A Texas mother is standing her ground on breastfeeding in public places days after she was removed from a city pool during an argument with staffers over her right to nurse her baby.
Misty Daugereaux, 32, said she had taken her 10-month-old son, 4-year-old son and 4-year-old nephew to swim Sunday at Nessler Park Family Aquatic Center in Texas City, Texas, outside Galveston. She said at one point, her infant became “fussy,” so while the older boys played, she adjusted her swimsuit to expose one of her breasts and she started to nurse.
Moments later, she said, she was approached by a lifeguard, then a manager, telling her she could not breast-feed at the pool.
Following an emotional exchange, someone called the police – though it’s not clear whether the person who called was a pool manager or a guest. The officer told Daugereaux to pack up and go, leaving her reeling from shock, shame and embarrassment, she said. Since then, her story has been shared widely across social media, prompting an outpouring of support from other mothers, some of whom organized a “nurse-in” Monday outside the pool to stand beside her in solidarity, she said.
Daugereaux said people should be praising nursing mothers for breastfeeding. “I hope it raises awareness,” she said, “and empowers them, not shames them.”
Daugereaux said soon after she started nursing her son, a lifeguard approached her and asked whether she was breastfeeding. She said when told him “yes,” he responded, “You can’t do that here.” Daugereaux said that when she argued that she was within her legal rights to breastfeed her son there, the lifeguard got the manager, who told her it was against pool policy.
Daugereaux said that when she continued to push back, the manager replied: “Well I’m going to have to ask you to cover up. It’s our policy that you have to be covered.”
Daugereaux said she asked to see the policy, and the manager told her to leave.
Shortly after Daugereaux declined to leave, she said, a police officer showed up.
Someone who answered the phone at Nessler Park Family Aquatic Center on Tuesday declined to comment on what happened.
When asked for comment on the incident, Officer Allen Bjerke, a spokesman for the Texas City Police Department, said police bodycam video “depicts what transpired.”
The bodycam video shows the moment a Texas City police officer arrived at the pool, first speaking with management. A person off-camera told the officer that Daugereaux had become “outraged” and “cussed” at a staff member and that she had both breasts exposed while she was nursing her child.
When the officer approached Daugereaux, she denied the claims and broke down in tears as she recounted what had happened.
The officer then told Daugereaux that management wanted her to leave the property. When Daugereaux said she didn’t understand “how it’s right” that she should have to leave when she wasn’t breaking the rules, the officer responded: “I don’t understand why, either. I don’t make the rules.”
The officer told Daugereaux that the issue was not that she was feeding her child but that she was “cussing out all the lifeguards.”
Later, the officer was recorded telling what appeared to be management: “You can’t just have your titties out everywhere. I mean I get that you got to feed your kid, that’s all fine and dandy, but go sit under a blanket or something.”
When asked about the allegations that Daugereaux was “outraged” and “cussed” at a staff member, she told The Washington Post that although she could not deny using a curse word during the initial exchange with the lifeguard, she is confident she did not become aggressive or verbally attack anyone. As for the claims that she had exposed both breasts, she said it never happened and that she has asked about whether there was surveillance video that could prove it.
Daugereaux said she is “heartbroken” not only about how the staff members treated her at the pool over the weekend, but also about what the police officer said to them behind her back. “That comment took me aback,” she said about the officer’s remark that she should have covered up. “I thought he was there to diffuse the situation. He himself did not understand the laws of breastfeeding. He himself did not have compassion for breastfeeding mothers.”
Texas law states, “A mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.” However, the law does not say whether mothers may be asked to nurse in private.
Texas City Mayor Matthew Doyle said in a statement Monday that the city is “reviewing the nursing concerns raised at Nessler Pool and how it was addressed by our staff.”
“We apologize to Misty Daugereaux, as it is clear she was offended by how she was treated at our City Facility,” Doyle said. “City policies and procedures will be reviewed and revised as deemed necessary. Any deficiencies regarding our employee’s actions will be addressed with further training.”
Daugereaux posted about the incident on Facebook and said she has received hundreds of messages – mostly in support – from people in the United States and across the world.
“I’ve gotten amazing support from women all over,” Daugereaux told The Post, “making me feel proud and empowered to stand up for myself and for breastfeeding.”