies are causing an unnecessary pressure on new moms to breastfeed. That’s a load of crap. Moms are not being supported enough, they are being failed by their healthcare providers that undermine their breastfeeding goals or give them outdated, terrible advice. Seeing photos of women breastfeeding is helpful to show them what to expect, what being a breastfeeding mom is going to be like, who to turn to for help or perhaps that mom knows of a free hotline for lactation or discrimination help. There is a wealth of support online but in person support is also vital. That’s where we’re lacking. Breastfeeding women are hardly seen in public in many places. Women around the world have sent me personal messages, telling me that my page and others like it are the only support they have, that they’ve never seen another breastfeeding mother, that they feel like an outcast for breastfeeding when they’re surrounded by bottle-feeding parents. Virtual support is not enough when the news reports on breastfeeding harassment every single day, when women can’t nurse in public without fear of scrutiny and discrimination.

To me, #Bressure is people shaming breastfeeding moms into covering or worse, nursing in the bathroom like this YMCA sign.

This discriminatory sign at the Massad Family YMCA in Fredericksburg, Virginia went viral this month, as it should, because it’s just ridiculous. The Massad Family YMCA has since apologized for this sign and covered it up.

But these incidents, mom shaming, keeps happening. This is the 41st YMCA incident that I’m aware of in recent years. It’s time for The Y to own up to their complete lack of consistent training across the US and stop this mistreatment of women and children. And every business that keeps having repeated offenses. This list is pretty long.

Mothers do not need to breastfeed in the bathroom and directing mothers to move is illegal. I cannot believe someone printed up this sign and posted it  for everyone to see. How long was it up there, shaming mothers and children into breastfeeding in the bathroom?

Va. Code § 2.2-1147.1 (2002, 2015) guarantees a woman the right to breastfeed her child on in any place where the mother is lawfully present.

The law is clear. Babies have the basic human right to eat without breathing in polluted water vapor with fecal matter while having some milk. The federal government deems a bathroom an unacceptable place to breastfeed or pump and no health department in the world would clear it as a safe place to consume food.

As a mother of three, I know that I cannot pack up and haul my children out of the pool every single time my son wants to nurse for a moment for comfort or cluster feed. We’d be in and out of the pool all day. Just the sight of breasts makes my toddler want to nurse so I’d have to deny his basic human rights to comply with this YMCA’s unlawful rules.

Thankfully, an employee of the Massad Family YMCA responded on Facebook. “Administration will be alerted first thing to make appropriate changes to the sign and please know mothers are always welcomed and should be comfortable feeding in a comfortable place around the park, just not while in or right beside the water. That’s what the sign should appropriately explain and I personally who maintain Facebook for the Y, work at the Y, and am a mother myself, will see to that!”

Later, in another comment they said, “We will be researching the sign and the policies posted that could be more sensitively reworded. Certainly mothers who are comfortably away from the water, in a lounge chair or at a table, there would never be a problem of breastfeeding. There is a unfortunately a health code violation with mothers with their babies in the water. We’ll be looking to get clarification on rewording the sign. Thank you.”

And  continued, “Nursing mothers are permitted to nurse any where in the park, we just ask them not to be in the water. The sign has been covered and will be permanently changed. Thank you so much for advocating for this issue and this has been a good lesson for the Y to understand and review their sign postings. We welcome mothers all the time, and as the one who maintains the Facebook page and had conversations with the Admin Team to be sure to make the change asap, the Y is so very sorry that they upset anyone in this situation and do not expect mothers to feed in only a restroom at the water park.”

I would like to see the health code they’re referring to. I am not sure why it’s a health code violation. “The CDC is not aware of any risks to other swimmers related to breastfeeding in pools or hot tubs/spas.”

How can you help?

First, help protect families that are not aware that these types of signs and actions against mothers are illegal. Contact your state rep and ask for an enforcement provision.

