LA Fitness Bans Mom From Breastfeeding in Locker Room

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By Chelsea

Monique Golueke’s 9 month old and 2 year old sons

Monique Golueke’s 9 month old and 2 year old sons

When Monique Golueke was exercising at an Oceanside, California, LA Fitness last week, she was told her sons were having trouble settling down in the child care area. After collecting her 2 year old and her 9 month old baby from the “Kids Klub,” she took her two young boys to the women’s locker room, realizing she needed to breastfeed her baby. What followed has many of us mamas in disbelief. Breezy Mama shares her story.

After breastfeeding your baby in an LA Fitness, an employee told you that you weren’t allowed to feed your child in the women’s locker room and escorted you out. What happened next?

I was holding back tears as we walked through the lobby and I walked out the door. I took the boys outside where we waited for my friend to finish her step class. At that point I was so upset, infuriated and humiliated that I decided to take the boys outside. After my friend met us in front of the building, teary eyed and still in shock, we spoke about what happened. Then I went back in and asked the employee for her business card, she sat at a desk near the manager so I assumed she’d have some sort of contact info. Instead, she wrote down her name and phone number on a piece of paper. Come to find out that piece of paper has all of her employment information on it including the last 4 digits of her social, her address, her pay wage, amongst other personal information that I didn’t need. This just goes to show how under-trained the staff is at LA Fitness.

As someone who has breastfed 5 babies, I know it must have been awful to be treated that way by the LA Fitness staff! What was going through your mind and what did you do next?

I was still trying to process what had happened when the employee and I had reached the lobby. Being approached in such a vulnerable position and treated with such insincerity, I felt I was going to come unglued. I was either going to burst into tears and have a complete meltdown or I was going to let my fury run wild and possibly flip the entire gym upside down. At that time, I realized it was best if I just walk out. I didn’t talk with the manager about my frustrations, I had already dealt with enough. It wasn’t until after I had reported the incident to corporate that I spoke with him about the incident. He came at me with a huge, pompous attitude and told me that if I ever wanted to return to LA Fitness, I was welcome to nurse my baby in the kid’s club restroom. That was the exact thing the female employee who escorted me out of the locker room told me. After the manager said that, I told him that he clearly didn’t understand the legality of the situation. The conversation was over. So, I called corporate back and told them what he said, they were apologetic and explained that if they needed to contact me they would.

It was great to hear other moms held a “nurse-in” in front of LA Fitness on Friday after hearing your story! How did that come about?

I had nothing to do with organizing the Nurse-in. Word spread like wildfire on FB [Facebook] and a group of Moms took it upon themselves to get together. I didn’t even know about it until about 10:30pm the night before.

It just goes to show how supportive the community can really be. I was so touched that neighbors, friends and complete strangers came out to show support and stand up for something they truly believe in.

I saw your story and the coverage of the “nurse-in” on 10 News San Diego. How did that come about?

Just after the incident occurred, I contacted my local LLL [La Leche League] representative. From there I spoke with two other lactation consultants and breastfeeding activists who suggested I share my story.

How has all the moms rallying around you made you feel?

Made me realize that I am not alone and that it is important to stick up for yourself. Complete strangers are willing to organize themselves to promote fairness and social change.

Has LA Fitness gotten in touch with you?

I received a phone call from LA Fitness the day after–I expected an apology. Sadly, it was the trainer who was assigned to me (being that I was new member), he was hoping to set up an appointment for us to work out. He left a voicemail, I never actually spoke with him.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I had no idea children weren’t allowed in the locker room. I never would have taken them in there, had I known. Considering they were in a day care like environment, I took them out of the Kid’s Club and into the locker room to wash their hands. My 9 month old was still fussy and seemed hungry so I nursed him, meanwhile my 2 year old watched Trash Truck videos on my phone. (Not the best thing for kids to do but he was seated next to me and occupied).

Anyway, I’m happy that I decided to seek advice from LLL and go public with the incident. I hope for change in the future, relative to large corporations like LA Fitness and in society in general. I feel strongly that if a place provides child care they should be accommodating to nursing mothers. It’s simple.
I feel like this issue amongst others leads to further the acknowledgement of other important concerns in society, like the fact that there aren’t any changing tables in any men’s restrooms. Yes, my husband gets out of changing a lot of diapers but I am more addressing the issue in regards to single fathers and same sex fathers. Where are they supposed to help their babies?

