Breastfeeding mom banished to gym bathroom shares reason: 'A man walked by'

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer

The mom of a 1-year-old who was asked to breastfeed her daughter in her gym’s bathroom has spoken out, prompting swift local action that included an apology from management and a nurse-in by supportive mothers.

“I’ve been assured that the company intends to retrain all employees with regards to breastfeeding laws, and the front desk operator will definitely not be asking future breastfeeding moms to nurse in the restroom,” Ruha Tacey, of Athens, Ala., tells Yahoo Beauty about the incident she found so upsetting that she canceled her gym membership at SportsFit on the spot. “The regional manager apologized to me on behalf of the company and regrets that I was made to feel unwelcome and/or ashamed.”

The trouble began on Monday, when Tacey tried hitting the gym for the first time since having her daughter. When her baby had a hard time in the childcare room, Tacey sat there and breastfed her, as she explained in a “bummed” Facebook post on Tuesday.

“She was still distressed when I tried to leave again, so we left and came back this morning,” she wrote. “When I badged into the front door, the very friendly guy at the front desk said, ‘Hey, can I talk to you about something really quick? In terms of feeding your child, when you need to do that, could you just use the restroom?’ The restroom? I asked. I have absolutely never been asked to do that, I said. ‘Well, we’re a family friendly facility, you see, and yesterday while you were feeding her a man walked by the window.’”

Tacey and her daughter, left, found support from other breastfeeding moms in Alabama. (Photo: Courtesy of Tacey Ruha)

Tacey’s post continued, “I told him a man shouldn’t feel shame when he sees a woman breastfeeding. And especially if you’re family friendly, you should be super-pro breastfeeding! He said, ‘I’m not telling you not to breastfeed, I just think a little discretion is in order.’ What a shame, I said. Can I cancel my membership?”

She added, “It’s hard enough getting to the gym and trying to work out despite a child with lots of separation anxiety.”

Beyond that, the gym employee’s request was against the law, as Alabama Code Section 22 1-13 allows for breastfeeding in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.

On Wednesday morning, a handful of moms joined Tacey to send a message to the gym with a “nurse-in,” she says, adding that she regrets the gym taking such a beating in the local press, when the situation was really the fault of one employee and his immediate supervisor.

Yahoo Beauty could not reach anyone at the gym by phone (which appeared to not be working properly on Wednesday) and did not receive a reply to the email sent to the company for comment.

Tacey, while not “100 percent satisfied,” as “the front desk operator wasn’t prepared to apologize yet,” says she’s feeling much better about the whole ordeal.

“The main message I’d like to get across to the public,” she says, “is that breastfeeding is natural, it’s normal, and it is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Individuals are welcome to have their own opinions about whether a nursing mother offends them, but I would hope that they could think of the child first.”

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