Nursing mother says YMCA worker denied her right to breastfeed

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IOWA -- A mother in Iowa became upset when an employee at her local YMCA told her she could not breastfeed her child around others at the facility.

Jessica Houk told WQAD that she took her kids into the child watch area to play and meet new friends. When her daughter Savannah needed to be consoled, she decided to nurse her.breastfeeding

After Houk returned from working out, an employee approached her.

“She’s like, ‘I noticed you were breastfeeding and that’s fine but, if you’re going to do that, I need you to go to the back corner so nobody can see you,’” Houk recalled.

Jessica says she has never had a problem with the YMCA before.

In fact, she says, the employees at the Davenport Family Y have never had a problem with her breastfeeding in public or around children.

However, she knows that what happened to her at the North Family Y is against the law.

Iowa Law #135.30 states, “Not withstanding any other provision of the law to the contrary, a woman may breastfeed the woman’s own child in any public place where the woman’s presence is otherwise authorized.”

“It’s just a lot of miscommunication and policies that aren't aligned with one another,” she says.

Houk says more training is needed so policy and employees are on the same page.

On Wednesday, February 26th, 2014, Frank Klipsch IV, Corporate Communications Director and Davenport Family YMCA Center Director with the Scott County Family Y, released this statement:

“The Y has been serving our Quad City community since 1858. We appreciate leaders who carry forward causes that help to make our kids and families healthier and happier. To that end, we are happy to receive feedback and support from organizations like the QC Breastfeeding Coalition and the Family Friendly Business Initiative. Passionate advocates like those who make up these groups are responsible for making our community healthy and strong.

The issue of breastfeeding is pretty simple and clear cut. Not only does the Y of the USA support a mother’s right to breastfeed, but we also look to the CDC, which clearly informs us that breastfeeding is healthy and proven to develop healthy children and strong bonds between parent and child. And beyond these nutritional, psychological and emotional benefits, it’s the law. We are fully aware that it is a mother’s right to breastfeed in any space that the mother herself is welcome.

Like all management issues, we continually work to educate our staff and ensure that we consistently communicate this to our members, volunteers and program participants.”


  • FaithC

    OK I am all for the rights of nursing mothers. I have no problem with them nursing in public. I nursed my kids.
    With that said…that child looks to be 4 years old. If this is the way you “console” your child…it is no longer feeding and maybe in public you may want to choose a different method of consoling.
    You may also want to choose counseling.

    • Chandler

      I agree with you FaithC.. These people that are always on the news for being denied breastfeeding kill me. She wasn’t “denied” they only asked her to be more discreet about it.

    • Vikki Murrell


      • AshD

        Vikki Murrel, it’s simple, this is what breasts are used for and I’m sure your teenage sons see far more skin than this when they are at school! I guess it’s okay to see breasts as long as they aren’t being used for their intended purpose. BTW most of the time you can’t even tell the mother is breastfeeding and if you can, it’s because YOU are staring to hard! You can dislike breastfeeding no matter what age in public but I hate to break it to you, breastfeeding mothers have every right to feed their child when and how they see fit, just about ever state has laws in place to protect us! And it doesn’t make me “lazy” because I don’t pump, some women can’t respond to pumps, some babies/children won’t take breastmilk that way, and I’m not about to inconvenience myself to make you feel better, my child’s needs come before your wants. Bottom line, where a mother nurses and how old the child is, it’s none of your business. Don’t like it, leave, don’t look, do whatever you need to do; breastfeeding mothers have just as much right to be anywhere you do!

  • SherryB

    That is no baby, that is a toddler. If the only way she can “console” her toddler is to nurse the child then she need to stay at home and work on social etiquette for both the child and herself..I am tired of the “its my right” of whenever, wherever no matter the age..When does the age limit come in to effect, grade school maybe..This child should have been given a snack of food not mamma..

