A breastfeeding mother was left feeling judged and harassed at Itsaca Park District on Monday 13th June after visiting the park with friends and their young families. Crystal Marie, 31 was nursing her 11 month old daughter poolside in 90 degree heat when she was asked by a member of staff to, “Either cover up or go to the bathroom.” When Crystal refused, the staff member stated how it was making, “Lifeguards and other people uncomfortable.” The young mother stood her ground as the staff member continued to badger her, stating, “There are kids here, it’s not right.” Crystal’s cousin, Vivian, 29, leapt to her defense as the young man asked her again to, “Cover up or nurse in the bathroom.” The encounter left both mothers feeling upset and unwelcome at the park.
Breaking the Law
Breastfeeding laws across the US vary, but Illinois law states, “A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.” The only exception to this rule applies in places of worship, “A mother considering whether to breastfeed her baby in a place of worship shall comport her behavior with the norms appropriate in that place of worship.” (1)
The experience left Crystal and her family feeling shaken and uncomfortable. She said, “It was horrible and I felt nervous feeding my baby after that. I struggled to gather my thoughts, as I didn’t want to say or do the wrong thing and get us all kicked out. The other kids were still enjoying themselves and so I let them continue to play until 5pm.“ Vivian, also a nursing mother, said, “My daughter was born at 24 weeks. Her entire breastfeeding journey has been a challenging one. She still has a hard time eating food and transitioning to anything else, so I still pretty much exclusively breastfeed. There was no way I was letting him tell me or my friend that nursing in public was not allowed.” She continued, “Even after he eventually left, the feeling of being unwanted, judged and bullied was still there. The feeling lingered.”
Crystal contacted the park on social media who responded with an apology on behalf of their employee and an off of free day passes to the park. They wrote that the manager in question and all of their staff have now been told that breastfeeding is allowed at the park.
What Does the Law Say?
Breastfeeding in public is protected by law in:
• US (although only 31 of 50 states exclude breastfeeding from public indecency laws: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming)
• Taiwan (2).
Many other countries around the world support breastfeeding in public even though it is not written into law. In those countries where it is protected by law, anyone who breaks this law may be liable to prosecution.
Order your copy of ‘Self Care: The Breastfeeding Edition,’ which includes tips on how to feel confident nursing in public, as well as 49 other pieces of advice to help you breastfeed on your own terms for as long as you choose, here: www.thebreastfeedingmentor.com/book