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Kelly Fuks YMCA Incident Sparks Council Action

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Last month, I wrote about the Ann Arbor breastfeeding incident that say mother Kelly Fuks being asked to stop nursing in the pool area of the YMCA. I followed up with another post that explained that even bottle feeding wasn't allowed in the pool area of the YMCA due to a "no food or drink" rule.

Over the weekend, the Ann Arbor News ran a story about local council woman Joan Lowenstein. Lowenstein has introduced a new resolution that would allow for a mother to breastfeed her child in public in any location that she otherwise has the right to be.

From the article


Lowenstein said the YMCA incident was the main reason for her resolution, but that there have been other incidents involving breastfeeding in public in the city.

YMCA Executive Director Cathi Duchon has said the Y supports breastfeeding and it is allowed in 80 percent of the Y building. Duchon also has said the YMCA is not changing its policy.

Lowenstein said the courts may end up making that decision.

"I think this (resolution) will apply there,'' Lowenstein said. "All it means is: I don't decide it; the Y doesn't decide it; the courts or our Human Rights Commission will decide it.''


That's great and all... I mean I'm 100% behind any legislation that protects a woman's right to breastfeed, but I still don't see how this resolution would have stopped this from happening. The rule is NO FOOD. Fuks herself admitted that even bottle feeding wasn't allowed in the pool area...so why should breastfeeding be allowed?

That said, it's fantastic to hear that other public areas will now be covered and that Ann Arbor moms will have the support that they need when they're out in public and their babies get hungry.

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  1. Anonymous Jax | 4:02 AM |  

    Not sure what force a resolution has - don't quite understand the legal system there. But is this roughly saying that the policy would be illegal if it said no food and therefore banned you from breastfeeding? Bizarre.

    I have to say that I think health and safety considerations of no food in particular places should apply to breastfeeding, bottle feeding or eating a twix.

    Followed the link to the news story and found these gems:

    "In seeking support for the resolutions, Lowenstein sent an e-mail to her female council colleagues, but not to the men on council. "I thought it was a woman's issue,'' she said. She notes, though, that she agreed to add Mayor John Hieftje as a sponsor when he asked to be included."

    Um, while breastfeeding is something women do, I don't think it's a woman's issue. Surely it's a human issue - it's the upbringing of all children and therefore related to all of us.

    "Council Member Jean Carlberg, D-3rd Ward, said she agrees with Lowenstein.

    "There shouldn't be any impediments to women breastfeeding their babies. Period,'' Carlberg said. "It's very possible for a woman to modestly breastfeed her baby and be perfectly covered and no one would notice.'' "

    Wargh! Yes another - it's OK to do it so long as nobody should see.

    I think ppl feeding babies ANYTHING ought to be forced to do it discreetly, NOT!

    Honestly, we're back to the twirling a tassle idea. Must get tassles if there is a next time around ;)

  2. Anonymous Mama C-ta | 4:03 AM |  

    I agree it's cool to hopefully allow breastfeeding anywhere but they do have a point "NO FOOD." Tricky. I remember taking Julian to the allergist and b/c of the nature of some extreme allergic reactions they had very clear signs stating NO FOOD OR DRINK. He was only 2 months old then and he needed to eat. I didn't know if breastmilk fell into that category or not. But being a freaked out new mom w/a screaming baby I fed him anyway. Knowing what I know now about how sensitive allergic kids would be, I wouldn't do that again. It is after all, food!

  3. Anonymous Amy | 8:06 AM |  

    Um, yeah, I hold to the opinion that breastfeeding is not like food, or drink, although often babies nurse because they're hungry or thirsty. Breastfeeding is also like a pacifier, like a favorite blankie, like connecting with mom, you can't ban all that. OK, you can, but you'll not have breastfeeding moms at your pool, because it's more than an inconvenience. It's telling you you can't give your infant basically everything it needs while you're on the deck of the pool. And no breastfeeding mom is going to subject herself to that kind of stress when she could just go elsewhere.

    Feeding bottles (whether pumped milk or ABF) is food. Breastfeeding is way more.

    And I'm glad about the bill, too.

  4. Blogger Jennifer | 8:30 AM |  

    LOL, so glad that you pulled that "women's issue" thing from the article...I was going to, but decided to leave it there.

    Men are breastfed as babies...so as you said, it's a human issue. :)

    The whole thing just reeked of political move to me...but then, I've become something of a cynic as of late...

  5. Blogger Amanda | 5:50 AM |  

    Very OT but have you seen this?

    http://www.rookiemoms.com/the-pumping-project.

    I posted over there!

  6. Anonymous Jen Eyer | 1:03 PM |  

    Jennifer-
    Before you insist on holding bottle feeding and breastfeeding to the same standard, please consider whether they really ought to be considered so.

    The reason for the "No food or drink" rule is that if something spills, or food is left lying around, it's unsanitary.

    Does those concerns apply to breastfeeding? No. So why penalize nursing mothers for concerns that aren't even relevant to them?

    It may seem unfair to bottle-feeders to allow nursing but not bottles, but it's just the reality of the situation.

