Breastfeeding protest at Pirates Cove: Advocate aims for positive, educational event

At this writing, breastfeeding advocates are gathering at Pirates Cove Family Aquatic Center in Englewood for what they're calling a "Nurse-In" -- an event intended to remind the public that nursing a baby in a public place is perfectly legal and entirely acceptable.

Why Pirates Cove? Co-organizer Morgan Matthews, speaking from the park, tells the story of Charlotte Dirkes.

Dirkes, who's from Alamosa, "is a young mom who had several children with her in a kiddie pool" on Sunday, explains Matthews, a child-birth professional and doula based in the Denver area. "She was watching her older children while holding her ten-month old. And the baby needed to feed, so as discreetly as possible, she breastfed her baby."

At that point, Matthews goes on, "an employee approached her and said other parents were complaining that their children were seeing too much. He asked her to cover up or go to a restroom and feed her baby there instead."

Dirkes's response? "She got out of the pool and politely explained that she had every right to feed her baby in public without covering up or going to a bathroom, which is a less than hygienic place to feed a baby, in my opinion," Matthews allows. "She questioned why they were bringing this up and then spoke to Pirates Cove about their policy."

Turns out that Pirates Cove's rules weren't followed in this case, as laid out in an e-mail sent to Matthews by Michael Flaherty, Englewood's deputy city manager and public information officer. It reads:

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Because you have expressed concern with a recent incident at the City of Englewood Pirates Cove Aquatics Park, I am forwarding you the following statement:

Colorado State Law provides women the right to breastfeed in public. Pirates Cove recognizes this right and supports breastfeeding. Pirates Cove policy allows breastfeeding in public areas of the facility.

Pirates Cove complies with all applicable state and local laws regarding breastfeeding, however, we recognize that this situation has provided us with a valuable training lesson for our staff. We are addressing this internally and adjusting how future concerned customer complaints are addressed. We understand that this individual was well within her rights to breastfeed her child.

Englewood Parks and Recreation Department apologizes to this guest and her family for any personal offense that we may have caused. Englewood Parks and Recreation Department continues to make every effort in creating a fun, safe, comfortable, family friendly environment for all park guests to enjoy.

This note didn't alleviate the concerns of Matthews, Dirkes or other breastfeeding proponents. "Employees of Pirate's Cove were unaware of the breastfeeding laws that protect mothers and babies," she says. "So we wanted to call attention to this way of thinking, and help people to understand that nursing in public is a totally normal, natural thing, and that mothers shouldn't be embarrassed or called out."

Thus, the Nurse-In, which was organized in recent days via Facebook. Matthews has received confirmation from around 25 moms and a handful of dads for the demonstration, which was slated for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- although she notes that the kids will ultimately dictate the schedule.

"This is about protecting women's rights and hopefully normalizing breastfeeding," Matthews says. "We want people to have a better understanding about what this is about going forward."

More from our News archive: "Breastfeeding mea culpa from Colorado Rockies."

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