Take a moment to leave a positive note for the Massad Family YMCA to let them know you appreciate how they handled this incident.

Then respectfully contact YMCA and ask how they plan to help keep this from happening at other locations. Ask that they remind all of their gyms how to appropriately support breastfeeding families. It would be a wonderful gesture to place a “Breastfeeding is Welcome Here” sticker or international breastfeeding symbol in all of their gyms. It would only take a little bit of their time and money but think of what a positive message they could send to all of their customers and employees in communities around the nation! I am certain mothers would appreciate the support, in turn helping raise the breastfeeding rates, and others would be reminded to follow the law.

Contact corporate headquarters:

 

Take a stand

It’s up to everyone to help stop the mistreatment of women and children. If you see a woman breastfeeding in public, give her a thumbs up. If you see someone shaming a breastfeeding mom in person or online, making fun of her, asking her to cover up, move, or stop, stand up for what’s right and talk to them. Be respectful but honest. It’s not okay to harass moms for taking care of their children. It’s time to stand up for women, babies, our future.

#NormalizeBreastfeeding because it’s necessary for global health.
#EverydaySexism because women shouldn’t be shamed for using their breasts for their biological purpose, caring for and loving their children, following the recommended health guidelines and the law, with full support from religious leaders.

How does this flagrant against breastfeeding mothers and children at the Y make you feel? How would you like to see YMCA corporate respond? 

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below!

If you experienced discrimination while breastfeeding at a pool or YMCA, please fill out this survey at Survey Monkey.

 

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My vacation brelfies: Breastfeeding in New York and Texas

What’s a vacation with a baby without a ton of breastfeeding selfies to remember the trip?

Breastfeeding my toddler to sleep on our red-eye to New York.

I wore a shirt that opened up pretty much all the way under there so he could feel comfortable. I wish we had been skin to skin but close enough!

Hello, New York City!

Breastfeeding in New York at my friend’s graduation in Manhattan.

There were thousands of people there but somehow I kept my cool.

Later that day, I had to nurse my son to sleep at the graduation dinner.

[Facebook]

All I can say is thank goodness for nursing and my Ergo or I wouldn’t have made it through New York and the three hour time difference.

We also breastfed at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

And on the subway.

Goodbye, New York!

Ninja breastfeeding in my Ergo in La Guardia Airport the next day, waiting for our flight to Texas.

[Facebook]

He took a good hour nap in my carrier before boarding the plane.

My sweet baby on the plane. I forgot to bring any sort of entertainment for him but he did alright. Next time I might bring a book and a toy car for him.

Then he nursed to sleep again on the plane. How lucky was I?!

[Facebook]

I wore a comfy and cute two layer shirt that I altered to make breastfeeding friendly. I lifted up the top layer to nurse and I didn’t have to think twice about anyone being rude to me.

The clouds were just beautiful.

Hello, Texas!

But then we had a couple hour layover in Texas and he was up again.

My son still isn’t wearing shoes so I just made sure to wash his feet after our travel days.

I didn’t get any snaps of the city but I did get this one of my baby running around and splashing in an overflowed Mueller Lake in Austin.

A sweet breastfeeding moment at my family’s house.

I love it when my baby touches my face. He also nursed at a friend’s wedding in Dripping Springs and a few restaurants around Austin.

And finally, here is my son dashing off while we were waiting for our flight home from Austin to California.

Before I left home, vacationing with just a 15-month-old for six days seemed like it was going to be a walk in the park. And it pretty much was. Except I did stress out a little trying to keep him in check on the multiple flights we were on. The last time I flew with him he was just three months old and didn’t have the energy and opinions he has now! He couldn’t have been better though so I wish I hasn’t stressed. I love getting off the plane and hearing, “I had no idea you had a baby there!” from other passengers.