On another note however, as my friend and I discussed, LA Fitness needs to realize these points. This is quoted from her on FB:

“1) There needs to be signs that say ‘no children beyond this point.’
2) There needs to be signs in the locker room saying ‘no children in locker room.’
3) They need to recognize that their employees and management handled the situation indelicately and in the future offer a space to breastfeed in the lobby or cafe seating… NOT THE RESTROOM.
Even as Jill Grueling stated (which is a lie) they offered you space in the kids club. Well, make that lie a truth and put a chair or two in a sectioned off corner of the kids club.
Their continued adamant statement of no kids in the locker room is just missing the main point!”

Breastfeeding: The First 6 Weeks

Breastfeeding: The First 6 WeeksBreastfeeding: Surviving the First 6 Weeks

Breastfeeding resources always tell you stick it out for 6 weeks. To a new mother, the first six weeks are so difficult and if you are having a hard time with breastfeeding 6 weeks can seem like an eternity. So what’s up with continuing to try it through the whole six weeks even if it is not going well? A lot of things actually…

Your Body Is Healing

Delivering a baby, either vaginally or by c-section is a big deal! Your body takes a while to fully heal from it. Any time your body is healing it takes a lot out of you physically and emotionally. If you can stick it out, nursing your baby with a fully recovered body could change the experience dramatically. You will feel better and surely have more patience for anything breastfeeding brings.

Hormones are Changing

Those darn hormones cause all kinds of problems in a woman’s life. After delivering a baby they change yet again and we all know what kind of effect raging hormones have on us. They cause us to be extra emotional….a bad combination with all of the other things you are getting adjusted to. By waiting until your hormone levels have balanced themselves back out, you are giving yourself a real mental chance at handling breastfeeding. Once hormone levels are stable you might also enjoy breastfeeding on a deeper level and find it easier to bond and connect with your baby.

Exhaustion Has Set In

By the time you have delivered your beautiful baby, chances are you are exhausted. Definitely by the end of day two with your new bundle of joy sleep takes on a whole new meaning. Waking up multiple times a night with a crying baby and never getting time to catch up on sleep is extremely taxing….possibly one of the hardest parts about having a newborn. You do get used to running on no sleep, but it takes a while (especially when your body is requiring extra energy to heal). Lack of sleep can surely put you in a bad mood, limit your patience and cause every little thing to make you cry. Any complication with breastfeeding can feel like a huge mountain, when in reality it can be a tiny something, or even nothing at all!

Some women, desperate for sleep, understandably want their husbands to pitch in and handle some of the night feedings and may feel as though they have to carry all of the burden because they are breastfeeding. While it is important for a mother to nurse often in the beginning, by the time your baby is 4 weeks old, you can (and should) pump and introduce your baby to a bottle. Hang in there until that 4 week mark and you can share the feeding responsibility with dad (or anyone else who wants to help).

You and Your Baby are Learning

Although completely natural and something God designed us for, breastfeeding isn’t a piece of cake. It takes a lot of learning and practice for both you and your baby to get the hang of it. Many women complain of pain and discomfort and the only reason for that would be an improper latch. With tweaking, practice and help any mother can figure it out, though and find the secret to pain-free breastfeeding. And, luckily, this is something that should not take 6 weeks to figure out. If the first few days are awful, keep seeking help from a lactation consultant until you determine what is wrong with your latch and you will soon have it mastered. A baby knows how to suck, but she doesn’t know the best ways to latch on either. It takes time and patience and teaching her how to do it, too. Give it a little time and you with both have a grasp on how to achieve the perfect latch.

You Might Be a Basket Case and Filled With Worry

Bringing a new baby home is stressful! It is natural to worry about every little thing, and many breastfeeding mothers are convinced that their baby is not getting enough to eat. They fear they have an issue with their milk supply and that they cannot provide all of what their baby needs to survive. While there can be some instances where this is true, in fact only about 5% of women have a true issue with milk supply. The reality is that babies don’t require much at first and your body is wired to perfectly provide your baby with all that she needs, throughout the entire time you breastfeed. The amount of milk you produce and even the breakdown of your milk’s components will change to match what your baby needs (this is why breastfed babies do not have to keep on increasing the number of ounces they consume…the milk matches their caloric/fat needs). If you have a proper latch and feed your baby when she is hungry, she IS getting enough. More than likely, by the time you reach the six week mark you will have gotten used to having a newborn around and you won’t be worrying quite as much.

