Gym tells mom breastfeeding babies isn't allowed in its locker room

Sep 17, 2015 at 1:01 p.m. ET

Caroline Hoffman was wearing and breastfeeding her 7-month-old baby boy in a gym locker room, but even though she was covered, the Georgia mom was told she couldn't nurse her baby there. The reason? Kids aren't allowed in the locker rooms at Hoffman's gym.

Hoffman was then offered a couple of other locations by gym staff, but neither suited her. One was a bathroom (ew), and the other was in the front lobby. When she inquired about nursing in the children's area, she was told they could not accommodate that. She was embarrassed and upset, and even though the gym has since written a letter of apology and let her know that moms absolutely can nurse in the locker room, she's not sure she feels up to going back to that particular gym.

Can you blame her?

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The issue here is not necessarily one of breastfeeding in public, but rather one of breastfeeding in private — in a location where the mother felt comfortable, but also a location where there were hidden rules in place that apparently didn't really exist. The staff member used the excuse that kids weren't allowed, but should exceptions be made for breastfeeding children in situations like this?


It's likely that a no-kids policy was put into place to keep rampaging rug rats out of the locker room and possibly so women can feel comfortable changing in and out of their gym clothes. However, any child who is young enough to be breastfed is not going to ogle women — nor should a 3-year-old or a 4-year-old if a mother practices full-term breastfeeding.

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And as far as kids being annoying, wild or getting into stuff, if you bring a baby or toddler into a locker room to breastfeed and then leave to take him back to child care or home, he's not going to be crawling on the floor or caterwauling at your feet.

Georgia law is specific and says that moms are allowed to breastfeed anywhere they and their child are legally allowed to be, so while a no-kids policy may exclude nursing in a no-kids locker room, it makes more sense to make an exception so you're not forcing a mom to breastfeed anywhere she isn't comfortable doing so.

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There really is no harm for a child to accompany his or her mother into a gym's locker room to nurse, and while this situation highlights locker rooms, similar exceptions may need to be considered everywhere. No, you may not want to hold your baby and breastfeed while getting dental work or while you're on jury duty, but there really isn't any harm in a mother nursing her kid in a gym's locker room. Thankfully this story has a happy ending, and hopefully other gyms will notice that nursing in a locker room is A-OK.