A Pennsylvania mom is speaking out after she says employees at a local YMCA shamed her for breastfeeding her son during a class for toddlers Monday morning.
Kate Haslam, 35, takes her 19-month-old son, West, to a toddler gym class every Monday morning at the Spring Valley YMCA in Limerick, Pennsylvania. This Monday started off just like any other, but little West was hungry, so Haslam sat on a balance beam along the wall in the classroom and breastfed her son.
That's when she says things went downhill. A YMCA employee asked Haslam to leave the classroom and breastfeed outside because she was making people "uncomfortable," Haslam said. When the mom protested, telling the employee it's against the law to tell her to breastfeed elsewhere, Haslam said, two other YMCA officials got involved, pressuring her to move.
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Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA President & CEO Shaun Elliott, who oversees the Spring Valley YMCA, called the incident a misunderstanding.
Elliott said the employee wanted Haslam to move from the balance beam she sat on to breastfeed so that children in the class could use it, and that the employee is "distraught" that Haslam interpreted the request in the way that she did. Haslam said that the employee did also point out that "a couple of members had expressed to her that they were uncomfortable" with Haslam breastfeeding.
"But that, quite frankly, is a challenge for them to deal with," Elliott said of the other members who expressed concerns. "She was just being honest with the woman. In no way, in her mind, was she communicating that it was inappropriate for her to breastfeed."
Elliott said breastfeeding is accepted anywhere in the facility and that the Y's policy is clear. He said the staff "tried to do the right thing" and will improve the way it's communicated in the future.
"The Y is an inclusive place where we want to make everybody feel comfortable, and to the extent we can get better, we're always happy to try to improve," he said.
The YMCA also posted a message from Elliott on its Facebook page in response to angry comments from members and others about the incident.