Franklin Mother Fights for Her Rights at Start of World Breastfeeding Week


ABC7 News

Ayala breastfeeding her 2-year-old daughter, Daisy, courtesy of ABC7 News.

A female municipal employee of Franklin Borough in Sussex County walked onto the beach of Franklin Pond the afternoon of Tuesday, July 31 afternoon expecting to be the hero who saved the community from the perils and destruction of a breastfeeding mother, only to learn that she was the villain herself.

Michelle Ayala, my sister, ventured to her town pond with her three children to relax and enjoy herself. She sat down to feed her youngest, Daisy, and was approached by Donna Vreeland, a town employee, who asked her to cover up or feed her daughter somewhere else. The woman believed that some children and lifeguards felt offended by Ayala’s act of breastfeeding. Regardless if people felt uncomfortable, Ayala had every right to breastfeed in public being protected by New Jersey law and the people had every right to look away. Ayala knew her rights and informed Vreeland of the law, but her refusal to follow orders caused the woman to call the police.

When officer Nick Della Fera arrived on the scene he approached Ayala telling her that what she was doing was completely legal. He then asked if she would like to charge Vreeland with harassment, and at the time Ayala declined. After the ordeal was settled and the police left the beach, the chaotic storm seemed to be over, but it was not. Next, borough administrator Allison McHose payed a visit to Franklin Pond with the intention of prolonging the issue. McHose informed Ayala that she supported breastfeeding but had to instill rules which broke the law and asked her to cover up. Again, she refused.

“Allison, even if I were to use a cover, my daughter would just pull it off, she’s two,” Ayala said.

Some wonder why Ayala went through all that turmoil and did not just cover up to end the situation. I wonder why two town employees ignored the law and harassed one of their residents. After the incident, Ayala was interviewed by multiple media outlets and featured in articles. The incident led to a nurse-in at Franklin Pond on August 4 to promote the right to breastfeed in public.

Ayala talking with reporters at the nurse-in on August 4, courtesy of Ayala’s Facebook.

Many comments on social media oppose her feeding Daisy saying that two is too old. Some even say they support breastfeeding, but that the child needs to start eating real food. Do not worry she does, she eats plenty of it.“The World Health Organization also recommends exclusively breastfeeding up to 6 months of age with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or beyond,” as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breast milk contains many vitamins and nutrients for a young child that helps them to grow and develop. There is no law or existing cut off for breastfeeding a child since it is up to the mother and child to end or continue the act. Saying you support a breastfeeding mother, but bashing how long she breastfeeds her child in the same breath puts the authenticity of your support in question. Rather than dissing Ayala’s parenting skills, try to understand why she breastfeeds her two-year-old who also eats solid foods. It could be to strengthen her filial relationship with the child, provide more nutrients, or any number of other possibilities.

One thing that all female mammals have in common is their ability to produce milk for their offspring. Alongside being a human who is entitled to basic human rights, a woman is a mammal who has the ability to produce milk for her offspring. In no way should be shamed or publicly humiliated for doing so since she can breastfeed in public by law. The mother should not be forced to find a private location such as the bathroom or subject her child to potential heat exhaustion by “covering up.”The true issue with mothers breastfeeding in public is the over-sexualization of their breasts and prying eyes who just cannot seem to look away when a child eats. Society has over-sexualized breasts, female breasts specifically, and many brands use them to promote their products. When it comes down to the intended use of breasts, to feed an offspring, they need to be hidden. Society seems to pretend that men do not have breasts as they freely stroll around topless without opposition. However, if a woman engaged in the same behavior, there would be riots in the streets and uncomfortable individuals shielding the eyes of their children.

Comments on social media pertaining to breastfeeding include: “Do these women have no moral standards?” “Society is collapsing due to exposed female breasts, just cover up or go somewhere else nobody wants to see that.” “The mother just wants satisfaction from feeding the child, she should use a bottle instead.” “She just wants attention, the kid probably is not even hungry.”

I understand everyone has their own opinion because we all think differently and come from different cultures and backgrounds, but sometimes opinions sound foolish due to insufficient education on the topic.I was six years old when my sister first told me that I was going to be an aunt. I was excited, but at the same time felt like aunthood was a middle-aged-woman’s role. Flash forward nine years, I am now an aunt to three of her children and a godmother to her youngest, Daisy. During the course of these nine years in my role as aunt, my sister has watched me grow from a first grader with bangs to a junior with a job, and I have watched her grow as not only my sister, but also a mother. So on that Tuesday when she was approached by a woman telling her to cover up while breastfeeding and she refused, I was proud. Not that I was shocked at my sister’s courage and how she stood up for herself, I know my sister, but because the woman picked the wrong mother to harass and most likely did not expect opposition.

Daisy and I at her baptism.

“In a world filled with inequality, crises and poverty, breastfeeding is the foundation of lifelong good health for babies and mothers,” was the slogan for 2018’s World Breastfeeding Week (World Breastfeeding Week is an annual celebration that takes place August 1-7 in more than 120 countries.).

The irony is that the incident occurred the day before the start of World Breastfeeding Week and once the story got out, the week had begun. In first world countries with easy access to formula and solid foods, breastfeeding becomes a choice rather than an obligation to many. However, in third world countries, breastfeeding is the only way for some mothers to feed and provide nutrients to their children because of the accessibility and nonexistent cost.

This August, let us all acknowledge the intended purpose of breasts and respect every mother’s right to feed her child.

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