Editor’s Note: We attempted to write this story with a fair representation of both parties on an issue where there is no recording of a discussion that took place between two parties. The incident was posted on Social Media and generated a high amount of traffic for an area our size. The situation did lead to an important discussion and training on breastfeeding in public.
A Social Media post concerning an alleged breastfeeding incident at the Vandalia Area Aquatic Center on June 6 led to much discussion on mothers nursing their children in the pool area.
Louisiana resident Alix Gutherie publicly complained about an alleged incident on an unofficial City of Vandalia Facebook page. Her post had nearly 250 reactions and was shared 202 times featuring several comments showing support for Gutherie and other moms who breastfeed their children.
In her post, Gutherie claimed she was approached by pool management reportedly due to a few kids saying they were embarrassed by her nursing her 4-month-old son.
Gutherie told “The Vandalia Leader” she was under an umbrella in a corner facing the pool when she was nursing. Gutherie was also at the pool with her 2-year-old daughter.
She noted that she did not “cover up” while she was feeding due to temperatures being in the 90s.
Gutherie claims she didn’t expose herself and no more flesh was shown than what might be seen by other women wearing swimsuits at the pool.
The situation then turns into a conflict of what may have been said versus what may not have been said to Gutherie by management.
She claims she was told to “cover up” the next time she fed her son and that it was “illegal” otherwise. The city denies her claims.
Regardless of what was said, Gutherie felt strong enough about the incident that she took her complaint to Social Media and shared her feelings with several friends and other breastfeeding moms.
This resulted in a phone call to the city by Leah Diffey, the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor with the Pike County Health Department.
Diffey said she learned of the incident through Social Media and reached out to City Administrator Darren Berry on Thursday morning to offer her services.
Berry returned her call that day and asked Diffey to attend a staff meeting this past Monday.
Diffey turned to Social Media with her thoughts after making a presentation to the staff at the Vandalia Area Aquatic Center.
“Today I had the pleasure of speaking to the entire staff of the Vandalia Pool and some of the city administration concerning breastfeeding law and the best way to handle circumstances if patrons feel uncomfortable,” she noted. “I am so thankful that the city invited me to share about the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of supporting nursing moms. I received good questions and we had a nice discussion that hopefully cleared up any misunderstandings. Breastfeeding mothers are welcome at this establishment and I am confident that they will
feel comfortable to enjoy the pool with their families.”
Diffey said her presentation includes a focus on the health benefits of mothers breastfeeding their children. By telling folks of the benefits, Diffey said it “normalizes” breastfeeding to those she’s talking to.
She noted that one of the hang ups in the Missouri State Law relates to it saying the two words, “with discretion” in regards to a mom breastfeeding her child in any public or private location where a mother is authorized to be.
Diffey said some folks interpret “with discretion” means the mom must cover up. But she also noted that moms might say it’s most fitting for them to not be covered.
The law also says a breastfeeding mom is not to be considered an “act of public indecency, indecent exposure, sexual conduct, lewd touching, or obscenity or any other similar term for purposes of state or municipal law…”
Diffey said in her presentation, she typically tells businesses and their staffs that moms don’t want any attention.
Diffey has served in her capacity with PCHD for more than four and a half years.
If your business or organizations would like Diffey to make a presentation, reach her at PCHD by calling 573-324-2111.
Those interested can also reach her on her Facebook page “PCHD Breastfeeding Support Group.”