CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Complaints about a woman breastfeeding at a popular Charlotte YMCA has the center looking for alternatives and the mother pretty upset about the way things have been handled.
She said she was asked not to nurse at the childcare center at all.
Jenn Youakim is a stay-at-home mother of four who loves her workout time at the Dowd YMCA.
She said she’s normally at the Y five times a week, and she often drops her kids off at the childcare center there.
“So to go there so frequently and have something like this happen is upsetting,” Youakim said.
She's angry about an email from the Dowd YMCA child care coordinator asking her to refrain from breastfeeding after several members complained.
“I was in the childcare room and to hear that that is unacceptable and I need to refrain from doing it, it was just a harsh way to say it in a place where--of all places--you would think it would be ok to do it,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the YMCA admitted that a staffer mishandled communicating with Youakim, but Jen Wendt said lots of women nurse at the Dilworth center--they just expect moms to cover up.
“Overall, we just ask that women use modesty because there are other members here, especially in the childwatch area--it goes up to age 10,” Wendt said.
Youakim said she has always been discrete.
“I would go off to the side or in a chair and I usually had an athletic towel with me and kind of drape it over me, and in the words of the director, he even noted that I was discreet from his understanding of it. I definitely don’t like to be exposed in public,” Youakim said. “She’s a baby and if she’s hungry, you just sit down in the corner, throw a towel over you and feed her. It’s just plain and simple. She’s a baby and that’s how she eats.”
A spokeswoman for the YMCA told NewsChannel 36 that they asked Youakim to nurse in the family locker room near the pool and they are working on other, more comfortable options for moms.
After NewsChannel 36's story aired Friday afternoon, YMCA received several phone calls and emailed the following statement to our newsroom:
A response from the Y regarding breastfeeding:
As an organization committed to providing programs that support and strengthen the health of women and children, the Y fully supports a mother’s right and need to nurse her baby wherever and whenever she wants. At the Y, we believe that breastfeeding is the best and healthiest way to begin life for babies (and their moms).
Unfortunately, in response to complaints from other moms using drop in care at the Dowd YMCA, a message was sent to one of our members that does not represent the Y’s position or practice regarding breastfeeding in our facilities. We deeply regret this miscommunication and have apologized to the mother. In a face-to-face meeting, we also asked her to provide us with her ideas on how we can provide greater support for her and other nursing mothers. We have also reached out to other Y parents and families in the community for additional input and guidance.
Many moms have expressed to us that they have always felt comfortable breastfeeding in our Ys and we hope moms continue to feel welcomed and supported. We are committed to making every effort to make sure they do.
This miscommunication helped us recognize a need for greater sensitivity and knowledge among our staff of a mother’s rights to breastfeed. We have shared our position with staff at the Dowd branch and will address this across our association.
As we have apologized to the mom interviewed in the news story, we sincerely apologize to anyone offended by this miscommunication.