The Magic of the 6 Week Mark

I was dead set on breastfeeding from the beginning. I had a hard time picturing myself nursing before my baby was born, but because of the health benefits, bonding and cost my husband and I both felt strongly that breastfeeding was something we would do for the first year. I told myself early on that no issue or struggle would cause me to quit. Even with this passion for breastfeeding, I got very annoyed with nursing my baby in those first 6 weeks. I would be annoyed with the latch and overthink they way everything needed to be. I never had any major problems or even sore nipples, but I was not able to enjoy breastfeeding during those first six weeks. Since I was so committed to breastfeeding I thought for sure I would like it from the start, but I truly didn’t! It was like a light switch, though, when I reached that six week mark. Out of nowhere, breastfeeding became a great experience and all of my annoyances ceased.

When I think about mothers who don’t have a good support system or who go into breastfeeding timidly I get worried. It is so hard to go into it thinking that you will try it and do it if you like it, because chances are you won’t….unless you stick it out and give it a try once you have gotten through the battles of the first six weeks. Six weeks is kind of a long time, especially when you are physically and mentally drained. But, the best thing you can do for you and your baby is hang in there!! If you are having problems and struggling to make it through to the six week mark get support. Not enough can be said for the value of a support system. Whether it is family, friends or a nursing support group (which can be found through local hospitals, doctors or La Leche League), being able to talk with people that can understand what you are going through, offer you advice and/or be your cheerleader, can do amazing things to get you through to the end.

I am so sure of the magic of the six week mark, that if you are struggling to get through it and you need some support, give me a shout. I will do everything I can to help you through it so you can get to the prize and have a successful, happy experience as a proud, nursing mother!

Society’s Knowledge of Breastfeeding

Society's (Lack Of) Knowledge of BreastfeedingSociety’s (Lack Of) Knowledge of Breastfeeding

I continue to be amazed at the lack of knowledge that many women have regarding breastfeeding. As a breastfeeding mother, I have heard numerous questions and comments implying that breastfeeding needs to be supplemented with formula, that it is painful and that the sooner you can be done with it the better. I believe this lack of knowledge is a result of cultural trends for formula feeding in the 70’s. By the early 1970s, over 75% of babies in the United States were fed on formulas, almost entirely commercially produced. With so many mothers opting to feed formula over breast milk, who was able to pass on breastfeeding facts and secrets? Primarily, a mother would pass this on to their daughters and since such widespread popularity of formula was less than 40 years ago, our generation of mothers is suffering.

When The Trends Changed

My mom breastfed two of her three children. She wanted to breastfeed her first baby, but all of her family and even her doctors discouraged her! They told her that it would be too hard for her and that she just needed to feed formula. Reluctantly she listened to their advice and regrets it today. She did what she wanted and breastfed her second two babies and loved every single aspect of it. Looking back she knows that she could have easily handled breastfeeding her first child too. It seems absurd that people, especially doctors, would discourage a mother to breastfeed, but that is the result of such strong cultural trends. My mother’s generation was largely formula fed — people got used to seeing babies bottle fed and hearing repeated arguments for formula feeding and against breastfeeding. So, our mothers were formula fed and encouraged to formula feed their children, therefore many still recommend formula over breastfeeding today.

Since most of our mothers and grandmothers fed formula, they really don’t know very much about breastfeeding at all. They were not taught all of the benefits of breast milk over formula and they certainly don’t know the “secrets” of a good latch which is necessary for successful and pain-free nursing. So, for many mothers, unless we are hungry for knowledge, researching and educating ourselves on breastfeeding we will not learn the breastfeeding truths. And maybe even more detrimental is that mothers today might struggle to find a support team within their own family. Having a new baby, learning the ropes of motherhood and getting the hang of breastfeeding is no easy task. Having a family that can relate and encourage you to stick it out can increase a mother’s chance of continuing to breastfeed during the most difficult first few weeks.

