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UPDATE: Moms Plan Nurse-In At 1st Class Gymnastics

A group of women plan to nurse their children at the gym after an Annapolis mom claimed she was asked to cover up or move to the lobby to nurse her daughter.

UPDATE: (1:15 p.m.)—A group of area mothers said they plan to breastfeed their children at  at 1 p.m. Thursday in response to its request that a woman cover up or move if she wanted to nurse.

"This is not a protest," said Kathryn Fisher, the nurse-in organizer. "This is not a, 'We are going here to bash this business.' We are going to go about our normal routines and try to educate them."

That education includes nursing their children if they are hungry.

The controversy started when Megan Dombi-Leis told The Capital that a female staff member at the gym told her she needed to cover up or move to the lobby if she wanted to feed her 11-month-old daughter.

Maryland is one of 45 states in the country with a law that gives mothers permission to nurse their children anywhere they are legally allowed to be with their kids, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

This is the first official complaint against the gym for breastfeeding since it opened in 2005, according to The Capital. Fisher said she has nursed her children on several occasions inside the gym and never had an issue.

Gym owner Don Darnes said that's because his gym and employees don't have an issue with breastfeeding mothers. 

"The one lady in questions was not actively breastfeeding at the time, but her breasts were exposed to a group of children," Darnes said. "It was not about breastfeeding; it was about exposure. It's really not a breastfeeding issue at all; she's just trying to make it one."

Darnes said his employee told him that her breasts were exposed for several minutes before the employee asked her to cover up.

Dombi-Leis said that's not what happened.

"I was feeding completely discreetly," Dombi-Leis said. "He wasn't even there at the time. He has no right to speak on that matter. Nothing was exposed and nothing was ever exposed."

Tiffani Jacques had her son at 1st Class Gymnastics that day and she also disagreed with Darnes' version of events.

"We were at the gym playing like we always do. She was just sitting in the middle of the floor in the baby section by herself with no one around, and she was nursing," Jacques said. "She hardly had anything showing. I don't know where this guy is coming from."

Dombi-Leis said she likes the gym and has breastfed there without incident for months. She would like to return to the gym, but that seems unlikely as Darnes has banned her from the property. Jacques said she won't be back now that Dombi-Leis has be banned.

Fisher took issue with an earlier statement made by gym owner Don Darnes to The Capital about Dombi-Leis' decorum, or lack thereof.

"It's kind of a really poor choice of words in my opinion to say that the mother isn’t being respectful of herself and others," Fisher said. "Nursing is not meant to draw attention to anyone. Moms don’t typically to try to get something out of it."

She said the nurse-in isn't meant to draw attention either. The group of about 25 women will meet with their children outside the gym and then go about their regular play date. If the children need to nurse, then they will nurse.

"I’m hoping that we don’t have any issues," Fisher said. "I know that I would like to continue going there. I know other moms in our playgroup would continue going there."

Darnes said nursing moms are welcome at his gym on Thursday and any other time they wish.

"In eight years, we have probably had more than 1,000 women in here breastfeeding. All the moms are welcome that want to come in here and breastfeed while they are playing; that's fine," Darnes said. "We've never had an issue, and we never will."

DanceMom August 25, 2012 at 05:41 PM
As the owner of a dance studio and a mother of a small child myself, I completely agree with the owner of the gym. I think this "nurse in" is a stupid and petty thing to do. All we ever her is how hard these stay at Mom's work and how they never have a free minute. I know I sure don't have the time to worry about things like this- I mean seriously, if you dont like the policies at this gym or you feel offended, move on. I'd be offended to be in class in Thursday as a non-nursing Mom! If this is your "normal routine", why do you need to plan it? Just go about your business as you would do normally, and kindly respect everyone by using a cover up. What's the problem with that?
S Kirby August 25, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Really? This is an issue between two people that should be handled in a more mature manner, which doesn't impact other people. It is a valid concern, but my outsider opinion is that this had been overblown. Someone wants attention, and revenge.
Tiffani August 25, 2012 at 11:15 PM
I don't understand why this man is defending his employee so much. He is completely incapable of admitting that just MAYBE theres a discrepency in the story somewhere. Many of the employees at this gym are youth who probably have very little understanding of breastfeeding. The very site of it even if she had been wearing a cover was probably enough to make *said* employee uncomfortable. If my employee came to me saying that a woman was feeding her baby then exposed her breast for several minutes before covering, I think I would pause and reflect on that before spreading it all over the media as the truth. Does he realize how long a minute is? Wouldn't EVERYONE at the gym notice if a woman was sitting there with her breast out at all, let alone for several minutes? It's just ridiculous that he didn't even question his employee and came right out with that as if it were the truth. And do people honestly believe that a breastfeeding mother is doing it for the attention or to be able to flaunt her breasts? To be honesest a woman with that mentality would probably not last for one week nursing their child. It's hard work and your breasts are NOT pretty those first few weeks!! S Kirby thank you for at least acknowledging that it's a valid concern. DanceMom, for nursing mothers and SAHM this is a very important matter! It can take months to master the nursing relationship with your child. It's very bewildering to have someone tell you that what you're doing is inappropriate..
Caitlin August 26, 2012 at 07:49 AM
The problem is that telling her to cover up or leave the room is against Maryland law. http://fha.dhmh.maryland.gov/wic/docs/YouHaveTheRightToBreastfeed.pdf This business cannot be allowed to establish policies which are against the law. You might wonder why it is so important that women be allowed to breastfeed without a cover. Firstly, some babies do not tolerate being covered, but those babies need to be fed too. Also, requiring a mom to carry a cover and use it wherever she goes ultimately makes breastfeeding harder than it already is for many women. It's harder to pull out a cover and nurse your baby under it while chasing a toddler around the grocery store than it is to skip the cover. Enough moms who want to breastfeed are unable to for various reasons and we don't need another obstacle to get in the way. Finally, the fact that breastfeeding offends some people does not mean that women have an obligation to cover up. Some people are offended by women driving, owning businesses, or wearing pants instead of skirts. Some activities are just too important to be stopped or altered because someone is offended. If we just "move on," a child will be unable to play at the gym just because someone doesn't like the way she is fed. Where's the justice in that?
Robin August 27, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Nursing a baby is a very natural event and every baby has the right to nurse from her mother. Sadely in our culture, apparently it is still seen as indecent and this is just heartbreaking. As far as covering up, breastfeeding is not always easy and often you need to watch the baby to be sure all is going well. I support the nurse-in100%! Our community must be more supportive!!!!!

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