The worst part of my whole trip was our three hour delay in Austin due to a tornado warning. We had already arrived 2 hours early so I spent 5 hour chasing my toddler around the airport. Then the next worst part of my trip was sitting next to a grumpy aisle mate on our flight home on our Southwest nonstop from Austin to Oakland. I picked a couple of ladies I thought might be baby-friendly, a smiling mother and a grandmother. But the grandmother was not happy to be seated next to a baby and made that annoyance clear from the moment we sat down with sighs and rude comments. I felt her eyes every time I nursed my baby and she kept making snide comments to her daughter in the next seat. Her daughter remarked what a good baby my son was and she rebutted with something rude. But I did what I could and Quint couldn’t have been a sweeter baby, especially considering he was up hours past his bedtime and stuck in a tiny seat on my lap for an hour delay on the tarmac and then 3 hours in the sky, arriving at nearly midnight.

The best part of my trip was definitely eating all of the delicious food in New York and Texas and seeing my dearly missed friends and family. I wish I could have spent more time relaxing though. Next year!

 

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McDonald’s security guard told mom breastfeeding was not “acceptable activity” – Nurse-in staged

[Budapest: Location of the latest McDonald's breastfeeding harassment incident.]

McDonald’s has made the headlines again for mistreating a breastfeeding mother in one of their restaurants. A young mother sat down in a McDonald’s and took a moment to feed her baby the way they are fed and was told by a security guard that breastfeeding was not an “acceptable activity.” He told her to stop. Then the guard then went away to check with the manager and returned to ask her again to stop again. Breastfeeding is not an indecent or unacceptable activity, is supported by law and religious leaders around the world, and is the basic human right of the child and mother. It’s necessary for global health.

The incident occurred on a Wednesday earlier this month and by Friday, after the mom shared her experience on social media, dozens of mothers and children staged a nurse-in at the McDonald’s near the Western Railway Station, in  Budapest, the Hungarian capital. The media came out to document the peaceful protest. (See BBC for photos.)

How did McDonald’s respond?

Unfortunately, an official statement by McDonald’s blamed a security guard for the incident, despite the fact that the security guard checked with the manager and got the go ahead to harass the mom. They did say women are welcome to breast-feed in McDonald’s restaurants as part of the fast food chain’s family-friendly policy, but that’s just following the law.

This isn’t the first breastfeeding incident at a McDonald’s. The manager of the McDonald’s​ in Vail, Colorado asked a breastfeeding mother, Renee Nyen, and her family to leave because she was meeting her child’s basic human needs & was within her legal rights. An employee in Scotland tweeted against a mom last month. This was the tweet:

There was also a nurse-in a couple years back in the US after a mom was harassed. It’s 2015. Mistreatment of mothers and children is unacceptable. Breastfeeding in public is legal and countries around the world protect the right to breastfeed, yet these incidents keep happening. It’s time for the bullying to stop.

How can you help?

Respectfully contact McDonald’s and ask what their breastfeeding policy is and how they plan to help keep this from happening again. Ask that they remind all of their stores how to appropriately respond to breastfeeding families and place a “Breastfeeding is Welcome Here” sticker in all of their restaurants like Barnes & Noble did after an incident last year. Think of what a positive message they could send to all of their customers and employees in communities around the world!

I hope McDonald’s responds quickly with full support of breastfeeding families. Let’s move forward and put those outdated, women/body shaming ideologies to rest.

Take a stand

It’s up to everyone to help stop the mistreatment of women and children. If you see a woman breastfeeding in public, give her a thumbs up. If you see someone shaming a breastfeeding mom in person or online, making fun of her, asking her to cover up, move, or stop, stand up for what’s right and talk to them. Be respectful but honest. It’s not okay to harass moms for taking care of their children. It’s time to stand up for women, babies, our future.

How does this incident make you feel? How would you like to see McDonald’s respond? Keep breastfeeding with pride, mamas! Hold your head up high and don’t let anyone get you down.

Join the conversation on TwitterFacebook, or comment below!

