Women raise awareness about breast-feeding laws after mother was told to cover up at Bloomfield Aquatic Center

Hannah Grover The Daily Times
The Daily Times

BLOOMFIELD — Last week, Kara Marshall was swimming in the Bloomfield Aquatic Center's pool next to her 5-year-old son, Reagan, when her youngest child, Steven, 10 months old, needed to be fed.

Without thinking, Marshall began to breast-feed Steven.

It wasn't long before a lifeguard walked over and told her she had to get out of the pool and cover up if she wanted to breast-feed.

On Wednesday, breast-feeding mothers gathered at the aquatic center to raise awareness about women's rights and the laws regarding breast-feeding.

Steve Gromack, the aquatic center director, met with Jaclyn Waggoner, the northwest regional coordinator for New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force, prior to the gathering. He apologized for what happened to Marshall.

"We had one staff person who just wasn't aware," Gromack said.

He said the pool allows women to breast-feed, and next year, he will make a point of informing all of new employees of the pool's policies during the summer orientation.

"He's been very supportive," Waggoner said.

Marshall said when she asked the lifeguard why she wasn't allowed to breast-feed, the lifeguard said it wasn't permitted. When she explained the law — which permits a woman to breast-feed in any public location, as well as private locations where she is authorized to be — to the lifeguard, the conversation ended.

Marshall said many women do not know the law.

"I didn't really know until I had several kids," she said.

Without knowing the law, Marshall had shied away from breast-feeding her older children.

"There was a lot of stigma with it," Marshall said.

Breast-feeding advocates cite health benefits as a reason to breast-feed.

Celeste Kalcich, one of the mothers who gathered at the center on Wednesday, is breast-feeding her 2-year-old daughter because the World Health Organization recommends children nurse for at least two years. Kalcich said she has had people express surprise that she would be nursing a child as old as her daughter, but she and the other women see it as feeding their children, Waggoner said.

She said the women who gathered at the pool Wednesday did so to raise awareness about the law.

"I don't want this to be seen as an attack on a business," she said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.