DES MOINES – A state capitol employee told a group of nursing moms – most from North Iowa – to put their breasts away so as not to offend anyone.
The incident took place Friday afternoon in Des Moines at the state capitol, where a national breastfeeding event was being held. The event was organized by Amber Schwickerath of Charles City, a member of the North Central Iowa Breastfeeding Coalition, who got approval to hold the event at the capitol. Hundreds were expected to participate in the Second Annual Nationwide Nurse-In on Friday, April 29 at Capitol buildings throughout the United States. The event is designed to unite breastfeeding mothers and their supporters around the country.
The Des Moines, Iowa, event started at a 12:30 PM. Mothers were peacefully nursing their young children as the event unfolded inside the main state capitol building. Soon thereafter, however, a female state capitol employee approached Ms. Schwickerath and told her to have the moms make sure they were covered up. She said that schoolchildren would be touring in the same area as the capitol and she “didn’t want any children going home and telling their parents they saw breasts”.
Schickerath told the group that she “couldn’t believe they were asked to do that, especially with the Iowa law protecting breastfeeding mothers was posted only a few feet away, and that she wasn’t going to ask any of the attendees to cover up.”
Mason City mom Abbey Hall was there with her daughter, also breastfeeding and involved in the event. She is also a birth doula and owner of Mind Body Babies, a business that serves expectant and new parents. She told NIT “the event was designed to bring awareness and normalize nursing in public. I also have a school-age daughter as well as a teen-age step-son, and would have no issues with them being exposed to a breastfeeding mother in a public place. I found the demand from this person to be completely outrageous.”
The event continued and ended as-scheduled until 2 PM.
Later, the Iowa Department of Administrative Services apologized “for asking women who were breastfeeding in the Iowa Capitol to cover up during a special rally today. The department recognizes it is legal to breastfeed in public places and was in error in asking the women involved to cover up while breastfeeding during the event.”