Breastfeeding moms are planning a "nurse-in" at Pirates Cove waterpark in Englewood Friday morning to protest a fellow mother who was told to stop breastfeeding her 10-month-old in the kiddie pool or do it somewhere else.
Alamosa mom Charlotte Dirkes was breastfeeding her son Cillian in the kiddie pool at Pirates Cove until the park staff claim they received some complaints from other guests prompting an employee to ask Dirkes to stop breastfeeding entirely, cover up or nurse somewhere in private, 7News reported.
Dirkes told The Denver Post that she told the park employee that confronted her about feeding her baby that Colorado law states that mothers have every right to breastfeed wherever they are legally allowed to be, but she claims that the staff member did not know the law.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Colorado law is clear:
[Colo.] recognizes the benefits of breastfeeding and encourages mothers to breastfeed. The law also allows a mother to breastfeed in any place she has a right to be.
"I am and was very saddened to know this is how a presumably family friendly establishment treats mothers and babies doing the most natural thing possible; breastfeeding," Dirkes wrote to The Denver Post via email.
Local moms Morgan Matthews and Samantha Walker heard about the story and created a Facebook page calling for a "nurse-in" at the water park today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in protest of the park's actions.
The breastfeeding moms in support of Dirkes did a little follow up investigation as well. According to the "Nurse-In" Facebook page, a fellow mom called Pirates Cove customer service after the incident took place with Dirkes and they asked what kind of policy would allow an employee to make such a request of a nursing mother. The woman in charge of customer service allegedly said that even though Pirates Cove is aware that Colorado law says that a mother can nurse anywhere she has the right to be, it is the practice of Pirates Cove to ask mothers to "cover up as much as possible or use the family bathroom."
Charlotte Dirkes herself wrote a letter to Pirates Cove, Englewood Police Department and the Englewood city council including the mayor describing the incident to raise awareness. She posted the letter onto Facebook:
To whom it may concern,
On Sunday, July 8, 2012 my family and I drove 3 hours to attend the Pirate's Cove Water Park in the city of Englewood, Colorado. At approximately 11am I was sitting in the baby pool nursing my infant son while watching my children in the larger adjacent play area when a woman who did not identify herself by name asked me to stop nursing as there had been several complaints from other patrons of the water park that "Their children were seeing more than they needed to see." I told her that I was well within my legal rights(a copy of Colorado breastfeeding law is enclosed) to nurse anywhere I was allowed to be. I stood up out of the pool to speak with her and stopped nursing my son while doing so. I explained to her the law and that she was welcome to look it up if need be. She said that she was not aware of the law but would look into it and that she had never encountered this issue before. I chose to stop nursing for the time being because I was alone with 3 other children in my care and did not wish to ruin the good time they were having. I spoke with this woman for approximately 10-15 minutes who at no time did she say her name, only identified herself as the customer relations representative. Numerous times I mentioned that the law states that I have the legal right to breast feed where ever I am allowed to be. The conversation ended. At this time I called my partner to inform him of the situation as well as a fellow breastfeeding mom and very good friend. She soon started talking about the situation in public forums. When my partner arrived he spoke with management and then myself. We chose to stay at Pirate's Cove as our older children were having a good time and we did not want to ruin their day. At this point I began to call leaders from the local La Leche League chapters to get their support and view point. At this point I found out I had a large number of other mothers were in support of my situation and myself. Many of these women have called and emailed both Pirate's Cove and members of the Englewood city counsel.
I am and was very saddened to know this is how a supposedly family friendly establishment treats mothers and babies doing the most natural thing possible; breast feeding. By asking me to stop, cover up, or go somewhere more private. Pirate's Cove violated my right to nurse in public. This is unacceptable. All women should be free and unafraid to feed their children how they best see fit, however that may be. I was not offend nor were my feelings hurt. I was disappointed and saddened that this is how a "family friendly and non discriminatory" establishment chose to handle the situation. My family loves Pirate's Cove and looked forward to visiting all year long. We went out of our way to visit the specific establishment as I'm sure many other families have. I find it very upsetting that this is how the employees of Pirate's Cove may see one of the most natural act a woman can do with her body.
I ask that a public written apology be made to my family and myself, that a change be made to Pirate's Cove breastfeeding policies so that employees are made aware of the law and future breasfeeding guests are not made to endure similar incidents.
Pirates Cove has issued an apology Dirkes, according to 7News, and said it would use this incident as a training lesson for park staff.
At the time of publication, about 25 moms are planning to breastfeed their babies in protest at the entrance of the park. Protest organizers are asking that if a mom can't join, but wants to support the cause, they can call or email the City of Englewood to express their frustration over Pirates Cove's breastfeeding policy. Samantha Walker, one of the protest organizers, says that they want to keep the protest civil, "Remember ladies, we are a civil group, so lets keep today civil," Walker wrote on Facebook. "We are just out there to show our support and to make the law known."