Moms Disagree About Breastfeeding Incident at YMCA Toddler Gym Class

Kate Haslam says employees told her that the men in the class were uncomfortable with her nursing

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http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/portableplayer/?cmsID=380749871&videoID=65Vy1ls5zCyO&origin=nbcphiladelphia.com&sec=news&subsec=local&width=600&height=360A Pennsylvania mom is calling out her local YMCA for allegedly asking her to leave when she started breastfeeding her son during a toddler gym class, but other moms claim that’s not what happened and are coming to the defense of the YMCA.

Kate Haslam says her 19-month-old son West was hungry during his weekly toddler gym class at the Spring Valley YMCA in Limerick, so she sat on a balance beam along the wall to nurse him. Then, Haslam says, a female employee approached and told her to move outside the classroom.

“To be honest, I was in complete shock,” Haslam tells NBC10. “And [the employee’s] like, ‘There’s men in this class and they’re very uncomfortable with you nursing in here.’ And I said ‘That’s illegal, I’m allowed to nurse in here,’ and she said ‘No, you’re not.’ ”

Haslam says she was then told to nurse in the locker room, which is co-ed.

“It just kept getting deeper and deeper,” Haslam said. “That’s what’s upsetting. It was just such a weird thing. I told [the employee] the locker room is coed. They said, ‘Well, we have curtained areas.’ ”

Shaun Elliott, president and CEO of Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, who oversees the Spring Valley location, says the incident was a misunderstanding between Haslam and the employee.

“We followed up with our employee, and what had happened is that she had asked the mother to move, she was sitting on a balance beam, which was part of the class, and the mother took that to mean she wasn’t welcome to breastfeed, because she was breastfeeding at the time, and that was certainly not the intent of the employee,” Elliott tells PEOPLE.

“The employee that made the approach thought she was being very respectful, asking her to move off the equipment so the class could continue. Certainly it’s our intent to welcome women to breastfeed wherever they feel. To the extent that there’s been a miscommunication or a misunderstanding, we certainly apologize, because we’re all about family here.”

Elliott says the employee and the supervisor have since reached out to Haslam to apologize, and they will continue to train employees to be aware of the Pennsylvania law that allows women to breastfeed in public.

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While the Spring Valley YMCA Facebook page is filling up with people calling out the gym for shaming Haslam, there are also posts from people who say that they were in the class and verify Elliott’s side of the story.

“She was nursing on the balance beam and the little girl trying to use it could not get by her. She would not move,” says one woman. “As a matter of fact, the little girl had to get off the beam to get around her and got back on. The mother looked very annoyed that the little girl was even over there trying to use the equipment while she nursed.”

Another woman who says she was in the class agreed, adding, “This woman was sitting on a balance beam in the middle of a gymnastics class. She was asked to move so the kids could use the equipment. When she asked where she could go the employees politely gave her a list of places she could go. Well all she heard was locker room (which are not coed) and she flipped out. This is all a huge misunderstanding.”

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Haslam disagreed with Elliott’s explanation that she was just asked to move off the balance beam, saying she was only told to leave.

“But no one said that. I would’ve just moved, or sat on the floor, you know,” she said. “It wasn’t about the balance beam.”

Haslam hopes that the YMCA will better educate their staff on breastfeeding laws.

“This is a bump in the road, but I hope – I don’t wish anyone ill will – but I do hope they can make it a more friendly environment for families,” she says.

“It’s 2016, we shouldn’t even be talking about it.”

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