GLADSTONE, Mo. -- A mom says what happened to her last week was embarrassing and made her feel like she was doing something wrong. She said she was asked to leave the Gladstone Community Center pool because she was nursing her baby.
“I'm hoping other mothers won’t have to feel ashamed or uncomfortable or offended just because they're feeding their baby,” Andrea Valley said.
Valley's trip to the pool to cool off from the heat left her steaming because she said a teenage lifeguard told her she couldn’t breastfeed her baby in public. When her eight-month-old Kai is ready to eat, Valley says her priority is to nurse him.
“I was settling him and the lifeguard came over and said, ‘if you are going to breastfeed, could you do it in the changing room?’ I said, 'no,' and he said, ‘could you use a towel and cover up?’ I said, 'no,'” she explained.
Valley says it was too hot to cover her son's head, plus she says the pool was practically empty with two other mothers and their children.
“(I asked) what's the problem, and he said, ‘no one's complained, but someone might complain or walk through and see you,'” Valley said.
In Kansas and Missouri breastfeeding is permitted in public.
“They are completely welcome in any of our facilities, parks and any of our events; and they can breastfeed as they see fit,” Sheila Lillis, Gladstone Parks and Recreation Director, said.
Lillis said the teenage lifeguard wasn't aware of the law and didn’t intend to offend Valley.
“I think he was trying to make it a comfortable situation and not knowing it was uncomfortable in what he was doing,” Valley said.
Lillis said what happened to Valley is ironic because Gladstone was recognized this year by the state of Missouri and a parenting coalition for having a breastfeeding friendly workplace. The city says it’s using this experience as a training tool to make sure it never happens to anyone again.