Mother responds to Warrensburg breast-feeding changes

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WARRENSBURG - A mother may now breast-feed near or around pools in the town of Warrensburg. However, about a month ago, KOMU 8 News reported this was not always the case. A Warrensburg ordinance saying a mother could not breast-feed near a pool was not matching up with the state law and some mothers became frustrated.

On September 10, 2014, Warrensburg revised a resolution saying a mother may now breast-feed around a Parks and Recreation pool. Before then, it was still considered a violation of indecent exposure and a concern for sanitation.

Some mothers like Shera Oyervides, said it is a relief seeing and experiencing this new change after being asked to leave the pool three times for breast-feeding.

"I had her (baby) in the wrap, have my feet tangling in the pool, about 15 minutes after I put her down for a nap, someone taps me on the shoulder and she says ‘you can't breastfeed here," Oyervides said.

KOMU 8 News reported on September 4 the president of Warrensburg Parks and Recreation, Judy Vickery, said breast-feeding was a violation because it was considered eating or drinking.

"We're treating breastfeeding mothers just like we treat anyone else who wants to eat or drink by the side of the pool," Vickery said. "We're not carving out a special section for them."

It was also considered a problem due to sanitation reasons.

In a Park Board Resolution, item number 2 said "It is also the policy of the Board, with concern for the general sanitation of the aquatic facilities, that there shall be no breast-feeding in or around the pool."

Oyervides said Parks and Recreation shouldn't have singled out mothers.

"I remember back in 2011, when they said ‘well your breast milk could get in the pool, it's a sanitation problem,' yes because there are certainly no children urinating in the pool," Oyervides said.

She continued to attend public meetings and voice her concerns. She printed off nine copies of a document educating the public on breast-feeding and asked the board to read it and apply the same in Warrensburg.

Oyervides went back to the same pool with her children.

"This time I got a tap on the shoulder from the Warrensburg police department," Oyervides said.

Oyervides was issued a ticket by the police department for incident exposure. She said it also included a typed memo from the director of Parks and Recreation, Dodee Matthews.

"It will be important on the PD side that the officers are informed that we don't want to book anyone, only issue tickets for either exposure or trespass if asked to leave and failure to do so," Oyervides said reading the memo. "She's instructing officers to ticket mothers for trespassing."

KOMU 8 News reached out to Matthews, but she said she did not want to be interviewed.

"I don't think people realized how deep this went, to shame mothers for mothering their child at the breast and I was personally shamed because I was the troublemaker," Oyervides said. "How my name was dragged through the mud for a long time."

Looking back at her efforts to bring awareness to the issue, she said the end result is better than she imagined.

"Hopefully through my story and these new laws, no mother will feel made to feel like this again," Oyervides said.