Another day, another mom asked to quit breastfeeding in public. Cindy Herrine of Round Rock, Texas, is the latest mom in a long line of breastfeeding women who was told to put those milk bags away when breastfeeding her son at a community pool.
Like all other breastfeeding moms, 26-year-old Herrine was just trying to feed her 20-month-old son, Blaze, when he was hungry, which happened to be while splashing about at the Micki Krebsbach Pool near Austin. Herrine decided to take a break in the water to breastfeed Blaze, who was swimming with a life vest. Herrine said nursing can sometimes calm Blaze down while swimming.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next: Herrine was told by a pool employee to stop breastfeeding in the water because another pool-goer complained. Herrine reacted immediately by telling the pool manager that it was her legal right to breastfeed anywhere she was allowed to be by Texas state law, even pulling up the Texas statute on her cellphone as evidence.
In almost every single one of the news stories we see in which moms are asked to stop breastfeeding, I’m on the side of the breastfeeding mom. When breastfeeding moms are told to stop nursing at Starbucks or at a doctor’s appointment, I champion for a mom’s right to feed her baby with her natural food source, the same way any mom would be allowed to give a baby a bottle of formula in public without a problem.
This is an excellent breastfeeding argument, and it’s the foundation of breastfeeding acceptance and education. Breastfeeding is just another food source, and moms shouldn’t be forced to cover up.
But in this particular story, breast milk as food is exactly what is causing the problem. Herrine wasn’t told to stop breastfeeding her son in the water because of discrimination. She was reprimanded because the pool had a strict rule against food and drink in the water. This no-food-and-drink rule is the norm across the U.S. because it’s a matter of public sanitation.
This mom meant well, and she was championing the public breastfeeding cause, but breast milk is still a food. If another swimmer isn’t allowed to eat a hamburger while splashing in the water, then this mom can’t get away with giving her baby a quick snack while he swims.
There’s an easy way this whole altercation could have been avoided. Like any other mom feeding her child, Herrine could have gotten out of the pool and fed Blaze in a designated food and drink area. Herrine’s approach also makes me question if it’s really a good idea to breastfeed in the water anyway, amidst all the chemicals, chlorine and pee. I know I wouldn’t want to eat my meal there.
Herrine cited a 1995 Texas statute that says women are allowed to breastfeed their babies anywhere they are allowed to be. Ultimately, the Round Rock director of Parks and Recreation called Herrine to apologize and said she could breastfeed in the pool in the future, but I still can’t get on board with how this went down.
Texas law supports breastfeeding moms anytime, anywhere, and that is a wonderful thing. But there are also plenty of public rules that are going to intersect with these rights. Moms are constantly telling people to treat breast milk as food, but the argument goes both ways. If food isn’t allowed in the pool, then neither should breast milk.