WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Nir Family YMCA is working to make things right after a Facebook post made by a mother who says she was shamed for breastfeeding her child in the pool area went viral.
Courtney Floyd enrolls her three sons in private swim lessons at the YMCA and a few weeks ago she posted this message to Facebook after she says she was yelled at by a Nir Family YMCA Manager.
“During the lesson, one of my kids became upset so I gave him a break from the pool and sat on the steps and nursed him. Shortly thereafter, someone who presented them self as a manager approached me from the side of the pool yelling, insisting I go inside of a locker room to nurse my child," Floyd said.
Floyd works as a lactation peer counselor and helps write grants at a state level for the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition.
“So, I know my breastfeeding rights,” she said. “My oldest completely understands that breastfeeding is legal. He was shocked and disappointed he had to leave his swim lesson. He was like ‘I don’t understand you can breastfeed them anywhere.’ I was like ‘I know, he doesn’t know, it’s OK.’”
Floyd said the manager told her she was breaking YMCA policy and told her to go to a locker room to nurse her child.
“He insisted that it was the Y’s policy that there was no food or drink allowed in the pool and that he had a public health concern about my breast milk being in the pool,” she said.
Machelle Williams is an executive assistant for the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition and one of Floyd’s colleagues. She explained Floyd’s actions were completely legal.
“After the incident, myself and a colleague went to the membership director, Natasha Moore, and talked about the incident. She raised concerns that no food or drink is authorized in the pool area. We explained that breastfeeding is not food or drink. She also raised concerns about the hygiene of breastfeeding in the aquatic area and that it is inappropriate. Anywhere a mom is allowed to be, she is allowed to breastfeed her child,” Williams said.
According to section b of North Carolina General Statute 14-190.0, “a woman may breastfeed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.”
After the incident, Williams and another co-worker went to speak with the YMCA director.
“They admitted the entire incident was filmed on camera, that they had spoken to the gentleman who had confronted Ms. Floyd and said everything she said was true,” Williams said.
Williams said they offered free educational materials and training for YMCA employees, but that offer was not accepted.
“They said they would add a bullet point to their employee newsletter, but I don’t think that’s enough. I enjoy the facility and I don’t want to stop going there, but I feel they should be part of the solution instead of making this a bigger problem,” Floyd said.
When we reached out to the YMCA for comment, Sarah Gibbs, the director of financial development & marketing for YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina, sent the following statement:
"As an organization committed to providing programs that support and strengthen the health of women and children, the Y fully supports a mother’s right and need to nurse her baby wherever and whenever she wants. At the Y, we believe that breastfeeding is the best and healthiest way to begin life for babies (and their moms).
Unfortunately, it has been brought to our attention that one of our staff members recently addressed a mother who was nursing in one of our pools. There was a misunderstanding that does not represent the Y’s position or practice regarding breastfeeding in our facilities. We deeply regret this misunderstanding and have apologized to the mother.
Many moms have expressed to us that they have always felt comfortable breastfeeding in our Ys and we hope moms continue to feel welcomed and supported. We are committed to making every effort to make sure they do.
This misunderstanding helped us recognize a need for greater sensitivity and knowledge among our staff of a mother’s rights to breastfeed. We have shared our position with staff at the Nir Family YMCA branch and will address this across our association.
As we have apologized to the mom, we sincerely apologize to anyone else offended by this circumstance."
Floyd said the Y only reached out to her after she made the Facebook post and contacted the director.
"They did post a general, very blanket apology, but they haven’t taken any action to rectify the situation,” she said.
In response to the situation, Floyd has organized a ‘nurse in at the YMCA.’
In the Facebook event description, Floyd wrote:
“In recent events that have taken place at the YMCA I feel its only fair to come together as a community to celebrate breastfeeding. Bring your nursling and come hang by the pool. If you aren’t currently breastfeeding or don’t breastfeed and just want to support some awareness in our community please COME! If you are not a member of the YMCA and the price for a day pass is not something in your budget the Port City Breastfeeding Project as well as other individuals have donated some passes. If possible come with your swim attire already under your clothing, I am overwhelmed with the amount of love the community has shown. Together we can change the narrative and #normalizebreastfeeding”
YMCA employees say they welcome this event and any woman who chooses to attend.