It seems a local mom was asked by a staff member of Currents to breastfeed her child in the bathroom this week. The mom protested, but the staff insisted that she stop breastfeeding in public.

Knowing her rights, the mom complained to Missoula Parks and Rec, which issued a prompt apology and pledged to correct the problem by running staff through training.

The three e-mails copied below should serve as an important reminder to parents to know the laws about breastfeeding in Montana. I know there was a time when I, as a new mom, felt rather meek about stuff like this. Time was, I would have obeyed the lifeguard at Current unquestioningly, and slunk off to the bathroom to nurse my baby. I am so thankful was have moms like Kris Laroche to stand up for all of us.

I also hope the conversation will serve as a reminder to businesses, agencies and organizations – both public and private – to brush up on Montana’s breastfeeding laws as well. It’s not enough just to post a sign in the window declaring your support of breastfeeding. You have to make sure you – and your employees – understand what that means. And that includes making it clear that moms have the right to breastfeed their babies in public places.

– MM

Dear Ms. Kinsey:

I am writing to you to inform you of a discouraging experience at one of the Missoula Parks and Recreation Facilities. Yesterday, July 21, 2010, during a visit to Currents with my two children, I was asked to stop breastfeeding my daughter while we sat in the chairs beside the pool waiting for Recreational swim time to begin. The lifeguard asked me to leave the public area and go to the family bathroom if I wanted to continue. When I asked to speak to her supervisor, the Head Guard came over, introduced himself and repeated the request. He asked that I refrain from breastfeeding except in the bathroom because we were in a City building. Both employees were polite and courteous, however, as I stood there in my bathing suit, with my children at my side, I felt shocked and confused.

If such a policy exists, it contradicts State Law which protects nursing in public in Montana.

According to the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Montana has laws with language specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location, an exempting breastfeeding from public indecency laws (updated March 2010).

Mont. Code Ann. 50-19-501 states that the breastfeeding of any child in any location, public or private, where the mother otherwise has a right to be is legal and cannot be considered a nuisance, indecent exposure, sexual conduct or obscenity.

The Head Guard said that no breastfeeding in public was the “policy” of the Aquatics facilities and that patrons (particularly older gentlemen) had complained in the past and so this policy was to protect their feelings of discomfort. He also said that even infants are not allowed to be changed except in the bathrooms. I was told that, after all, there are families here…Are you kidding me? Can you not see the irony in this?

I request that you change all relevant policies and practices to reflect full and wholehearted support of breastfeeding in ALL of the Recreational facilities, staff training to ensure all employees understand and embrace the policy change, and prominent display of the “We Support Breastfeeding” symbol.

You have the power to make an important and necessary change here. It is time to honor the rights and needs of children and mothers.

Sincerely,

Kris Laroche



Hi Kris,

I apologize for my lifeguard’s statements and can assure you that we have no such policy.  This would be a violation of Montana Law protecting your rights.  We belong and pay dues to the Missoula Breastfeeding Coalition, so thank you for bringing this to my attention.  I will follow up, and do refresher training with staff.

Shirley Kinsey

Recreation Manager

Missoula Parks & Recreation



Tyler, we just wanted to say this:

The staff at Parks and Recreation is committed to making Currents and Splash Montana welcoming, friendly and safe for everyone. Mothers frequently nurse at Currents, Splash Montana and in city parks without any interference. Parks and Recreation fully supports nursing mothers, belongs to the Missoula Breastfeeding Coalition, and makes every effort to comply with state laws protecting nursing mothers and infants.


We deeply regret that Ms. Laroche encountered a staff member who was not fully informed about our department’s support of and the laws protecting nursing mothers, and we appreciate her bringing this issue to our attention.  The incident points out the need for Parks managers to add this issue to their on-going safety and rescue training.  To date, all staff have received refresher training about Section 50-19-501 MCA, about the department’s commitment to nursing mothers and their children and additional training on dealing with complaints from other pool patrons.  We’ll be posting notices that all parks facilities are “breastfeeding friendly.”  Bottom line: Parks and Recreation is committed to supporting families and making parks facilities hospitable to all.


Citizens who would like more information on this issue are invited to contact Recreation Manager Shirley Kinsey at 552-6273 or Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler at 552-6265.

Rebecca Goodrich

Communications Specialist

Missoula Parks and Recreation