Police Called on Breastfeeding Mom at the Beach & the Officer Had the Best Reaction

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NBC 4 New York

Public breastfeeding is a natural and legal practice in all 50 states, but that doesn't mean that everybody agrees with it. Take it from one New Jersey mom who was shamed and humiliated at her local beach when a park official got heated with her for nursing her toddler in public. Now the mom is speaking out about her experience --which involved the police -- so that new breastfeeding moms everywhere don't get scared off from doing something that is within their legal rights.

  • Michelle Ayala was out for a day of fun in the sun with a friend when she received a rude awakening.

    According to New 4 New York, Ayala went with a friend to Franklin Pond Beach in Sussex County, New Jersey, on July 31 to spend the day splashing away with their kids. The park had only recently opened the beachfront, and Ayala told NJ. com that she was "excited" to go to the new outdoor space. 

    Ayala had her three kids with her on the day of the incident: her two sons, Sean, 8, and Michael, 7, and her 2-year-old daughter, Daisy, who came over to her mom and asked to nurse. 

    It was only when Ayala brought her daughter to her chest that the day suddenly took a sharp turn for the worst.

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  • She told reporters that while her daughter was nursing, a park official came over and told her, "I see what you’re doing there."

    "Do you think you can do that somewhere else?’” she says Recreation Committee Secretary Donna Vreeland asked her.

    “And before she finished, I said ‘I’m allowed to nurse wherever I am,” Ayala told News 4. Ayala tells CafeMom that she has been nursing her children "for almost 10 years," so she is familiar with her legal rights, including the recent law that passed allowing moms to be able to nurse in public in all 50 states. But that didn't stop Vreeland from reportedly getting aggressively more angry with Ayala as she stood her ground.

    "She then kind of got gruff and then said, 'Well then cover up because there's people and children on the beach who would be offended by it," Ayala told NJ.com. Ayala also assures us that there was "no way of [Vreeland] seeing anything."  Baffled at Vreeland's response, Ayala told Vreeland that she understood her point, but that her daughter was trying to take a nap so she said, "I'm going to stay here and nurse."

    Seeing that Ayala was not going to comply with her request, Vreeland then allegedly raised her voice and shouted, "I'm going to call the cops on you!" Ayala compared the moment to "a mom being mad at you. Like she asked you to make your bed, and then you didn't, and then she asked you again, and then she's like 'I'm losing my mind because you didn't hear me the first two times!'"

    Ayala said that Vreeland returned to the lifeguard's tent and called 911, but when police arrived on the scene, it was anything but the call to justice that the official had thought she was making.

  • According to Ayala, police apologized to the nursing mom when they arrived at the beach.

    She told News 4 that the responding officer, Nick Della Fera, was extremely apologetic about the call. According to Ayala, the officer said, ‘I support you completely. Thank you for your time, your patience. These are your rights and are you okay?" Ayala tells CafeMom that the officer said to her, "'I don't know why [Vreeland] called. She knows that's not enforceable.'"

    The officer then left the beach, and Vreeland reportedly came back down to apologize and told Ayala "I did not mean to upset you," in a calm voice. She handed Ayala her phone where town administrator, Alison McHose, was waiting. Ayala tells CafeMom she is familiar with McHose through community events, and McHose spoke with the mom and told her that she had to cover up "as a friend."

    But Ayala told her it wasn't practical for her to nurse with a cover because her daughter would just pull it off. "I can't imagine me trying to cover my 2-year-old in the 90-degree heat," she says. 

    Ayala says that McHose told her that she "understands," the two hung up the phone, and the mom then went to go play with her kids in the water. 

  • But unfortunately for Ayala, the day didn't end there. The officer came back to the beach, which only caused more trouble.

    Daisy Ayala
    Michelle Ayala

    According to Ayala, Della Ferra came back to the beach because he had forgotten to take her name when he first responded to the call. "He then puts the lights on and does the siren for the kids, the kids go back to the sand, and he said, 'I just want you to know you can write a harassment charge right now if you wanted to,' she tells us. "I said, 'No, no. That's okay. Some people just don't understand the law. But I'm okay, I'm fine.'"

    About 15 minutes later, McHose appeared on the beach and allegedly confronted Ayala as she nursed her daughter for a second time. She again told Ayala that she was there "as a friend" and reminded Ayala that she signed a contract to use the private beach. And threatened that she would remove Ayala if she didn't cover up.

    Ayala says that her friend began to argue with McHose, telling the administrator that the way she was talking about Ayala was offensive to them. McHose eventually backed off from the moms, but Ayala says that the fallout since the story went public has been swift and harsh. 

    Although the mom says that she isn't 100 percent sure how the story first got to the press, she believes that one of her friends who was with her on the beach that day posted about the experience on her Facebook page and that a prominent lactation consultant saw the post and contacted The New Jersey Herald. 

    "There's a rumor going around that my boobs were out for 30 minute," Ayala tells us. "But they weren't. They were in my suit (after she finished nursing) -- [that rumor] doesn't make sense in any way, shape, or form."

    She also says that she had asked one of her friends to meet her at the beach so they could talk about a shared experience that had greatly impacted their lives. "The real reason we were there together was to kind of sit and be like, 'I can't believe our kids have lyme,' (Ayala tells us that her oldest son Sean was diagnosed with lyme disease in 2017) but we didn't get to sit and talk about it because of boobs."

  • Last weekend, Ayala hosted a nurse-in at Franklin Pond, which she says was an "olive branch" gesture to the town officials who had shamed her.

    On August 5, Ayala and about 30 other women revisited the spot where officials had told her to "cover up" as a way to bridge the divide.

    "My idea was to make it an olive branch to the town," she says. "But they didn't take it. They didn't support it. The olive branch is out there for them."

    According to a statement given to The New Jersey Herald in the days following the incident, however, McHose wrote that: 

    "The Borough of Franklin is aware that a woman was breastfeeding at the Franklin Pond Beach yesterday (Tuesday) and had some interaction with Borough employees. The borough has made significant efforts to make the Franklin Pond Beach a family friendly area that is welcoming and accommodating to all. The borough is aware of the laws concerning breastfeeding. We regret the situation made any of the guests feel uncomfortable and are using this as an opportunity to remind all involved of a woman's right to breastfeed under New Jersey law."
    But Ayala tells CafeMom that no one from Franklin Pond has reached out to her personally.

    Ultimately though, Ayala says she chose to share her story so that new moms wouldn't have to go through the same shame that she did. "If somebody that important came up in a suit, nice wedges and confronted [a new nursing] mom, she would never nurse again. Or she would just stay in the house with the kids," Ayala said. 

    "I just think it's a normal and natural thing -- nursing a child," the mom told NJ.com, "and I don't think it's offensive. We need to educate [others]. It's 2018."

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