• Mon, Feb 26 2007

Lactivist Call for Change in Michigan

Second update: Read the center’s response before you contact Rainbow Child Development Center. It has asked that all concerns be addressed to Karen Krygier at the Home Office at (248) 569-2500.

Update: Please spread the word! The daycare in question is Rainbow Child Development Center in Plymouth, Michigan. You can contact the director Mary Buchin by email at: Plymouth@RainbowChildDevelopment.com or by phone at
(734) 455-2761. Rainbow Child Development Centers has locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and New Jersey. To contact the national management, call (800) 90-LEARN or use the on-line contact form. Those of you in Michigan can contact your state representative and senator and urge them to introduce and support legislation protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed (and a child’s right as well)!

A Michigan mother wrote to me asking for help to spread the word about change needed in the Michigan law. Her call for change stems from a distressing experience she had at her son’s daycare. Katy writes:

This January, I was told that I was no longer permitted to breastfeed my twenty-six month old son in his room at daycare, although I had been nursing him at pick-up and drop-off without incident since he started daycare at three months. I immediately called the licensing board, which confirmed the daycare’s interpretation of the regulations. Following the recommendation of the local La Leche leader, I wrote a letter to the director, in which I explained my objections to the new regulation and included citations supporting the importance of breastfeeding past infancy. Nursing in the alternate location did not work, and the director did not respond to my requests for explanation. When I talked to the director’s supervisor, all I was told was that they had a right to make rules as they saw fit. After several days, I tried nursing him in his classroom again. The lead teacher ran to tell the director, and the other teachers evacuated the children. Here is the regulation that they cited:

“(a) The center shall support and accommodate breastfeeding.
(b) The center shall have a designated place set aside to accommodate mothers and their children who are breastfeeding.”

They are interpreting “designated place” to mean only the designated place, and decided that a room with two nursing toddlers (mine and another one) would no longer be designated. I feel that “designated place” should mean that they need to have a comfortable location available, not that that should be the only place to breastfeed.

I am sharing this incident for two reasons. First, I want other working mothers to know that this daycare chain, Rainbow Child Development Center, especially the center in Plymouth, Michigan, is not friendly to breastfeeding toddlers.

Secondly, although I have since switched daycare providers, I am still appalled that it is legal for a daycare to prevent a child from nursing wherever he or she needs to. If any of you feel the same way, please write to your legislators! I have a sample letter available if you want it. Especially since Wisconsin is currently considering legislation to legally protect breastfeeding in all public locations, now could be a good time to lobby our legislators to extend the same protections to Michigan women.

If you want more information or a copy of the sample letter to send to legislators, please contact Katy directly at “katykay at gmail dot com” (substitute the appropriate symbols for the email address). I contacted the daycare for a response and received no reply. Specifically I’d like to know whether the daycare’s concern revolved around the fact that the child was age two, given that he had breastfed in the classroom for several months prior to that incident. Did it really evacuate the children (Katy explains that the children were asked to go to the Gross Motor area to play when normally they would not be there at that time and the space was already occupied by another class)? Anyone else think that that disruption would be more traumatic for the children than seeing a mother breastfeed her child?

I really don’t understand why the center would object to a mother nursing in the classroom. I understand that some people are prudish and narrow-minded when it comes to breastfeeding in public, but I expect more from a childcare provider whose main concern should be the welfare of the child. If breastfeeding helps a child transition happily to and from daycare each day, that should be encouraged, not vilified. Other children in the room likely paid it no mind, and even if they did, all it requires is a simple statement that the child is nursing and leave it at that.

Does anyone else have an experience to share about nursing at daycare? Are you aware of any push for legislation in Michigan? Currently the state law exempts breastfeeding from the public nudity statute. Breastfeeding may also be taken into consideration in child custody cases. A search of the bills currently introduced in the state legislature did not reveal any measures pertaining to breastfeeding. What do you say, lactivists?

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  • Katy

    Please do write your reps and help us make Michigan daycares friendlier for breastfeeding!

  • http://www.rainbowchilddevelopment.com Rainbow Child Development Center

    The Rainbow Child Development Center team would like to make a statement in reply to your concerns. Parents choose to enroll their children at our centers with the understanding that we will provide care and activities to stimulate social, emotional, and physical development. One aspect of this service includes providing programming that provides opportunities for children to reach developmental and academic milestones. Rainbow Child Development Center is supportive of breastfeeding. We adhere to the State of Michigan licensing rule R400.5205a (effective 12/7/2007) by supporting and accommodating breastfeeding and by providing a designated place set aside to accommodate mothers and their children who are breastfeeding. We have chosen a designated area which provides a quiet, soft environment for the nursing child and Mom with comfortable adult seating that includes a rocking chair. This area offers a place that will allow one-on-one time for the breastfeeding child and Mom. Our primary goal is to offer a caring atmosphere for children combined with a structured curriculum.

