A mom is outraged after management at a YMCA hassled her about breastfeeding in a toddler class
You’d think the world would be used to breastfeeding moms by now, but every week, it seems, there’s a new story out there that reminds us we’ve still got a long way to go. That’s why this Limerick, Pennsylvania mom is speaking out after she says she was asked to leave a class at the YMCA for breastfeeding her son.
In a now-viral Facebook post, Kate Haslam writes that she was at the YMCA with her 19-month-old son for their weekly toddler gym class. He got hungry, so she found a quiet spot and started breastfeeding him. That’s when two employees approached and asked her to leave the room for a completely ridiculous reason.
“I sat on the balance beam against the wall,” she wrote in the post. “To my right are big storage shelves of toys and balls. I nursed my son. As we were finishing up two upper level management entered the room and approached us to tell me that I would need to nurse on the benches outside of the classroom as there were ‘men in this class that are uncomfortable.'”
Apparently none of these dudes have ever seen a nursing baby.
Haslam says her friend asked if they had a dedicated nursing area, and was told moms could nurse in the locker room. “The locker room that is full of men, women and children,” Haslam wrote. “I explained that and that I wouldn’t be nursing my son in the bathroom and she said I wasn’t to nurse in the class. I mentioned this was illegal and she argued with me that it wasn’t illegal.”
It is actually illegal in 49 states to ask nursing moms to go somewhere private. At Haslam’s insistence, the employees looked up the law, but even after they realized they were wrong, they still persisted in telling her to go to the locker room.
“I…spoke with the teacher and associate director who looked up the law and found out that it is illegal to tell a nursing mother she must leave a room,” she recalled. “He proceeded to tell me the YMCA would prefer we nurse with a cover or go into the locker room. When I mentioned the locker room was coed I was told the YMCA has stalls with curtains and they prefer I nurse behind the curtain.”
Haslam says the associate director of the YMCA insisted they don’t have an issue with nursing moms, but that’s apparently not the way it was presented to her. “I honestly can’t believe in 2016 at a family friendly facility of all places we are discriminating against women on how they choose to feed their child,” she ended her post.
While troubling, the mom’s story has been met with some debate. YMCA CEO Shaun Elliot says an employee clarified that Haslam wasn’t just sitting on a balance beam; she was actually disrupting a class that was trying to use it. “We followed up with our employee, and what had happened is that she had asked the mother to move, she was sitting on a balance beam, which was part of the class, and the mother took that to mean she wasn’t welcome to breastfeed,” he explained to People. “That was certainly not the intent of the employee.”
Haslam has since received two phone apologies from YMCA representatives, and a group of moms even gathered to stage a nurse-in to show their support. It’s hard to know what actually went down, but either way the misunderstanding and ensuing argument clearly made Haslam feel uncomfortable nursing, and kudos to her for speaking out.
It’s a sad fact that breastfeeding moms have to be on constant guard for discrimination and people who can’t handle breasts being used for their intended purpose. Hopefully Haslam’s post schools a few more people on the law and encourages these managers to be a bit more sensitive to nursing moms.