The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is suing a local YMCA, on behalf of a former yoga teacher, saying the association violated her right to breastfeed her daughter in public by asking her to move away from the child care center so that “young boys” would not see her.

The case against the Ocean Community YMCA of Westerly, Rhode Island, represents one of a string of incidents at YMCAs across the country in recent years that have drawn scrutiny from breastfeeding advocates.

Elizabeth Gooding, the plaintiff in the Rhode Island case, said she is concerned there is a broader issue at YMCAs.

“If a mother cannot feed her baby in the day care of a family establishment, where can she nurse?” said Gooding, who had been employed by the Y, in an open letter she planned to post on Facebook on Wednesday. She said she hopes her case sets a precedent, and she called on women to gather at their local YMCAs for a “nurse-in.”

“The YMCA should be supporting breastfeeding moms … not deterring them,” she wrote.

Other women who encountered challenges while breastfeeding at YMCAs in recent years include a mother in Oklahoma City who said she was asked to leave a women’s locker room to nurse; a mother in Iowa who said she was told she could not nurse by the pool during a ‘family swim;’ and a Las Vegas mother who said she was told she could not breastfeed by the pool, prompting an organized “nurse-in.

Brad McDermott, a spokesperson for the YMCA of the USA, said incidents often occur as a result of young or part-time staff who are … “simply not exposed to breastfeeding on a regular basis.” He said the organization understands the need for ongoing training and provides online resources about the benefits of breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding is something we actively encourage ….,” he noted.

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