Breastfeeding mom holds protest outside aquatic center after being told "to cover up" at kiddie pool
A fight over public breast feeding in the kiddie pool at the Mora Aquatic Center raised hackles and a call for a “nurse-in” at the municipal pool.
A mom allegedly complained to officials at an aquatic center about two other moms who were breastfeeding their babies. Stephanie-Buchanan posted on Facebook that she and her sister-in-law Mary Davis were feeding their babies while at the Mora Aquatic Center in Mora, Minnesota. “I wasn't flashing them around, nobody saw any nipple, there were other moms there nursing their babies, and LOTS of other women showing more skin than me,” the mother wrote on July 18.
In a conversation with WCCO, Buchanan said that she was with Davis and the pair had six kids with them while sitting near the wading area of the kiddie pool. In order to feed 3-month-old Roman, she had to slip down the strap of her one-piece swimsuit.
“There’s not really a choice sometimes,” Buchanan told WCCO-TV. “So, I was wearing a one-piece swimsuit, slipped my strap down and just fed him. The reason I didn’t get out of the pool to breastfeed is my kids,” Davis told the station. “I got to watch my kids.”
However, another woman at the aquatic center had a problem with it. “A patron came up, a lady at the pool, and told me that I needed to cover up because her sons were swimming,” Buchanan told WCCO. According to KMSP, the woman then went and complained to a staff member about the same.
The Minnesota Star Tribune reported that the pool manager ordered a teen employee to go and ask the nursing mothers to either move to the pool deck or changing area or at least cover themselves up. However, the breastfeeding moms refused to oblige. “They said they knew the law and they weren’t moving,” Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith told the newspaper.
Minnesota state law allows women to breastfeed “in any location, public or private,” and “irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered.” In a conversation with the Star Tribune, Smith said that there was “raised voices and shouting across the pool" when the moms refused to move or cover up. "Now there’s a ruckus,” he said, and therefore the manager called law enforcement.
That said, according to Smith, breastfeeding at the pool is not a new phenomenon. He said that even his own children were breastfed at the pool. However, in this case, the moms were inside the kiddie pool, which was a problem with the others present. “It’s usually done discreetly — not out in the middle of the kiddie pool with little kids playing in the water,” he said. “I think that’s what was going on here.”
According to KMSP, a sergeant with the sheriff's office arrived at the aquatic center to calm people down, and not to take care of the women, they said. Having said that, the women were already packing up when the officer arrived. “I was getting the kids out of the pool and as I’m getting us all dried off a police officer walks up to me, and I was like ‘are you kidding me?’” Buchanan told WCMP.
In a conversation with the Star Tribune, Smith revealed that the moms were angry and embarrassed. Buchanan would later take to Facebook to vent her frustration. “Mora aquatic center lost my business forever, today,” she wrote. “Today they called the police on me and my sister in law for nursing our babies in public ... I don’t expect any grown adult to go eat in the locker room and I’m not going to remove the other children I have with me to go sit in the locker room also while I feed my baby, it’s absolutely disgusting and maddening that this is how this establishment treats moms!!!”
The enraged mother decided to host a nurse-in protest outside of the pool. “Us Mama Bears gotta stick together and in unity there is strength!” she wrote on the Poolside Nurse-In Facebook event. “We can nurse anywhere, and in any way we choose under the Minnesota State Law. The biological purpose for woman’s breast is to feed and nourish our babies and I am so sick of being shamed for what I feel is best for my child!” ccording to Buchanan, about 50 to 60 people showed up at the protest which was held on Saturday. Another protest is planned for August 11, Davis said.
That said, Buchanan added that this was in no way an attack on the pool's staff or law enforcement. “This incident was created by a woman’s issue about another woman breastfeeding her child,” she said. “We just want to normalize breastfeeding and bring some awareness to this. Our breasts were created for this sole purpose so why do we get bashed when using them appropriately.” Furthermore, the City of Mora said it extended an apology to both Buchanan and Davis “if they were offended by how they were treated" in a statement released to WCMP.
“The City of Mora and Mora Aquatic Center strive to create an environment comfortable for all,” the statement said. “While we always have supported nursing mothers, the situation inside of the kiddy pool made many patrons uncomfortable ... though we cannot anticipate all possible scenarios, City policies and procedures will be reviewed and revised as deemed necessary.”
Davis now says she hopes the pool and the city learns its lessons after this incident. “We just don’t want any other mom to feel that she needs to cover up,” she said.