The TED Talks organization is facing criticism for asking a breastfeeding mom to leave the TEDWomen conference for violating its “grownups-only” policy.
Liza Morris was unaware of the rule when she signed up for the conference, which aims to empower “women and girls to be creators and change-makers,” according to the website. As a working mom herself, Morris needed to bring her 3-month-old daughter to the presentations so she could breastfeed.
“When you have a baby this young, it’s not really a choice,” Morris, a D.C.-based strategy and communications consultant, explained to Quartz.
The new mom said she had missed an email where TED explained the no-baby policy, which had come under fire the previous year when another attendee complained about the rules on Twitter.
In response, the TEDWomen conference made substantial changes this year to accommodate nursing moms. It offered a lactation room, free shipping of breastmilk, a list of possible caregivers and a hotel suite where attendees could watch the conference via livestream. But it still enforced the grownups-only policy.
“That’s because, simply put, our attendees have been vocal about us maintaining it,” the TED staff explained in a statement shared with PEOPLE. “But in our attempt to accommodate all our audiences, we fell short: A newborn was turned away from TEDWomen last week, and the disappointed mother wondered how an organization like TED could leave her with so few options.”
Morris says she didn’t check the policy ahead of time because she didn’t consider it a potential issue.
“It’s never even occurred to me that I couldn’t take my baby. If I had been aware [of TED’s policy], I certainly would have tried to cancel,” she says. “But I have to clarify that when I have a child at a venue, I will never let her disturb anyone.”
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Morris spent the rest of the day in the lactation room, which she describes as a tight, windowless area that also stored the venue’s piano. Ironically, a lactation researcher was giving a talk at the same time about the emotional and physical benefits of breastfeeding.
And Morris wasn’t the only breastfeeding mom being barred from a conference meant to empower working women. Just a few days later, Britni de la Cretaz faced the same issue at BinderCon — a symposium for female and gender non-conforming writers — where she was invited to speak.
“My panel is the only 1 I’ll be able to attend. #BinderCon will not allow me to bring my 6 week old nursing infant on-site, citing 18+ policy,” de la Cretaz tweeted after others started sharing her story, adding that the conference offered her a $250 child care stipend, which wasn’t enough to cover the entire weekend.
“I had to make a decision between attending a professional event & having access 2 career boosting connections & caring 4 my child #BinderCon.”
In response, BinderCon held an additional session for attendees to discuss the 18+ age policy — which de la Cretaz says she chose not to attend.
It’s a subject that continues to stump conference organizers. TEDWomen, for one, says it will continue looking for a solution.
“We haven’t figured this out yet, but we are trying — and listening. We’ve been in touch with parents from this event and others to help us take a hard look at how we can better support parents of babies and small children. We recognize the importance of getting this right. Stay tuned.”