BUFORD, Ga. — A Gwinnett County mother says she was shocked at the response she got when she tried to breastfeed her baby inside a local gym.
Caroline Hoffman says she was at LA Fitness in Buford on Tuesday morning with her child. She went into the locker room to breastfeed, but was asked to leave the area by an employee.
“I was really embarrassed because she was standing outside my stall door going, ‘Ma'am, Ma'am you can’t be back here.’ So I went to the front right away to ask the desk,” Hoffman said.
She says she was told she could nurse in the bathroom of the kids club or in a chair next to the front door.
“It was either going into a disgusting bathroom and sitting on a toilet seat to feed him or standing in front of all of these strangers coming and going while my body is exposed to everyone coming in and leaving the gym,” Hoffman said.
She says when she asked for a chair to feed inside the kids club so she could have more privacy, she was told no. She says the staff members said there were liability issues.
Hoffman is a mother of two. She said she never experienced anything like this with her first child.
“I’ve breastfed in tons of major places; the Georgia Dome, the Aquarium, every mall and restaurant,” she said.
Hoffman posted her story on Facebook and says soon after her husband got a call from LA Fitness manager apologizing.
Dozens of people posted negative comments on the gym’s Facebook page saying they were appalled by its actions.
“I'm extremely disappointed that your staff is so insensitive. A breastfeeding mother should be able to feed her child wherever she is comfortable. Asking her to nurse in a filthy bathroom stall, at the front desk, and to use a blanket is ridiculous,” wrote one woman.
“Anywhere that doesn't allow a mother to feed her child is a place (I) will never go,” wrote another.
Wednesday morning, LA Fitness’ district manager sent Hoffman the following apology:
What you had to go through yesterday was terrible. I am sincerely sorry your experience went the way it did. I have been made aware that since sending your email, you were contacted by the Operations Manager, Nima, in which he apologized for giving you wrong information.
To clarify - you (and every Mother) are permitted to breastfeed anywhere in the gym you would normally be. This includes the locker room and Kids Klub. I will ensure every staff member, at every gym, is educated on this policy to prevent any future occurrences of this nature.
Going forward we will also ensure there is a chair available in the Kids Klub for breastfeeding Mothers to utilize. Once again I apologize for the embarrassment you were put through. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or further concerns.
Georgia law says mothers can breastfeed wherever they can legally be. Hoffman told Channel 2’s Erica Byfield she knew that and she was shocked the gym's staff didn't.
“We have rights. Businesses need to think about mothers. We are paying customers too,” she said.
Hoffman doesn't know if she'll go back to the business. She says if she does visit LA Fitness, it will more than likely be another location.