    Never at anytime has a parent enrolled in our program been prohibited from breastfeeding, nor were children “evacuated” due to exposure to breastfeeding. There are many decisions and choices that parents choose to make in the best interest of their child that we do not incorporate into our program, breastfeeding has always been welcomed and supported in our centers. We do not challenge the legality of breastfeeding in public. We do however stand behind our dedication to the quality care that we’ve given all children.

    For more than 20 years Rainbow Child Development Center has supported, encouraged and welcomed breastfeeding parents and teachers. If you have further questions please address them to Karen Krygier at the Home Office 248 569-2500. The Director of the Plymouth location, Mary Buchin is only following her job duties and should not be subjected to calls and/or e-mails; her time needs to be focused on the children in her care not defending a policy that is in compliance with the State of Michigan guidelines. We understand that breastfeeding is a very sensitive topic and respect your right to express your opinion; however we respectfully ask that you direct your concerns related to designated breastfeeding areas to your respective legislators.

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  • wb

    I am the parent of children who previously attended Rainbow, and was made aware of a situation where they discriminated against a staff member who was breastfeeding. Your story does not surprise me, and neither does the response of the management. It is a sad, sad day when the very people who claim to be advocates for small children don’t support breastfeeding.

  • Melody

    While I am completely for breastfeeding, also in public..I do not think that having a designated place to nurse is wrong. Particularly when children are older. As a mother who nursed all three children, and as a teacher…breasts are private places to children when they reach toddlerhood. If it was a classroom of 2 to 4 year olds for example..I dress around my four year old, and I would cover myself, or go to a private area to nurse. The center has to consider the needs and belliefs of all parents. If they have a nice room to nurse in, then I feel they are meeting your needs. There is no reason to sit in the middle of a classroom and whip out a boob and attach your 2 year old to it. This is a disruption in the class, and I don’t blame the teacher for trying to focus their attention on something more educational. Children are not allowed to be nude in class..neither should parents. Continue nursing! and more power to you girl! But don’t be offended that there is an area please. Respect everyone’s different beliefs.

  • Marcia

    I have to agree with Melody. I think you can be supportive of breastfeeding while also begin to consider the cultural mores of other families. I think asking people to be discreet or go to a private area at around 22-24 months is very reasonable. I am looking into Rainbow Childcare and I have heard very positive word of mouth from people.

  • http://breastfeedingrightsmi.blogspot.com/ Melissa

    Yes! We are working on improving breastfeeding rights in Michigan!! Please share your Michigan stories with us at http://breastfeedingrightsmi.blogspot.com/.

    We need to document the need for the improved legislation through stories like this one. We also need folks to build relationships with their Michigan legislators. We’ll be happy to hear from folks.

  • http://053.housedems.com Michigan State Rep. Rebekah Warren

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Sept. 1, 2009

    CONTACT: State Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor)
    Kim Easter, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Warren
    (517) 373-2577

    LANSING- While the American Academy of Pediatrics has always endorsed breastfeeding as the optimal form of nutrition, Michigan falls short of federal target goals for breastfeeding in the early postpartum period, at six months, and at one year of age. Many mothers report lack of support as a primary reason they discontinued breastfeeding.

    In an effort to eliminate one of the barriers to breastfeeding, Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) will introduce a resolution and a bill in support of mothers’ right to breastfeed their child. “Michigan is one of only a handful of states that still fails to protect breastfeeding moms from being harassed, segregated, or otherwise discouraged from breastfeeding in public,” said Rep. Warren. “Breastfeeding moms must be allowed to feed their infants wherever they may otherwise legally be. This is more than a lifestyle choice; it is an important health choice.”

    Both mothers and children benefit from breast milk. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from bacteria and viruses. Breastfed children have fewer ear infections, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections and have diarrhea less often. Infants who are exclusively breastfed need fewer health care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations resulting in a lower total medical care cost. Breastfeeding also provides long-term preventative effects for the mother, including an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight, reduced risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis.

    A mother’s decision to breastfeed also results in reduced absenteeism at work, as her child will be sick less often. Employer medical costs are lower and employee productivity is higher. “Now more than ever, we need an energetic, healthy workforce,” said Rep. Warren. “I am proud to introduce this legislation along with my colleague and co-sponsor Rep. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton.) Let’s add breastfeeding mothers to the list of those protected under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. No longer will Michigan’s breastfeeding mothers be banished to feed their children in toilet stalls and broom closets.”

    For more information about this legislation or Representative Rebekah Warren, please contact her office at 517-373-2577 or rebekahwarren [at] house.mi.gov, or visit her website at http://053.housedems.com.

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