  • David

    Could be because she is ugly as hell and nobody wants to see her sloppiness all out for everyone to see… go to the bathroom. Or the locker room for crying out loud. I am all about equal rigbts and allowing people to do as they please but realize there is a time and a place for things as well. ..Cover yourself and nobody else would complain

  • MWC

    It is completely her right to breastfeed as long as she wants! You all have NO idea how old this child is, she could be a large 2 year old as far as you know. Last time I checked “The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.” BUT, this Mom does seem to be seeking attention after this incident because she wasn’t denied the right to breast-feed, they just asked her to be more discreet, which she should be more understanding of.

  • Lynn

    I agree with FaithC and Sherry. I am for breast feeding . They did not tell her she couldn’t breast feed. Just be a little more discreet . If she still wants her child to have breast milk……It needs to be from a sippy cup!!

  • M Brown

    Like everyone else, I support a mother breastfeeding, but I believe there is an age limit. A child more than two years of age should begin practicing self-soothing and eat/drink independently. If it is comfort the child seeks, the mother should try other forms of physical attention that don’t force the child to be completely dependent. From the interview, the child seems to be very shy and not comfortable in a social situation. When she is older and in school, she will have to learn how to be comfortable in a social environment and her mother will not be there to soothe her.

  • Shelley

    How old is that kid??? I would understand if he or she was a baby but the kids looks old enough to be in Kindergarten next year. That makes most people very uncomfortable. That is definitely outside of the norm of breastfeeding. A child that old does NOT get their nutrients from breast milk. They are eating a regular diet so there is no reason for them to continue to breast feed. If you want them to have the benefits of breast milk them by all means pump and give it to them in a sippy cup or something but they are way too old to be breastfeeding. I think it’s creepy and a little unnatural by that age. We don’t live in a 3rd world country where it’s a necessity. She has a right but she may want to think about other people as well. That kid won’t starve if he doesn’t breast feed!!

  • Jenn

    I think it’s ridiculous when things of this nature make the news. I support breastfeeding, I’m due in a week and I will breastfeed. BUT I refuse to breastfeed in public. I understand some women are more comfortable with it then others, however there are ways to be discreet about it. They have throw over blankets and slings so no one actually sees your breast. I mean its a little unsettling when you and your family are sitting across from someone in a restaurant who just lets its all out. Furthermore this child does not require her mother’s milk anymore. There is no nutritional value or benefit to her drinking her mothers breast milk. I think the mother may have more attachment issues then the child!

    • MWC

      She was breastfeeding the entire clip and you never “see her breast”. Wait until you are breastfeeding and see if it fits into yor schedule I run home every two hours to feed. Nursing covers are a lot more difficult to use when the child gets bigger and is squirming and they can be really hot! I guarantee your opinion will change when you begin to nurse your child.

  • Karen Sanders

    You should all educate yourselves, especially you who is about to deliver. The World Health Organization reccommends breastfeeding until two years or as long as mother and child desire. Breastmilk certainly does have health benefits beyond age 1. In addition, if you think a baby should eat under cover, I suggest you try it yourselves.

  • proudmommy

    How old is that child??? She looks 4 or 5! I know it has to be done, but please not in public! Go into a rest room or something. I HATE when I walk in a restaurant, order my food than I see a mother nursing. It just grosses me out and ruins dinner. Mother’s just have too many options these days to keep from things like this happening.

    • AshD

      proudmonmmy, you take your dinner into a dirty nasty restroom and eat! That is absolutely disgusting. Secondly, my child is eating that is it, same thing as you are doing, don’t like it don’t look. Or better yet leave. Breastfeeding mothers have laws in place to protect them.

      I can’t stand to see mothers shove bottles of formula which is loaded with man made chemicals down their babies throat, but I sure don’t “ruin my dinner” over it (& my formula comment is about as judgmental as your stance on breastfeeding)!

  • Tanya

    Breast feeding is a personal choice. The World Health Organization recommends breast feeding until age 5. While I personally did not breast feed for that long, it is each woman’s right to decide how long she wants to continue. So basically people need to be less judgmental.

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