Head to a public swimming pool, beach or local watering hole in the heat of the summer and you’re bound to see your fair share of skin.
Tums. Bums. Breasts galore. All out on display for the world to see. Most of the time, no one bats an eyelid. Except, of course, if someone is breastfeeding.
This is exactly what happened to a Minnesota mum who was enjoying a day at a local swimming pool with her little ones. As her older kids waded in the water, Stephanie Ellingson-Buchanan kept watch while cradling her baby in her arms.
But when three-month-old Roman started to fuss, she did what any breastfeeding mum would do – she removed the strap from her one-piece bathers and fed him.
Heated breastfeeding debate at aquatic center
Within minutes an angry woman came over and scolded Stephanie for her “inappropriate” behaviour.
How dare Stephanie feed her baby in public, next to the woman’s own children who also happened to be swimming. How dare she whip her boob out, surrounded by dozens of people who were showing MORE SKIN than her and for the sole purpose of getting a tan. Oh the horror!
Stephanie brushed the lady off but was then approached by a staff member who also asked her to head to the change rooms to feed. When she refused, things turned even uglier.
Police called after patrons feel “uncomfortable”
Stephanie shared the incident on her Facebook page, explaining just how it went down.
“Mora Aquatic Center lost my business forever, today. Today they called the police on me and my sister in law for nursing our babies in public. I wasn’t flashing them around, nobody saw any nipple, there were other mums there nursing their babies, and LOTS of other women showing more skin than me but because one woman saw me and complained, this establishment called the police.
The Mora pool said that if I was not going to feed my baby in the locker room, that as a private business they reserve the right to ask me to leave. I don’t expect any grown adult to go eat in the locker room and I’m not going to remove the other children I have with me to go sit in the locker room while I feed my baby. It’s absolutely disgusting and maddening that this is how this establishment treats mums!!!”
City defends anti-breastfeeding actions
The City of Mora later released a statement justifying their actions, claiming that the sight of Stephanie and her friend Mary Davis breastfeeding made their patrons uncomfortable. They also apologised to the breastfeeding mums who “offended by how they were treated”.
Aquatic Center faces severe backlash
The incident has caught the attention of mums worldwide, with many sharing their thoughts with Mora Aquatic Center and reminding them of the breastfeeding laws. Several mums also staged a Nurse-In at the facility earlier this week.
Rachel Sather, who happened to witness the event shared her side of things on the Mora Aquatic Centre Facebook page: “Wow!!! Two mums were asked to leave if they continue to breastfeed where people can see. And a group of women were harassing them. So awful that women can’t breastfeed in public without being harassed.”
Sorry, but breastfeeding in public is not an offence
Despite the dramas, Stephanie and Mary were not charged with doing anything wrong. Stephanie now plans on taking legal action against the pool for discrimination.
After all, Minnesota law allows women to breastfeed “in any location, public or private,” which is “irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered”. And, might we add, irrespective of if the other patrons feel “uncomfortable”.
It’s too bad that some establishments still don’t accept this.
Breastfeeding, after all, is natural, healthy and something all mums should feel proud, not ashamed, to be doing. Just look at these incredible multi-tasking breastfeeding mums who are absolutely nailing the fine art of feeding on the go!