    As for the charge of "political motivation," I live in Ann Arbor and am aware of the back conversations between councilmembers and local lactivists, and I think Ms. Lowenstein was truly concerned about the issue.

    It seems weird to me that someone who claims to be THE lactivist should object to our city council passing the same type of resolution that you seem to support in S.C.

    Our state law only covers the indecency part, but it doesn't guarantee our right to nurse in public. This resolution at least gives us that right within city limits. What could possibly be wrong with that?

    -Jen

  7. Blogger Jennifer | 2:32 PM |  

    Jen, I think you misunderstand much of what I say.

    I'm all in favor of laws protecting th rights of women to breastfeed in public. As you note, I've written about legislation to that extent in Arizon, Colorado, South Carolina and other states. I rejoiced when my own state passed such a resolution late last year.

    My point is that I don't think such laws should be used to superceed the law in other ways.

    For example, the no food or drink issue is a health and safety consideration by the state health board.

    Technically, with laws like this, I could sue my church. I, as an adult, am allowed to be in the kitchen at the church while food is being prepared. However, because the church kitchen is regulated by the state board of health, children and infants are not allowed in the kitchen.

    With a law like this, or any of the state protection laws, i could say "Well, I'm otherwise authorized to be here, so you have to let me nurse." But...my nursing woudl cause them to violate the health codes and lose their license.

    That isn't cool.

    There's a world of difference between fighting for the right of a mom to breastfeed her child whenever she needs to and fighting for "super rights" for breastfeeding moms to do whatever they want regardless of any other rules or policies.

    That's all I'm saying. :)

  8. Anonymous Jen | 5:08 PM |  

    There's a world of difference between a church following a state-sanctioned health code and an organization like the Y creating their own rule about food and drink.

    The church has a legal right based on the other law to prevent you from bringing in your child. But the Y doesn't have a law to back them up. So they'd have to defend why they think breastfeeding is a problem in the pool area.

    And I think it's become evident that it's an indefensible position. (I say that because the Y director says they will allow breastfeeding in the pool area if the final resolution passes.) There are no health codes against it.

    I'm sorry to hear that you've become a cynic recently. To me and many nursing moms in Ann Arbor, this resolution was great news.

  9. Blogger Jennifer | 5:12 PM |  

    I guess people have the right to take what I say and interpret it however they want. I can't change what you want to take from my words.

    I'd simply note that the early stories that I read on the incident cited the fact that the Y had made the "no food or drink" rule because of "local health codes."

    Now, I fully admit that the articles could have been wrong (it DOES happen ;) and if they are wrong, them my assumptions are wrong. But if it's true that they WERE based on local health codes, then my point stands.

    I do welcome you aboard to the Lactivist though. I hope you'll stick around and keep sharing your perspective.

  10. Anonymous Jen | 5:43 PM |  

    The original story says: "the no food and drink rule came at the recommendation of the county health inspector.

    Soggy food in the pool area is unsanitary, especially if it gets in the pool or if a child vomits after eating in the pool, she said. People bringing drinks might break glass bottles, which would require draining the pool, Carr said.

    "From the health inspector's perspective, your policies need to be stated and consistent and no exceptions,'' she said."

    So the recommendation didn't mention breastfeeding -- and the concerns mentioned don't seem to apply at all to breastfeeding. The Y just wanted to extend them to breastfeeding to be consistent.

    I bring this up not to be argumentative, but because I think you have a relatively visible blog, and it's important to keep the facts straight.

    Also, I'm not sure you're aware, but the Y quickly dropped the no food or drink excuse and tried another angle, the "safety" issue (as in, a nursing mother can't keep an eye on her other children). It was all very suspect.

    Your concerns seem reasonable in theory, but I have to wonder whether they are based on any real-world problems that have occurred. Some states have had similar laws on the books for years. Has a church ever been sued by a nursing mom over bringing her child in the kitchen? Have you ever discussed this issue with an attorney to see which law would prevail?

    Sorry to be so long-winded. I just think there is enough real opposition to nursing in public out there. Creating new arguments that may or may not even be valid seems counterproductive to the cause.

    Thanks for reading.

  11. Blogger Jennifer | 5:49 PM |  

    Good updates, thanks for your local insight on the issue! :)

    I highly doubt that those laws have been challenged in the ways that I've mentioned, but if you stick around you'll find that while I'm hard-core in favor of breastfeding, I also like to play devil's advocate.

    I think the best way for us to be prepared for the battles that we'll face moving forward is to have considered all the possibilities and to think through the responses and repercussions to them.

    Hopefully that makes sense.

  12. Anonymous Jen | 6:00 PM |  

    Sure... as you can see, I've taken a keen interest in this issue. :)

    A little devil's advocate is great, especially as you say, for preparing for the opposition. As long as arguments and theories (like forcing a church to lose their license) aren't presented as fact when they really might not be. Please just realize how visible you are. That's a compliment!

  13. Blogger Jennifer | 6:00 PM |  

    LOL...if you took it as me presenting a "fact" then I'm sorry. It really wasn't meant that way.

    Happy to watch the way I present that stuff though. I, like you, don't want folks to get the wrong impression.

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