Reasons Women Don’t Breastfeed

I have noticed (and felt myself) among women is a general discomfort or uneasiness at the thought of a baby actually nursing on you. While it is a hard thing to imagine, a big reason we must feel this way is that simply have not been exposed to enough nursing mothers. I believe that if we had seen more images of women nursing (not necessarily bare-breasted) in the media and of course within our our families, we would be more comfortable with the concept. Instead, the media always shows babies being bottle fed and nursing mothers in public are criticized. I myself am not comfortable breastfeeding in public, but I think if a woman chooses to do so (hopefully covering herself with a nursing wrap) then it should be considered acceptable.

Despite what many people think, there are few medical reasons to use infant formula; breastfeeding is suitable for most mothers and babies. Some mothers are unable to breastfeed, and others choose not to breastfeed, or choose to combine breastfeeding with formula-feeding. Their reasons for choosing alternatives to exclusive breastfeeding include:

  • The mother’s health: The mother is infected with HIV or tuberculosis. She is malnourished or has had certain kinds of breast surgery. She is taking any kind of drug that could harm the baby, or drinks unsafe levels of alcohol. The mother is extremely ill.
  • The baby is unable to breastfeed: The child has a birth defect or inborn error of metabolism such as galactosemia that makes breastfeeding difficult or impossible.
  • Labor/Delivery was difficult: Labor and delivery can be long and exhausting (especially with the rise of inductions). Mothers may feel too tired and overwhelmed to try breastfeeding. It feels easier to feed formula and let the baby go to the nursery for undisturbed sleep.
  • Personal preferences and beliefs: The mother may dislike breast-feeding or think it inconvenient. She may feel that breasts are too sexual for a baby, or that bottle-feeding will increase the father’s role in parenting his child.
  • Absence of the mother: The child is adopted, orphaned, or in the sole custody of a man. The mother is separated from her child by being in prison or a mental hospital. The mother has left the child in the care of another person for an extended period of time, such as while traveling or working abroad. The mother has abandoned the child.
  • Food allergies: The mother eats foods that may provoke an allergic reaction in the infant.
  • Financial pressures: Maternity leave is unpaid, insufficient, or lacking. The mother’s employment interferes with breastfeeding.
  • Societal structure: Breastfeeding may be forbidden at the mother’s job, school, place of worship or in other public places, or the mother may feel that breastfeeding in these places or around other people is immodest, unsanitary, or inappropriate.
  • Social pressures: Family members, such as mother’s husband or boyfriend, or friends or other members of society may encourage the use of infant formula. For example, they may believe that breastfeeding will decrease the mother’s energy, health, or attractiveness.
  • Lack of training: The mother is not trained sufficiently to breastfeed without pain and to produce enough milk.
  • Lactation insufficiency: The mother is unable to produce sufficient milk. This only affects around 2 to 5% of women. Alternatively, despite a healthy supply, the woman or her family may incorrectly believe that her breast milk is of low quality or in low supply. These women may choose infant formula either exclusively or as a supplement to breast-feeding.
  • Opposition to other sources of breastmilk:
    • Lack of refrigeration: Expressed breast milk requires refrigeration if not immediately consumed.
    • Lack of wet nurses: Wet nursing is illegal and stigmatized in some countries, and may not be available. It may also be socially unsupported, expensive, or health screening of wet nurses may not be available. The mother, her doctor, or family may not know that wet nursing is possible, or may believe that nursing by a relative or paid wet-nurse is unhygienic.
    • Lack of milk banks: Human-milk banks may not be available, as few exist, and many countries cannot provide the necessary screening for diseases and refrigeration.

A Time For Change

There are ways around some of the above mentioned reasons for not breastfeeding and could be solved with an increase of knowledge. It is my hope that breastfeeding is on a huge rise and that our society can turn into one that knows the true facts of breastfeeding. It is up to our generation to become educated by taking classes, reading books and turning to breastfeeding organizations. Breastfeeding has such unbelievable benefits for babies and mothers that it should not be neglected or underrated. Sadly, many untruths of breastfeeding have actually become “common (false) knowledge” and it is time to clear up the facts.

Breastfeeding is the best gift a mother can give to her baby (and herself) and it is up to us to change our society to one that embraces it!

Recommended Reading

To learn more about breastfeeding and proper techniques, we recommend Dr. Jack Newman’s book, The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers.