An incident at the Mora Aquatic Center regarding public breastfeeding sparked a social media firestorm and prompted mothers to organize a peaceful “nurse-in” demonstration at the pool.

On Wednesday, July 18, pool staff called the Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office for assistance with a conflict between pool-goers centered around two mothers breastfeeding their children near the shallow swimming area.

Stephanie Buchanan said she was at the pool with her sister-in-law, Mary Davis, and their children. When her 3-month-old son became hungry, she lowered the strap of her one-piece swimsuit and began to breastfeed him.

Buchanan said she was approached by a woman who was upset and told her to cover up.

“I was so taken aback I didn’t even have the opportunity to react,” she said.

Buchanan said she ignored the complaint and continued to feed her baby. A few minutes later, she was approached by a young staff member. Buchanan said the staff member was polite, but asked her to cover up or go in the locker room. Buchanan retorted that the law protected her choice to breastfeed in public and the staff member left.

Soon after, Buchanan was getting ready to leave when she was surprised to see Sergeant Dylan VanGorden approaching her. Buchanan said VanGorden expressed to her that she was not being asked to leave, but staff would ask her to leave if she wasn’t more discrete.

According to Sergeant Dylan VanGorden, when he arrived he explained to those present that under the law, the mothers had a protected right to breastfeed and they were not being asked to leave.

“These moms were very polite and respectful, but they were very aware they had the right to do what they were doing. And they did,” VanGorden said. VanGorden said that to his knowledge, the mothers had at no point been asked to leave by city staff; the tension centered around the mothers and other pool customers.

“I was so humiliated,” Buchanan said. “Everyone was staring at us at the pool. I went home and cried to my husband. I have never, ever, had this happen before. It was just unbelievable. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It just kept getting worse.”

Buchanan said that as she left the pool, 8-10 moms who had witnessed what happened approached Buchanan to offer support.

At approximately 1:50 p.m. Thursday, the city of Mora released the following statement:

“The City of Mora and Mora Aquatic Center (MAC) strive to create an environment comfortable for all. While we always have supported nursing mothers, the situation inside of the kiddie pool made many patrons uncomfortable. Our staff politely asked them to be more discrete or relocate to another area at the MAC. When they did not, it created an untenable situation and our public safety team was brought in to assist the MAC staff. Neither women were asked to leave the facility. We apologize to Ms. Ellingson-Buchanan and Ms. Davis if they were offended by how they were treated. Although we cannot anticipate all possible scenarios, City policies and procedures will be reviewed and revised as deemed necessary.”

The law

Minnesota State Statute 145.905 protects the rights of mothers to breastfeed. The statute reads: “A mother may breast-feed in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast-feeding.”

Nurse-In

Accounts of what took place spread like wildfire on social media, many expressing support for breastfeeding mothers and outrage that the act of breastfeeding caused a reaction from other pool patrons leading to a call to the sheriff’s office.

In response, mothers organized a peaceful demonstration to draw awareness to breastfeeding rights. The event is being called the Poolside Nurse-In. Organizers have invited moms to meet outside the Mora Aquatic Center at noon on Saturday, July 21, to nurse their babies and show support for breastfeeding moms.

The description of the event as posted on Facebook reads:

“This Nurse-In is a PEACEFUL demonstration that us Mamas can and will nurse when we want and where we want. ... This is about our legal right to nurse in public as a result of our decision to breastfeed (not about a debate of formula vs. breastmilk) ...

“This is not a personal attack on the pool, its staff, or the police ... We just want to normalize breastfeeding and bring some awareness to this.”

(4) comments

Joe Blow

I  think most everyone supports a womans right to feed her baby when it is hungry.
I think it is rather comical that anyone thinks this “nurse-in” is going to change anything though. You don't get respect by trying to force it or shove it down peoples throats.

I also believe the timing of this is terrible. This all came about due to one or two people crying about being complained about. These 2 were NOT complained about by men, boys, etc. These 2 were complained about by OTHER MOTHERS. I wasn't there(as most of you weren't) but when other mothers are the ones complaining I have to believe that there were lines being crossed. Yes you have the right to do it whenever, wherever and however you want BUT having the right doesn’t necessarily make it right to do everything without any consideration for others. I've seen MANY women nursing there and theres never been a problem before….so again I have to believe there is more to the story. Having a little common sense and decency goes a long ways.

Another problem was that so many people jumped on the cops so fast without even knowing the facts and hearing both sides of the story.. The cops have to show up when they are called and a complaint has been made. They DID NOT ask/tell anyone to leave. They just tried to keep the peace as they are supposed to do.

These 2 women obviously like to push boundaries and cause an uproar. All the women that joined them without even knowing the facts backed them up to cause a big thing about nothing. Too many people want to believe they are victims of something all the time. As stated before MANY MANY women have breast fed there for MANY years without any problems. Other mothers are the ones who were complaining. Anyone with an once of common sense can see they are just looking to cause a scene and get retaliation for self perceived victimhood.
The timing of this "nurse-in" shows support for people like that. Everyone who showed up and supports that, was led around like sheep. People want to feel like they stand for something so bad that they jump on board before even truly knowing what they are completely standing for.

This is pushed way out of proportion from what it needs to be. No one ever said not to feed babies. It’s a couple people that wanted to pretend to be victims to get attention ...... and a payday..... and all these sheep parade along as if they have rings in their noses..... or in this case their nipples.

Again, I agree with being able to breastfeed when your baby is hungry. Almost everyone does. Showing up at an event just to do it doesn't prove or fix anything. Certainly doesn't "normalize" it. It actually made more of a joke out of it.

If this is going to court(which I’ve heard it is) then they should close down the pool.

Michelle Lee

Those poor babies.There has been such hot and humid weather conditions as of recent in the town of Mora. And being it already is a law, I'm wondering what the urgent need is for a demonstration that involves the babies. It seems unfair. I hope I am wrong and these mothers are not actually expecting to breastfeed publicly at the same time. It would seem like a force feeding to me, if that indeed is what the demonstration is about. And repeating the fact it is already a law, why involve the children?

Scott Alexander

Nursing moms who like going to the pool can bring their nursing children. A nurse-in happens to remind the local community of the law and to “normalize” breastfeeding in public (although before the formula milk industry took off it used to be so common that no one cared), because many people who think women’s breasts are only and always sexual don’t know the law and need to learn that nursing in public is no big deal and is good for moms, their children, and society. The WHO, AAP, US Surgeon General, and many state legislatures support and affirm this. And you have to have nursing children at a nurse-in. It’s not force feeding; the nursing only happens when the nursing child is hungry (the younger they are, the more often they nurse).

Michelle Lee

Thank you for the explanation in your first sentence. It sounds like a nice afternoon, organized for mothers who want to share this time together. It will, however, not normalize it for those who do not attend or pay attention to the event. If that is an objective of the Nurse Inn, its already a miss. And it certainly does not mean that everyone or even anyone, who does not go or agree on all the same public places to breastfeed, would than surely associate bare breasts with the topic of sex. If however the Nurse Inn's demonstration is taking place, to possibly address the general public with education in areas of breasfeeding, than that could turn out to make a point that is important. Though those unfirmiliar with a woman's bare breasts in public feeding situations, may not attend. They may not personally understand what being a part of the Nurse Inn, would possibly have to do with them. It could be hard to draw anyone targeted for education, if that is the purpose for Nurse Inn, considering the active demonstration that's now been planned ahead. This would not, for certain be insult to the topic. It may just be a personal choice not in not caring one way or the other, as long as laws are not broken. Either way, I am hoping all the conditions are good and fair for all the children. Especially those who may now show up just to swim. Those too, who are unaware of the Nurse Inn and breastfeeding mothers. I'm hoping everyone stays focused on pool safety in regards to what's familiar and normaly practiced around the pool.This of course would be in support of poolside conditions that promote a safe and unalarming experience for the beginner swimmer as well. As a competitive swimmer who has swam hard for the state of Minnesota, I know all to well the dangers one unexpected gulp of water inhaled at an untimely moment can produce. Good Luck and Good Night.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.