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Thursday, January 12, 2006On the heels of a story about a woman that was asked to stop breastfeeding on an airplane comes another story about Ann Arbor resident Kelly Fuks, who was asked to stop breastfeeding her six-month old in the swimming pool area of the YMCA.
Normally, I'd be all ready to go into a diatribe on this story, but there are two sides being told and depending on which one is true, I'll be ranting at a different person. ;) So, I'm going to share the two sides, share my rants and ask readers to weigh in as well.
Side #1: Fuks is asked to stop breastfeeding because she's distracting the lifeguards.
The issue arose Dec. 22 when Fuks took her 6-month-old daughter, Ansley, her 3-year-old son, Maxwell, and a friend swimming at the Y in downtown Ann Arbor. Fuks said a lifeguard approached and told her she could not breast-feed Ansley on the deck of the family pool.
When she queried Y management later by phone, Fuks said, she was told that breast-feeding by the pool is forbidden because it's a distraction to lifeguards.
"In my opinion, if their lifeguards are that easily distracted, they need much better lifeguards and a better training program,'' Fuks said.
Fuks went on to say that she had breastfed by the pool in the past and to point out that the teens in their bikinis were likely more "distracting" than she was.
Now, if this is the case, I'm obviously going to rant in Fuks favor and take serious issue with lifeguards that can't focus on their jobs because some woman is nursing her child. I'll point out that while Michigan does not yet have laws on the books that are specifically designed to protect the rights of a breastfeeding mother, they do have a statute that excludes breastfeeding from their public indecency laws. The lack of a specific law also doesn't make it illegal to nurse in public, it just doesn't provide extra legal protection. That means that it would be up to a court to decide.
It also means that Ms. Fuks has great reason to launch a protect and incite a nurse in for which she would have The Lactivist's full support.
But Diane Carr, senior programs director at the Y, said all food and drink is forbidden in the pool area, and that exceptions can't be made for breast-feeding.
"It's difficult to be able to make exceptions and then be able to enforce it,'' she said.
Asked about the distraction rationale, she said that anything happening in the pool area that breaks rules is a distraction to lifeguards because they have to respond and deal with it.
The Y does allow breast-feeding in other areas where parents and children are permitted to be together, such as the family locker rooms or the lobby waiting area.
If the Y actually has a stated policy that says there is absolutely no eating allowed in the swimming pool area, then they are perfectly within their rights to ask Ms. Fuks to go elsewhere to do so.
In fact, the Y could easily argue that when they told Ms. Fuks she was a distraction, they meant that she was a distraction because she was breaking a rule, not because she was breastfeeding. That's a perfectly legitimate stance to take.
Under the current pool rules, a formula feeding mother would not be allowed to give her child a bottle in the pool area, so why should a nursing mother be given "special" privileges?
I'd also note this line from the article...
But, Fuks said, it is too much trouble to pack up her children and head back to the locker room when Ansley gets hungry. Her primary goal while swimming is to let Maxwell get his ya-yas out, and constant interruptions to feed his sister don't help, she said.
This is what admittedly set me off on wondering if it shouldn't be Ms. Fuks that was getting the brunt of my rant. If she's not being misquoted, then this attitude sort of sealed it for me. If Fuks knew that she could breastfeed anywhere IN PUBLIC in the Y with the exception of the pool area, then I think her fit pitching is inappropriate and childish.
Yes, it's trouble to pack up your children when they need to be fed. Any mother knows that. But if she couldn't give her 3 year old a snack in the area why would she expect to be able to give her six-month old one?
Would love to hear your thoughts...