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enough, they are being failed by their healthcare providers that undermine their breastfeeding goals or give them outdated, terrible advice.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:
- Email: Fulfillment@ymca.net
- 800-872-9622 Domestic | 312-977-0031 International
- Feedback site: http://apps.ymca.net/contact-us/site-feedback.html
- Tweet @ymca
- Write on their Facebook page wall - The Y
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.
- Search my archives for recent nursing in public incidents
- YMCA in Grand Rapids, Michigan reported for breastfeeding harassment, apology made to the mother – Paa.la
- Ohio YMCA employee reports harassment of breastfeeding mom, stating she “refused to stop or cover up” - Paa.la
- Oklahoma City YMCA joins a long list of YMCA breastfeeding offenders – 38th YMCA incident - Paa.la
- Kentucky YMCA director unlawfully discriminated against breastfeeding mother & child, told to cover up or nurse in the bathroom: Apologized – Paa.la
- North Carolina YMCA offered breastfeeding mother a seat by the toilet - Paa.la
- Apology Issued after breastfeeding harassment incident at Two Rivers YMCA - Paa.la
- Breastfeeding Incident at YMCA Pool in Wisconsin - Paa.la
- Video: “Everybody’s Gotta Eat” – Free The Nipple PSA - Paa.la
- What’s So Hard About Covering Up to Breastfeed in Public? - Motherhood and More
- I Was Harassed for Nursing in Public (NIP) what do I do? - Best for Babes
- 50 Reasons for Breastfeeding Anytime, Anywhere – PhD in Parenting
- Every argument against NIP debunked – Paa.la
- The Pope Supports Breastfeeding in Public – Paa.la