A mother in Illinois expressed concern earlier this week after an employee at her local YMCA told her she could not breastfeed in public.
The woman, a Moline, Ill. resident identified as Nicole, told local station WQAD the incident happened during "family swim" at the Two Rivers YMCA in Moline on September 11th. Nicole said that after she finishing feeding her 7-1/2-month-old daughter, she was told by a lifeguard not to nurse poolside.
“He said, ‘You can’t do that here, but if you want to feed her you can go into the restroom over here and I will watch your kids for you,’" Nicole told WQAD. "I thought, ‘I’m not going to take her into the bathroom and feed her, because I don’t even eat in the bathroom.’”
Illinois is one of forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands that have laws on the books specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Nicole's story sparked intense debate in the comments section of WQAD, as well as the Two Rivers YMCA Facebook page, prompting them to post this message on September 12:
Nicole joins the ranks of mothers around the world who spoke up when they were told not to breastfeed in public -- at other YMCAs, restaurants and museums -- and saw change come about as a result of their actions.
When Amber Hinds, a mom and lactation consultant, was shamed for nursing at her local pool, she was actually grateful to have had the experience. "It's an experience that I am glad I had, not just because it was a reminder of how far we still have to go regarding the normalization of breastfeeding in this country and, perhaps, this state in particular, but also because it was a moment that showed me how important it is for us as mothers to be confident in our choices and to be able to stand up for ourselves and our children," she wrote in a piece on HuffPost Parents. Fellow HuffPost blogger Kate McKinney echoed Hinds's sentiments when she declared: "If you don't support breastfeeding in public, you don't support breastfeeding."
And, in an impassioned plea this summer, British poet Holly McNish spoke out against the people who, like the YMCA lifeguard, had once asked that she breastfeed her daughter in a restroom:
So no more will I sit on these cold toilet lids
No matter how embarrassed I feel as she sips
Cos in this country of billboards covered in tits
I think we should try to get used to this.
During National Breastfeeding Month, HuffPost Parents participated in "I Support You," an initiative to collect photos and messages from mothers to each other that say we might lead different lives but we share wanting the best for our children. Find out more here.