The Saukville resident said she hadn't really given much thought to breastfeeding before her son was born, but after considering health benefits as well as the bonding experience between mother and child — she decided it was worth it.
"I had a really rough beginning," Coyle said. "(But now) I'm a huge advocate. ... It's not my right to breast feed — it's his right to eat."
Coyle has participated in Latch-On events in Milwaukee, and — along with her sister — leads a group called Mom's Got Milk, dedicated to the cause of "normalizing breastfeeding," she said.
The Port Washington-Saukville community has mostly been accepting when she feeds in public, Coyle said, citing restaurants such as Twisted Willow in Port or Firehouse in Saukville as offering receptive, positive experiences.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding in public is not always socially accepted, she said, citing some negative comments from passersby and an incident at the Feith Family YMCA during summer.
Coyle said while feeding her son in late July in the corner of the pool area at the YMCA, a lifeguard approached her telling her, "'This is a family establishment, and you're being indecent,'" Coyle said. "(I responded,) 'I have every right to feed my son I'm not going to move.'"
Eventually Coyle did leave, and she said others in the pool area left — upset at the treatment towards this mother trying to feed her son.
Chelsea Schwabe, Event and Public Relations Specialist at the YMCA, said the staff member was merely asking Coyle to "cover up a bit," but added that this employee was unaware of the state statute that makes it a mother's right to feed in public — and that the lifeguard was acting out of tune with the YMCA's policies.
"At the Y, we foster an environment that is welcoming to all families and always encourage healthy living practices. The YMCA supports and encourages breastfeeding, and in addition to honoring (the state law), we provide multiple spaces within our Centers for mothers who would prefer to breastfeed privately," Schwabe said in an e-mail to Patch. "We are sorry that the staff member did not follow our policy and deeply regret the hurt feelings this misunderstanding caused the mother and all parties involved."
Many have suggested Coyle stage a nurse in at the YMCA — where mothers show up and nurse at the same time — or some other sort of protest in response to the incident, but Coyle is taking a different approach.
"That’s not really going to do anything, that's just going to cause anger and hostility," she said. "We don't want to get angry, we just want to educate — educate and normalize."