 

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Another Dunkin’ Donuts employee twitter shamed a breastfeeding mom

Another Dunkin’ Donuts employee has been called out for tweeting against moms, this time in Connecticut. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania Dunkin’ Donuts disparaged breastfeeding mom on Twitter.

This was the latest tweet:

It seems the employee is telling the breastfeeding customer to GTFO, which means ”get the fuck out.”

Connecticut General Statutes §46a-64 allows mothers to breastfeed their babies in places of public accommodation. This law is enforced by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), which enforces anti-discrimination laws in the State of Connecticut.

According to the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition, “This law states that mothers can generally breastfeed at a time, place and manner of their choosing while in a place of public accommodation. They do not have to go to a special area or go into the restroom. They do not have to cover the baby with a towel or blanket. The owner, manager or employee of a place of public accommodation cannot request that the mother stop breastfeeding her baby, cover up, move to a different room or area, or leave.”

There is also an enforcement provision that allows conviction for this violation.

Shaming women and children online calls to a greater issue with our society and highlights a fault in Dunkin’ Donut’s employee training. Crystal Henson responded, “Not only is this unprofessional, rude and sad but how hard was this employee staring at the mom to see her nipple? Dunkin donuts (along with many other businesses) need to do some serious training.”

How can you help?

Write on Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook page wall, tweet @dunkindonuts, call (800) 859-5339 or send them a message on their website.

Take a stand

It’s up to everyone to help stop the mistreatment of women and children. If you see a woman breastfeeding in public, give her a thumbs up. If you see someone shaming a breastfeeding mom in person or online, making fun of her, asking her to cover up, move, or stop, stand up for what’s right and talk to them. Be respectful but honest. It’s not okay to harass moms for taking care of their children. It’s time to stand up for women, babies, our future.

How do you think Dunkin’ Donuts should respond? 

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below!

**Update 5.27.2015 10:29am**

I called Dunkin’ Donuts customer service to ask if they had a social media policy in place for store employees and let them know about the tweets against moms this year. She said she wasn’t aware but would let the appropriate departments know that if they don’t have training in place, they should look into it because it’s important that employees don’t put themselves out there as representatives of the brand and say rude things about customers.

 

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Public outraged by The Today Show’s shaming of breastfeeding moms, no apology despite a nurse-in

Breastfeeding photos on social media: A hot topic that everyone likes to weigh in on, even if they’ve never been a breastfeeding mother themselves. Unfortunately, some people that take it upon themselves to publicly denigrate mothers that use social media on national television or radio, either because that’s how they really feel or just to get ratings. Earlier this year, The Meredith Vieira Show decided to tell breastfeeding women to cover up while flashing cleavage. Last year, The Wendy Williams Show shamed breastfeeding in public, as did a radio station in Dallas. The latest offender is Hoda Kotb on The Today Show.

Last week on The Today Show, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb discussed breastfeeding and sharing breastfeeding photos on social media on their “OK! Or Not OK!” segment.

Kathie Lee said, “There are two types of people, Hoda; those who feel the need to share their most precious moments [showing a cartoon of a mother breastfeeding] and those who’d like to keep it private like I prefer [showing a cartoon of a door], but God bless us all.”

Hoda responded, “I say breastfeeding is beautiful and natural [showing a cartoon of the mother breastfeeding on a computer screen] but sharing it on social media? TMI [showing the letters "TMI" in bold blue]. And that stands for Too Much Information.”

Is sharing breastfeeding photos TMI?

