Monday, August 30, 2010

Blossman YMCA

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.”

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

Please take a moment to read and sign our letter at

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:


  1. This is insane, Bianca. More on FB.

  2. OMG.
    I seriously can't believe what I just read.
    I do live in the area and will attend a nurse-in. Are you planning one?

  3. Maybe I woke up way too early this morning, but I'm feeling really pissed off that we live in a country where feeding our babies when they are hungry is considered a "tricky situation..." Signed the letter (with much commentary!), and reposted the link on facebook. I think I'll go nurse my little one now and calm down! :)

  4. Is there any way I can get in touch with Vanessa? I was kicked out of the child watch area of the Woburn, MA YMCA. Maybe we can work together to bring national attention to this matter.


  5. I am so appalled. The small-minded YMCA employees have obviously decided that this mom was trying to be an exhibitionist ("repeat performance"???) instead of merely FEEDING HER BABY the best way that worked for them. People are so sick. I signed the letter and will be sharing this on FaceBook as well.

  6. Feel free to email me. I believe that this incident happened to me as an opportunity for education and to grow awareness and acceptance for NIP. Ultimately, I would ideally love to see the National YMCA take a stance in support of bf by encouraging thier chapters to display the bf friendly international symbol in thier windows, hosting LLL meetings and offering classes to pregnant and new mothers. You can find me on fb (my profile picture is currently garden veggies)

  7. Argh! I am even more upset and appalled after reading the employee email. "Sticky situation", huh? How close-minded can you be? I will sit right in front of there door and nurse my child if a nurse-in is proposed. They are playing into a growingly non-secular society that has grown soooo accustomed to being politically correct and not offending anyone, that you literally have no rights left.

  8. I find it ironic that the YMCA would not want a woman to breastfeed in the so-called "Wellness Center," considering the act of breastfeeding has proven to have so many wellness benefits for mother and child.

  9. I appreciated the well-written, respectful petition; I signed it, as a satisfied member of the Y who has nursed there on numerous occasions. I know the viewpoint expressed in the Y's email represents only a few of its employees. I don't think huge action is necessary, just a bit of community education (and perhaps an apology to the mother). My personal opinion is that a "nurse-in" is counterproductive in that it makes a spectacle when the mission is to convince everyone that breastfeeding is NOT a spectacle--it's simply a normal part of everyday life.


  10. I agree with previous poster about no "nurse-ins" so I appreciate the imformative, well-spoken letter. I know at my Y that I was told I could nurse in the child care room whenever I felt like it. I don't know about anywhere else, I hope I do not encounter any issues, although I would probably go there to nurse anyway due to the activity in the gym area. I think your letter gives wonderful, educated reasons why nursing should be accepted.

  11. I consider both breast feeding and the Y's mission both to be 'higher callings'. Our local Y is a nonprofit that provides a plethora of free services to families in our communities; teaching swimming in pulbic schools to keep kids from drowning, giving free day care to needy families, adolescent offenders program, etc, etc, etc.... Most of the budget for these programs come from donations that are hard to come by in this economy. It is sad to see the Y's name being maligned all over facebook which could negatively impact some precious needy children. Why don't we work together in positive ways to educate each other to we can all serve our families and community better.

  12. I am a mother of four under eight and LOVE the YMCA because of their loving support to families. I have nursed 2 of my babies( the other two in Jackson, MS) with NO problem in the child watch area. I love the rocking chair in there and used it frequently! I do not go in the weight room with my children because small children are not allowed in the weight room. It is a rule....bottom line. The Ocean Springs YMCA is a sweet, loving organization. It breaks my heart to read these comments. I feel like it was all taken out of context and blown way out of proportion! I have nursed many times with no problem!!

  13. Signed. I just had an incident in a Dayton, OH area YMCA where I was asked to turn away from where people could see what I was doing. I was given that someone complained and that it violated the bare midriff policy.

  14. The child watch area sounds like the perfect place to breastfeed. Hopefully all the Y's have such a place on the premises. If not, that would be a petition I'd sign. I believe that women have the right to breastfeed their children. Though I myself am comfortable breastfeeding in virtually any location, I respect organizations that have rules about age limits AND concerns about the comfort of OTHER patrons (which is what this boils down to). The law supports this mother, however I feel if another location has been designated on the premises of the club for breastfeeding that it should be respected. I feel it is arrogant to demand to do something that makes others uncomfortable. Yes, breastfeeding is natural. Yes, it would be nice if others saw it that way too. However I don't feel my right to be a "natural mom" trumps the rights of others to set limits or boundaries on private property. I do respect the desire of those concerned to take action in a peaceful, respectful manner (with a petition). I heartily oppose a "feed-in" as it makes a spectacle of the matter and instigates anger rather than respect for breastfeeding.