2 Breastfeeding Moms Had the Cops Called on Them for Nursing at a Pool

Breastfeeding mom
CBS This Morning

Two Minnesota moms were humiliated last week when they were asked to leave a public pool for daring to breastfeed their babies in public. On July 18, Stephanie Ellingson-Buchanan and her sister-in-law, Mary Davis, had decided to take a family trip to their local pool hoping to cool off on a hot summer's day. But things quickly soured after another pool patron asked Stephanie to cover up while she was breastfeeding her infant. Knowing that she was within her rights to feed her son in the public space and not wanting to leave her other child in the water, Stephanie continued to do what came naturally. This only caused things to escalate further and resulted in police reportedly asking Stephanie and her family to leave the pool.

  • All Stephanie and Mary wanted to do was to enjoy some family time at a local pool when their babies got hungry.

    The two sisters-in-law brought their kids to the Mora Aquatic Center in Mora, Minnesota. Stephanie with her 4-year-old and a 3-month-old, Roman, and Mary with her two children, and their niece and nephew.  "All of them are pretty young so we were on the kiddie side of the pool," Stephanie tells CafeMom. "While we were there, both of our babies got hungry so she fed hers and I then fed mine." 

    Stephanie carefully slipped off one strap of her bathing suit and began to nurse her son Roman, which is where the trouble began. "A lady approached me and told me that I needed to cover up because her sons were swimming," Stephanie says.  

    The other pool patron left before Stephanie could respond to her request. "I was really shocked because I've never  had anybody approach me before while breastfeeding," she says. "And so we ignored her and I kept feeding my baby."

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  • Then a pool employee approached and told her that she needed to cover up or "move to the locker room."

    Stephanie, a member of the Minnesota Breastfeeding Mamas support group on Facebook, knew that Minnesota state law protects mothers who wish to breastfeed in public -- a fact that she explained to the staff member who approached her. "She said 'Okay, I'll go tell my manager.' and we thought that was the end of it," Stephanie says. 

    "We went about swimming, unbeknownst to us there was an issue, apparently, continuing," she says. The group had decided to cut the day short because Stephanie's husband, who had joined them at the pool earlier, needed to head out to go to work. "As we were getting the kids out of the pool and ready to go, a police officer approached me, which was just -- we were just in awe," Stephanie says. 

    The officer told Stephanie that there had been a complaint made against her for breastfeeding at the pool and that he was there to ask her to leave the premises. Stephanie told the officer that Minnesota state law says that she could feed her baby anywhere, "and he said, 'You are correct, but the establishment reserves the right to ask you to leave if you're not going to be more discreet."

    "He made sure to reiterate a couple of times that they were going to ask us to leave," Stephanie adds.

    CafeMom reached out to both the Mora Aquatic Center and Kanabec County Sheriff's Office for a comment.
  • Hurt, angry, and humiliated, Stephanie decided that she was going to take action "so no other parents have to go through this."

    In a Facebook post that has since gone viral, Stephanie vents her anger at being thrown out of her local pool. "I wasn't flashing [my breasts] around, nobody saw any nipple, there were other moms there nursing their babies, and LOTS of other women showing more skin than me but because one woman saw me and complained, this establishment called the police," she wrote.

    Speaking with CafeMom, Stephanie tells us that the Mora Aquatic Center had been her local pool her whole life. "I grew up in Mora, I graduated from Mora, my parents graduated from Mora." But in her Facebook post she says that "Mora Aquatic Center lost my business forever, today."

  • Stephanie shared her experience on a local breastfeeding Facebook page and the infuriated mamas came up with a plan.

    The Minnesota Breastfeeding Mamas page is a closed group that boasts more than 8,000 members. "A lot of breastfeeding mothers in the state had been outraged about how we had been treated," she explains. "And so from there two nurse-ins were actually set up. The first by Britany McIalwain who has been shamed in town for feeding her baby in public."

    The plan was to gather as many breastfeeding moms to sit outside of the Mora Aquatic Center while breastfeeding their own children.

  • More than 60 people showed up to send a powerful message.  "It was beautiful," Stephanie says. 

    Women from across the state joined Stephanie and Mary, as they sat outside the pool and breastfed their children. "We just went and peacefully demonstrated what our rights are. It was amazing for a small-town event, Stephanie says. "We had a lot of support from fathers and just men in general, surprisingly. I expect that kind of support from nursing moms, but for it to come from all different people means that we had grandmas and grandpas there. We had dads and all of their children."

  • Stephanie says that the Mora Aquatic Center has yet to apologize to her for kicking her out, though they did respond via a press release.

    In the statement, a representative for the pool wrote that although the public pool "strive[s] to create an environment comfortable for all" and "always have supported nursing mothers, the situation inside of the kiddie pool made many patrons uncomfortable." 

    The press release explained that "our staff politely asked them to be more discrete or relocate to another area at the MAC. When they did not, it created an untenable situation and our public safety team was brought in to assist the MAC staff."  But interestingly, the letter asserts that "neither women were asked to leave the facility."

    "We apologize to Ms. Ellingson-Buchanan and Ms. Davis if they were offended by how they were treated," the letter ends. "Although we cannot anticipate all possible scenarios, City policies and procedures will be reviewed and revised as deemed necessary."

    In the end, Stephanie still finds the backlash for breastfeeding confusing. "To me it’s a natural thing. To feel shame over that or humiliated, I don’t really know why people feel the need to do that," she adds.

    The activist mom is now planning a second nurse-in on August 11.