Please sign our letter to the Blossman YMCA
On June 24, 2010, Vanessa Dudley was asked to leave the Blossman YMCA (Ocean Springs, MS) weight room because she was breastfeeding her 7 month old baby. She had stepped in momentarily to help her 12 year old daughter. The employee told her she could not “do that” in the gym and needed to leave. She said, “No, you are wrong. I can do this.” She specifically asked, “Do I need to leave because I am breastfeeding or because I have a baby?” The employee advised that she could not “do that” in the gym. After some back and forth, the employee went and got the president of the Blossman YMCA. Vanessa spoke with him for several minutes. At one point in the conversation, he expressed that the YMCA is a private property and thus could set the rules. At the end of the conversation, he agreed that she could nurse at the YMCA, but needed to be discreet because not all members are “free thinkers” like her.
Vanessa responded to the president with a letter explaining how important it is for her to nurse her baby, and how much she values her YMCA membership as a place for her family to spend time together. She included a copy of the Mississippi law which states that a woman can breastfeed her child anywhere that she is otherwise authorized to be. In other words, if she is allowed to be in the gym, she is guaranteed by the law that she can nurse her baby there.
“SECTION 3. A mother may breast-feed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, without respect to whether the mother's breast or any part of it is covered during or incidental to the breast-feeding.” http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2006/html/SB/2400-2499/SB2419SG.htm
Some days later, one of the YMCA managers (not the President) sent the following email to her employees.
“Please remember the dress code for the Wellness Center:
No mid-riff tops (no belly exposed) men or women - shirts and proper shoes at all times.
Only athletic shoes.
Also no children under the age of 11 are allowed in the Wellness Center unless they have a medical excuse from their physician or they are attending the Kid's bootcamp.
Tricky situation- Make you think?
If a women comes in the Wellness Center breast feeding her baby/child with an exposed breast, what do you do?
a. Tell her she does not satisfy the dress code
b. Tell her that children are not allowed in the Wellness Center
c. Both a and b
d. Only b
Stay tuned to the next e-mail to find out the correct answer.
The answer is b.
Although dress code would be an issue under normal circumstances, the Mississippi code states that a women can breast feed anywhere and she does not have to cover up, so you would address the no children under 11 policy.
If you can believe it, this was an actual situation recently at our Y. Fortunately the employee on duty had the fore thought to get someone more in authority to handle the sticky situation after trying to address it himself. I would have done the same thing. Feel free to pass the buck if you need to in a sticky situation to me (then I will pass it) and if I am not here to Cat, Karon, Dan, or Eric in the front office. And always remember to fill out an incident report with witnesses. The incident report is in place to protect the Y and it's employees.
I am giving you this information because the women sent a copy of the entire MS code on breast feeding to Dan our CEO, so we might expect her to do a repeat performance. Just be prepared and remember to not show any opinion in this type of situation, just state the YMCA policy.
The YMCA has not banned breastfeeding or even required that anyone stop. However, they are not supportive. Several women in Ocean Springs worked together to write a letter to YMCA to express our support of breastfeeding in public. The goal of the letter is to encourage the YMCA to not only allow breastfeeding, but to put a policy in place that is supportive. We plan to present this letter to the board of directors of the Blossman YMCA and the YMCA of the USA. The YMCA headquarters in Chicago does not currently have a breastfeeding statement, despite their stated “Focus on Social Responsibility.” Read more at http://www.ymca.net/social-responsibility/
Please take a moment to read and sign our letter at http://www.useyourboobs.com
I have not explained why it is so important for breastfeeding to become “normal” in our society or why it is important that organizations and businesses support it. If you would like to learn more, please visit the following websites: