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."