A Northern Virginia mom who said her church stopped her from breastfeeding her baby may seek legal action. Virginia’s law, which went into effect in 2015, protects a mother’s right to breastfeed her child.
On Sunday, April 23, Annie Peguero said she was shocked when employees of Summit Church in Springfield interrupted her as she nursed her baby and asked her to cover up or move to a mom’s room.
“Just taken aback this had happened,” said Peguero, who had just returned with her children from a six-week trip overseas to visit her husband who serves in the U.S. Marine Corps and is on deployment.
“I really felt at home there,” said Peguero about Summit Church, which she began attending in January.
She felt a special bond after the pastor and members prayed for her to find her birth family. But that bond was destroyed on Sunday after she dropped her two little girls, ages 4 and 18 months, off at the church nursery.
Autumn, the youngest, was fussy.
“I sat down on the floor and began breastfeeding her. Right away, the church employees were frantically grabbing for a blanket. And one of the employees came over to me and covered up Autumn,” she said. “And I said, ‘Oh, no. That’s okay. We’re good,’” said Peguero.
Autumn didn’t like the blanket and stopped eating.
Peguero said the employee tried to get her to use a special moms’ room to nurse Autumn, but Annie said no, she didn’t need to. Annie went up the sanctuary to hear the sermon…when the nursery texted her that Autumn was still fussy. She brought her daughter up to a back pew with her and began nursing her.
WORKING MOTHERS: How do you transition from the job to breastfeeding?
“Immediately, one of the church employees came over my left shoulder and said, ‘let’s go to the moms’ room. I said, ‘No, no. It’s okay. And she said, ‘No. Let’s go. We’ll go together right now.’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not going to the moms’ room.’”
Annie was so upset she decided to leave. She spoke to pastor’s wife about who told her about their “policy.”
She said another employee said to her, “’Well, we wouldn’t want to make a man, or a teenager, or a new churchgoer feel uncomfortable.’ And I said to her, ‘Well, I’m very uncomfortable and I’m never coming back to this church and I loved it so very much,’” said Peguero.
When nobody from the church would call her back about her experience, she decided to hire attorney Rebecca Geller who helped get Virginia’s breastfeeding law passed two years ago, she said.
“The church is just blatantly violating state law with its breastfeeding policy,” said Geller, who said she contacted the church multiple times but could not get the pastor to say he would comply with the law.
“The law is very clear: A woman has a right to breastfeed her child,” Geller said.
Both Geller and Peguero said it’s a good thing that the church has as moms’ room for women to breastfeed in private, but requiring a woman to go there is against the law.
WUSA9’s Peggy Fox tried to speak to the pastors at the church but was told they were unavailable.