On Saturday, more than a dozen Minnesota moms showed up to a public pool to pull out their breasts and, well, nurse their babies. As one protest sign pointed out: “Keep calm. It’s a baby eating.”
The “poolside nurse-in” was organized just a few days after police were reportedly called to the Mora Aquatic Center to deal with two local women who breastfed their young children and refused to cover up when others complained. Event organizer Britany McIalwain told the Star Tribune: “We should be able to nurse wherever and whenever … Breasts are intended to nourish children.”
On July 18, Stephanie Buchanan and her sister-in-law Mary Davis took their children to the public pool for some fun in the sun. When three-month-old Roman got fussy, his mother, Buchanan, reacted the only way she knew how to. “There’s not really a choice sometimes,” she told WCCO. “I was wearing a one-piece swimsuit, slipped my strap down and just fed him. A patron came up, a lady, at the pool and told me that I needed to cover up because her sons were swimming."
Davis also nursed her baby in the wading area because she couldn’t leave another child in the water by himself.
Eventually, a staff member asked the women to be more discrete and move to the pool deck or the changing room to finish feeding their children. They refused, citing state law. According to a Minnesota statute, a woman can breastfeed “in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast-feeding.”
That’s when things got heated. Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith told the Star Tribune that there was a verbal exchange between Buchanan and Davis and other moms at the pool who thought the women needed to cover up. “We were getting raised voices and shouting across the pool. … Now there’s a ruckus,” Smith said. When the police were called, Buchanan and Davis left voluntarily.
“We gathered our kids and basically did a walk of shame out of the pool,” Davis told FOX9. “That’s what it felt like to us.”
In a statement released online, the City of Mora apologized to the two women “if they were offended by how they were treated,” but also noted that the situation “made many patrons uncomfortable.”
Saturday’s nurse-in was intended to help normalize public breastfeeding and educate people on its legality. In fact, as of July 1, 2018 it’s now lawful to breastfeed in public in all 50 states. Legal protections for nursing moms in Idaho—one of the last states to pass such legislation—just went into effect at the beginning of the month.