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Incidents at Pools Draw Attention to Breastfeeding Laws

Two mothers in different parts of the country hope that their experiences while breastfeeding at public pools will help educate others about breastfeeding laws.

Lydia Davis and Kayla Heller, both mothers of four, were at public pools in the cities in which they live when they were asked to either cover up or go into the restroom to breastfeed their children.

Davis, who is from Spokane, Wash., didn’t move or stop feeding her daughter because she knew breastfeeding is covered under the Washington State anti-discrimination law. She instead asked to speak with the manager of the pool and was again told to move to the bathroom, so she contacted the City of Spokane’s park manager.

According to the city, they promptly conducted training for all pool staff, which included teaching staff about acceptable conduct at pools, which included state law.

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Davis said she is not upset about the incident and just wants more educational outreach on the topic. She said she was very pleased with the city’s response to the situation and will continue to go to the pool.

She and other mothers staged a nurse-in at the pool following the incident in an effort to raise awareness about the issue. Approximately 12 women attended the event with their children.

Likewise, Heller said she loves the pool she goes to in Moorhead, Minnesota and hates to see the facility get any negative attention. However, after she was asked by a staff member to cover up while breastfeeding her daughter, she and others protested. Mothers are allowed to breastfeed in public in Minnesota.

Holly Heitkamp, the director of Moorhead’s parks and recreation department, said pool staff members are told about the law during training. Somehow the staff member “thought what she was doing was right” when she told Heller to cover up, said Heitkamp.

The staff member was quickly corrected for her mistake, according to Heitkamp.

A breastfeeding advocate group also held a nurse-in after the incident occurred. The group meets at various places around the area to breastfeed in public and moved its meeting spot to the pool after hearing about what happened to Heller.

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Laws about breastfeeding in public are not restricted to these states. Throughout the country, 49 states and the District of Columbia, have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.

Minnesota and Washington are two of the 29 states that exempt breastfeeding from indecency laws. 

Davis hopes her situation helps others learn about public breastfeeding laws, as well as takes away some of the stigma from public breastfeeding.

“I think that it is so important that we should not feel ashamed of feeding our infants. We’re not ashamed of feeding ourselves in public. This is the form that we choose to feed our babies.”

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