Showing support By Christy Anne Collins Dickson the director of Pregnancy & Parenting Support Centers of Galveston County
Pregnancy & Parenting Support Centers of Galveston County
Yesterday afternoon I got a text message about a mom in Texas City who was forced to leave the NESSLER pool because she was breastfeeding her son.
Because the Pregnancy Center strongly advocates breastfeeding for moms who are able, the text asked if I had any information to offer.
As the Director of the Pregnancy & Parenting Support Center, I was appalled to learn when this mother was feeding her baby, she was approached by a life guard and was told she needed to cover up or leave. It was, he told her, the City's policy. The mom responded that it was her absolute right to breastfeed, and he better check the policy.
When Misty (the mom) asserted her right to breastfeed, the lifeguard went to get support from his manager, who also, in error, told her she was not allowed to public-ally breastfeed.
When Misty again asserted her right to feed her baby, the Nessler pool Manager threatened, and then did, call the Texas City Police to eject her and the kids she had with her from the premises.
Misty had every reason to believe that a law enforcement Officer would correctly assert her rights.
But unfortunately, that didn't happen. The responding officer obviously did not know or understand Texas law related to breastfeeding.
But instead of checking the law, this officer now decides that Misty, (who was just having a fun day at the pool before being told by two employees she couldn't feed her baby) now upset, embarrassed and humiliated, along with being angry at being forced to take her kids home from their play date, is a "disturbance".
Texas Law is unequivocal. A MOTHER HAS EVERY RIGHT TO FEED HER BABY ANYWHERE SHE IS LAWFULLY ALLOWED TO BE. Period. Not maybe. No exceptions. No mandate that she put a blanket over her baby's head. (Would you, sitting in the hot Texas sun, want to have to eat with a blanket over your head?) No mandate she must take her child to the restroom to commence feeding. (Would you choose to eat your lunch in a public bathroom filled with all kinds of germs and smells?)
By the time the request came asking me to comment, several breastfeeding moms were on Facebook, rightfully outraged, and had decided they were going to stage a "Milk-in" this morning at the pool....asserting their right to feed their babies in public.
Personally, I thought it was a great way to (pardon the pun) express their outrage.
I told Misty that I thought she had a lot of courage. Being bullied under the color of law is intimidating. Her strength of character to take the matter public would ultimately help all breastfeeding moms and babies.
I also indicated that as the Director of the Pregnancy & Parenting Support Center I intended to call the Police Department and the pool manager to be certain they knew the law.
When it seemed like there would be a couple dozen moms at the pool this morning, I decided it would be prudent to make sure the Police Department had the correct information early enough to avoid another incident. So I went in person to speak with with whoever would be responsible for dispatching officers to the scene. I wanted to provide specifics on the law so they could look it up in advance. I didn't get the chance to speak with responsible parties, so I decided since the pool, and the Police Department were both a part of the City if Texas City, I would go talk with the Mayor.
The Mayor was out of town, but his Assistant, Susan Chappa, listened well, and clearly understood that the coercion against this mom was inappropriate.
To their credit, the Mayors action took immediate action. Given that Mayor Doyle was out of town, his response, though not adequate, was an encouraging first step. Realizing that since he is out of town, he was not able to speak to all parties involved, I can appreciate all the wiggle room in his statement.
First, he acknowledged their was a problem.
He also said policies would be reviewed, and ma result in additional training for City employees.
All of those were good responses.
Additionally, while I understand the Mayor can not apologize to Misty when he does not yet have all the facts, I hope an apology as public as the humiliation caused, and the threats made, will be forthcoming.
This mother, indeed any breastfeed mother, deserves to be able to feed her baby without any of the events that occurred on Sunday. And when an officer responds to a non-emergency call, the public should expect that if they do not know the law, they ask for clarification before threatening with color of law.
Texas City failed at several opportunities to get this right. Every breastfeeding mom needs to know that the City, and all of it's entities, knows they got it wrong on this one. And we also need disclosure on exactly how the City intends to inform all City employees of the rights, protected by Texas Law (Code 165.02) of all breastfeeding moms.
Moms who are able, and who choose to breastfeed are giving their babies the very best! They deserve support, not humiliation.