The short answer is no, it’s not. I am a breastfeeding mother that has grown up using myspace and Facebook and over the last 3 years, I’ve been sharing brelfies to help normalize nursing and show support for all breastfeeding families. Sharing a breastfeeding photo is no more “TMI” than sharing any other part of my life. I think shaming mothers for posting about their lives, being proud of breastfeeding their babies, is disgraceful. People use social media to connect to their friend and family and share their lives. That’s what it’s about. Prior to breastfeeding, I probably would have thought sharing breastfeeding photos online was unnecessary, perhaps gross or ridiculous. But now I realize it’s nothing to feel awkward about, because that’s the root of the issue, feeling awkward about seeing a breast being used for it’s biological purpose. I know now that there is even beauty in breastfeeding and seeing those photos because it’s about pure love and dedication, a mother caring for her child. I know now that sharing these moments has been happening since human kind could draw and carve, with paintings and sculptures and eventually photographs of women breastfeeding their children all over the world, in homes, parks, museums, and churches.

With so much negativity and hate in the news and on our newsfeed online, seeing images of love are much appreciated, and these breastfeeding photos help other mothers struggling with nursing in public to keep going, that there are women like them feeling the same way and making it through.

Nurse-in

When public figures make mistakes, it’s best when they own it and apologize. It’s alright to have opinions but to spread discriminatory opinions on national television that can directly hurt mothers and children, making them and others think breastfeeding is something to hide? That’s not okay. Breastfeeding is a protected legal right and religious leaders around the world, even the Pope, support it.

Mothers and breastfeeding supporters gathered for a peaceful nurse-in at the Today Plaza for the taping of the Saturday, May 23 Weekend Today episode to show their disappointment in The Today Show and Kotb’s damaging opinion. I personally wanted to attend with my nursling but I flew out of New York on Friday evening and couldn’t make it. Apparently, security officers confiscated two signs and The Today Show blurred out a sign that said “Brelfie” on it. (Check out the Facebook event page for the latest news.)

[Laura Delmonico's poster of the Today Show Nurse-in]

[Laura Delmonico's poster to support women sharing breastfeeding photos]

What is ironic is that Kotb is supposedly an advocate for breast cancer awareness, but can’t support the biological function of breasts. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of breast cancer. It’s also ironic that The Today Show shamed mothers that share breastfeeding photos on social media on air on May 21st and then online, on their website that same day, say they support breastfeeding photos, specifically the Australian Elle breastfeeding cover.

It’s time that they showed a little consistency and did the right thing. It’s time The Today Show stood up for women instead of condemning them for using their bodies how they see fit, for sharing their triumphant to hard breastfeeding moments online on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and other social media sites. They can help beat back the social stigma that prevents many women from breastfeeding to the recommended age (at least 1 year but 2 or more is better), protecting our children and helping them grow into stronger, healthier children and adults.

Supporting mothers helps everyone. It’s a win-win for their show, for humanity.

How can you help?

Sign the Change.org petition to The Today Show. Send The Today Show an email and ask that the do the right thing, educate their employees on the benefits of supporting breastfeeding mothers & children, and publicly apologize for shaming women on national TV. It would also be a good idea to do a positive segment on breastfeeding to help make right what negativity they put out there. Write on The Today Show or Kathie Lee & Hoda‘s facebook page wall, or Tweet @klgandhoda and @TODAYshow.

I loved Breastfeeding Mama Talk’s response to the controversy.

Lucy Mills responded on twitter:

[Twitter]

Kaila Lauridsen-Moore responded on Facebook:

Take a stand

It’s up to everyone to help stop the mistreatment of women and children. If you see a woman breastfeeding in public, give her a thumbs up. If you see someone shaming a breastfeeding mom in person or online, making fun of her, asking her to cover up, move, or stop, stand up for what’s right and talk to them. Be respectful but honest. It’s not okay to harass moms for taking care of their children. It’s time to stand up for women, babies, our future.

How do you think The Today Show should respond? 

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below!

**Update 5.27.2015**

VH1′s Big Morning Buzz Live decided to weigh in on the Today Show nurse-in and brelfies and instead of standing up for women, they decided to tell moms to cover up. Nick Lachey seemed to be the moderator of the two women, Michelle Buteau and Candace Bailey, that told women that posting photos is TMI, that women should “put something over” their breast when nursing in public because “it’s disrespectful,” and that there should be more private breastfeeding rooms to keep breastfeeding moms out of public view. Buteau admitted she wasn’t a mom and Bailey isn’t either. Why are these women that have never breastfed a day in their life condemning other women? Write on their Facebook page wall or tweet @BigMorningBuzz @CandaceBailey5 @MichelleButeau to let them know how this makes you feel.

