Thursday, January 19, 2006

Breastfeeding at the YMCA Update

Last week the e-mail went around: "Nurse in at YMCA." Women are organizing.

I am probably going to get in some hot water (no pun intended...and of course it's only the kiddie pool that's warm) over this, but here goes:

Let's save our breastfeeding activistism for situations that really need it. The YMCA is very family friendly. Breastfeeding is allowed throughout the rest of the facility. It's not breastfeeding they're prohibiting, it's food and drink. Per the health department.

I am all for protest. And if I was a breastfeeding mother and regularly attended the YMCA, I would be frustrated with the policy. In fact, I might try to contravene it if I was there with an older child and an infant. But I would not attend the nurse in. I fear calling negative attention to an organization that offers so many benefits to the community and is generally so supportive of breastfeeding, may give lactivists a bad reputation. The next time we need to protest something genuinely restrictive (e.g. a ban on breastfeeding on public transportation, for example, or a ban against teen mothers breastfeeding babies during school hours), we'll be dismissed.

If the YMCA protest was called off and no one said anything about it for a few months, my guess is women could return to discreetly nursing on the deck, with their backs to the lifeguards. Down the road a group could even approach the Y's leadership and discuss a possible exception to the rule. I think a resolution that breastfeeding mothers will like is less likely to happen if the harsh light of the media is shined on the issue.


Blogger T$ said...

Doulicia, I agree with you on this one. A few years ago, a mom was breastfeeding at a public pool during the summer and was asked to stop. I would have attended a nurse in there because the excuse was that a mom was not "allowed" to nurse in public which is just dead wrong.

I agree that the women who attend this may become viewed as radicals. I received this email also, and some women were actually threatning to cancel their memberships. (I am secretly hoping some do, as the new Y has become so popular that it is sometimes hard to even park or get enrolled in a class!) The Y is overall a great place, I think they do support "growing strong families" and may just be suffering from lack of sensitivity to nursing moms.

Protest efforts would be better put to use elsewhere I feel.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

Very well thought out post - thank you for articulating what I was fumbling with!

2:56 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

My first thought when I read about it in the paper was that I'd boycott the Y. Then I realized, wait, I've already paid for membership. If I don't go, that HELPS them. Rather, I should go every day and use up lots of towels each time. That'll show them!

But seriously, you've made an excellent point and I completely agree. A few letters to the editor will probably suffice for this one.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Well put...and a very important point to make. Fighting the fights like this don't help our cause, they simply make us look silly.

Let's save our engery so that we can go balls to the wall when the real need arises.

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our local Y (Canadian here...) has a new sign up this week. Asking that breastfeeding mothers to remember to cover up where ever they choose to feed. It goes on to explain that there are participants who may feel uncomfortable with this, but as per Y policy *Breastfeeding is a good first step in a healthy family lifestyle.
It goes on to remind all members that this is a human rights issue and to please move away instead of confronting mothers feeding their infants.
Interesting thing of note... bottles are not allowed in the pool area. Yet, I can nurse babe all I want... yeah breastmilk!
Just thought I'd pipe up with that.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would agree with you... if it is true that no mothers are ever seen bottle feeding in that area either... but to say breasts are distracting to lifeguards when a mom is nursing her child is moronic. No one should have to "turn their backs" to anyone when discreetly nursing... especially at the Y.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can nurse on the pool deck at any YMCA in Canada from my understanding. Though by law they can not ask you to cover up.

My understanding of what happened here was a teenaged part time life guard was approached by someone one else on the deck who was uncomfortable and acted on that complaint asking the nursing mother to stop.

The YMCA has publicly acknowledge what happened in the major Toronto paper:

There is now an official complaint filed at the OHRC so the YMCA has understandly gagged itself.

You can read the Mom's blog here for her side of the story:

But I agree with you, this nurse-in makes the breastfeeding community look silly. Save this type of activism for situation that deem it.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I work for a Y and the polocy has always been that a mother can breastfeed her baby anywhere she wants. We will even allow them access to a more private place IF THEY REQUEST it. People also need to realize that one of the major rules in a pool is No food or drink allowed (this is health regulations and not Y) so when you become a lifeguard your job is to uphold these regulations at all times. MOST (probably 97%) of 16 and 17 year olds do NOT know the human rights codes so therefore if you have a very angry member telling you to do something about a mother breastfeeding. There is a lot of training and educating that goes along with the job and unfortunatley sometimes things get overlooked until an unfortunate incident brings them to light. The Y is one of the best places to be, it helps thousands of families every year and not just with Fitness memberships either (as most people think. The moto "We build Strong kids, Strong Families, Strong communities" is a golden rule maybe people should take the time to look into what the Y does for their community instead putting up a wall because of something they read. Judge for yourself don't have others do it for you.

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what is interesting is how split women can be on this issue. the reality is that a young teenager, well trained in life saving and inexperienced in dealing with conflict between two members made the wrong choice.

This gave the nursing mother more than her alloted 15 minutes of fame. As someone who nursed two children over three years in my local YMCA, no one ever asked me to stop. I also admit to nursing discretly not because I didn't want OTHER people to feel uncomfortable, but because I have no desire to expose my breast to anyone other than my child's mouth.

Further, I feel for this mortified teenager who has undoubtedly learned a lesson; and I feel for the YMCA who has publicly been subjected to harsh criticism, but whose history has always been supportive of family issues. I think the complainant over-reacted, and this is now an embarrasing subject to all but the radical nursing mothers - those who thrive on conflict.

3:19 PM  

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