Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Got In Trouble for Breastfeeding in a "Public" Child Care Room at the YMCA

Recently I joined my local YMCA, and have enjoyed the group exercise classes there. Each of my two kids has only somewhat warmed up to the child care. This morning I had only my 12 month-old daughter with me. Sometimes she does fine, but last time we were there she cried the entire hour, and this time when I took her into the child care room she clung to me with a death grip and started fussing. None of the three care givers came over to help her or hold her as they sometimes do, so I sat down with her myself just inside the gate and pulled a couple of toys off the shelf to try to engage her with them.

I knew she wasn't hungry because I had made sure to feed her just prior to going, but she was still fussy and scared, so I did what most nursing mothers would do in a similar situation. I took off my jacket to use as a cover, and began to discreetly breastfeed her to comfort her. I thought that if I nursed her for a couple of minutes in the room, she might become more comfortable there. Hey, it's worked before in other places.

One of the care givers immediately told me I couldn't do that in "public", and told me I needed to go into the bathroom to breastfeed. I looked square at her as I continued to breastfeed my baby, and told her I am not going to feed my baby in the bathroom, with a disgusted, that-is-the-grossest-thing-I've-ever-heard look on my face. Because it is.

She continued to tell me it is against the policy, that I couldn't do that in public, and, "Look! Now there's a man over there dropping off his child!" (Oh! The HORROR that he might see my jacket draped over me and perhaps even guess what might be transpiring underneath!)

At this point I was in utter disbelief. If the policy was about modesty, the simple fact is that I couldn't have been more modest and discreet about it. Very likely, the care giver and myself might have been the only people who even knew I was doing it. I am an extremely modest person - a downright "prude", if you will. I have breastfed my children in all kinds of public places (including church!), all over this country and Europe. I'd bet a million dollars that nary a soul has seen anything remotely inappropriate, even by the most modest of standards (you know, as opposed to Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch "modesty" standards).

Continuing to feed my daughter (and remember this all transpired in a matter of 2-3 minutes), I looked at the care giver and said, "This is Texas. By law, I can breastfeed in public here."

When my baby was finished, she was calmer and suddenly interested in the toys again. (Duh.) I turned around to leave, and saw the same care giver standing next to an official-looking director, who politely asked if she could speak to me in her office.

Oh brother. Is this for real happening?

She reiterated the policy, this time saying they do not allow parents in the child care room at all, except in the bathroom to help a child or change a diaper. She then, sweet and diplomatic as can be, while making fake chit-chat with me throughout, asked me if I'd seen their "wonderful locker rooms"! The locker room was a bathroom-y, small-ish area with three benches and some lockers opposite the toilets and showers. But wait, there's more! If I go to the far bench between the lockers and the wall, and no one happens to be sitting there, I can have "complete privacy!"

So in the future, she said, if I "don't mind", please breastfeed in the locker room and not in public.

I told her I do mind, but I understand that is the policy, albeit a bad one. As I reiterated to her several times, I purposely wanted to nurse her for a couple of minutes in the room where I would be leaving her in order that she might be comforted there.

Still, I went ahead to yoga class, seething for the next hour, trying to figure out what, if anything, I can or should do.

When I went to pick up my daughter the care giver was cool and seemed to have let the whole thing wash over already. They didn't treat me as that horrible woman or anything, and all parties were polite about the whole thing.

However....I wonder if I should quit my membership altogether (there was no annual fee and no contract). What happens the next time I want to nurse my baby and I'm already inside the building (meaning I ain't going back to the car)? I have to do that in the yucky locker room? SERIOUSLY? I'm not sure it's worth putting up with that in order to continue going there, which stinks because the membership there is affordable, I enjoy the classes, and the child care is easily available.

Perhaps I can find a way to get the policy changed, although they are saying no parents are allowed past the gate in the child care room at all, not just for breastfeeding (although they didn't mind it when I was sitting inside with my daughter and not breastfeeding her).

Still, under that policy and Texas law, I should still be allowed to breastfeed anywhere else in the building that adults are allowed, even though I feel that they would try to send me to the locker room again.

I hate confrontation and escalation. I don't really want to stage a nurse-in or something, lining the halls with breastfeeding mothers, but only letting me breastfeed in a bathroom or locker room is terrible! I am allowed to breastfeed in public under state law!  

And doing that shouldn't have to be an act of defiance.

What would you do?

**UPDATE: I sent an email to the executive director, and she called me to apologize. It took a while to drive home the point that it this morning's issue wasn't the lack of a comfortable private place to breastfeed, but the fact that I was being told to go to a private area. In the end, I think she understood. I also cancelled my membership there and was granted a full refund at my request.


  1. Oh my word! Well I'm pretty non confrontational as well but if I were shelling out money for this I'd complain. I would remind them of the law and maybe also explain that the federal law says working moms should be allowed to pump somewhere other than a bathroom and I'd say the locker room still qualifies as a bath room if the toilets are in the same room.

  2. I'd tell them that I'm really not a rude or confrontational person but that it is a really big deal that their "policy" violates state law not to mention does not promote family friendly values. I'd say in not the type to sue over something like this bit that they need to understand that they are putting themselves at risk for that in the future. Anyway sorry that happened and good luck with whatever you decide!

  3. I might even be brave enough tobpintbout that bikinis are more immodest than a discreet nursing mom and they don't have policies against them... not that i have anythibg against bikinis myself just their view on modesty... Sorry for all the typos. :)

  4. Last comment I promise! I'd like to tell them that this issue isn't just going to "go away" as breastfeeding is gaining popularity (is that the right word?) and as more women realize their rights on this issue they will have to deal with it again and again. Might as well get educated on it right now. (Ok I probably couldn't say it like that but that would be my point.) I'd remind myself that I'm just doing them a favor whether they see it that way or not.

    1. Mireya you can comment all you want! :) That is good advice - thank you! I've been thinking about you. We need to get together soon!