Share this VH1 post on Facebook. Watch the segment online.

 

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Out & About: Brooklyn Botanic Garden​

I’m finally home! I spent the last 6 days visiting two friends, one in New York and one in Texas, for very important life events. I wish I could have spent longer than three short days in each state but I couldn’t very well leave my husband with my girls for two weeks. One was already the longest I’d ever been away from my family! I did take Quint though, of course, since he’s my little milk baby and thank goodness he’s a free passenger on planes until he’s two.

The only touristy thing we had time for in New York, besides driving through Times Square, was visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden​ for a few hours. It was a beautiful place.

This little statue reminded me of my 3 year old at home and I nearly cried.

Here I am babywearing my 15-month-old toddler in my Ergo.

[Photo by Christine Rojek]

And eventually taking a break in the grass so he could nurse and run around.

Take 2. It was a bit chilly so I covered him up with my dress.

 [Photos of me by Christine Rojek]

I was also nursing while walking around but I wanted to sit and relax. Unfortunately, we were quickly shooed off the grass by a security officer. He said no one was allowed to rest in the grass there and directed us to another location. I was agitated but didn’t bother questioning him because I was not in the mood to let anyone ruin my day and if kicking people off grass was his job, I felt bad for him.

Anyway! The rock garden and edible garden areas were nice and all of the flowers were blooming. It was worth the trip.

Have you been to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden​? 

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below!

 

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North Carolina restaurant faces public scrutiny after breastfeeding mom claims they discriminated against her

A restaurant in Concord, North Carolina is facing scrutiny after a former employee, Brennan Mathis Atwell, claims they harassed her, said pumping was indecent, and removed her from the schedule for needing to pump, something that is protected by federal law.

Brennan shared her side of the story on Facebook yesterday.

“I’m sad to say that my return to work at The Union St. Bistro was short lived. Despite the many federal laws protecting the rights of breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, I was removed from the schedule for pumping milk at the end of my shift. I was told it was “indecent” to express milk in a place that employs males. I hear a lot of people say that gender discrimination no longer exists in the workplace, that women’s rights are no longer an issue. Well guess what folks, I am living proof that in 2015 women, particularly mothers still aren’t equal in the workplace. If you love your Mom don’t eat at The Union St. Bistro.”

The Affordable Care Act states an employer must provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express milk. (More breastfeeding laws for NC.) All employers covered by the FLSA must comply with the break time for nursing mothers provision.

The restaurant disabled reviews and removed posts on their Facebook page as of this morning. Their only public response was stating the employee was not terminated. Breastfeeding mother and advocate Kari Reilly thinks it’s not right. She told restaurant staff that bullying, shaming, making a mom feel badly is just as bad as firing them. It is a sure way to force her out and feel unwelcome at work.

How can you help?

Contact your North Carolina representative and ask for an enforcement provision.

I suggest the mother contacts the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition. (NCBC contact info) and contacts the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to file a report of discrimination.

Take a stand

It’s up to everyone to help stop the mistreatment of women and children. If you see a woman breastfeeding in public, give her a thumbs up. If you see someone shaming a breastfeeding mom, making fun of her, asking her to cover up, move, or stop, stand up for what’s right and talk to them. Be respectful but honest. It’s not okay to harass moms for taking care of their children. It’s time to stand up for women, babies, our future.

How does this mistreatment of a mother at her workplace make you feel? Does your work support pumping mothers?

Join the conversation on TwitterFacebook, or comment below!

**Update 5.19.2015 @4:13pm**

The mother shared this update on her Facebook page.

 

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