Breastfeeding incident at Midco Aquatic Center causes uproar

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Back in 2015, the South Dakota Legislature passed a law allowing mothers to breastfeed their children in public.

It is a law staff at one public facility in Sioux Falls were apparently unaware of, and it caused an awkward situation for one mother.

On Wednesday, a Sioux Falls mom of five posted a review on the Midco Aquatic Center Facebook page, saying two lifeguards asked her to cover up while breastfeeding her 5-month-old son.

"I sat down, and I was nursing him and my two little ones were playing close to me, and I was just nursing my baby and then I had a lifeguard come over and say I needed to cover myself," Amy Metzger said.

She said not only was the encounter embarrassing, but she felt it threatened the safety of her other children who she was trying to watch in the pool while the lifeguards were talking to her.

Since she posted the encounter on Facebook, Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation has been hit with reviews and posts from other families upset about city employees not following the state law that allows mothers to breastfeed in any public area.

"We apologize for the inconvenience," Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation director Don Kearney said. "We just didn't know that that happened to be the state law, but certainly we're going to train our staff up and then all the other city employees, want to make them aware of it too, whether it's at the Midco or anywhere else it still applies."

Breastfeeding advocates say the problem is many people are not aware the law exists.

"A lot of it is just education, of our kids knowing that this is a normal way for a child to be fed, and has nothing to do with moms trying to be sexual or trying to show anything off, they're simply trying to feed their child," Elegant Mommy owner Shelly Gaddis said.

"It's a place for families," Metzger said. "I think you know everybody should be able to go there regardless how they feed their baby."

She said even she wasn't sure exactly what the law says in South Dakota.

"Because I didn't know exactly what it was for sure, and then it was confirmed that yeah I was actually in the right." Metzger said.

"If you're a woman and you're breastfeeding and you're in a public place or in a private place where you have the right to be, and someone asks to you leave or to cover up, they are in the wrong," ACLU of South Dakota policy director Libby Skarin said.

"I'm really excited about that, I'm glad that the light has been shed on the subject and it will be well-known now that it's acceptable," Metzger said.

To clarify, the South Dakota law protecting breastfeeding mothers applies to any public or private place a mother is legally allowed to be.

The South Dakota ACLU says it is a good idea for all businesses in South Dakota to make sure their employees understand the law and help uphold those rights.