It should never have been up for debate, but at least it’s happening.
Athletes who are breastfeeding will be allowed to bring their babies to the Tokyo Olympics, the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday.
“We very much welcome the fact that so many mothers are able to continue to compete at the highest level, including at the Olympic Games,” the IOC said in a statement, published by the Associated Press. “We are very pleased to hear that the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has found a special solution regarding the entry to Japan for mothers who are breastfeeding and their young children.”
The move comes after Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher posted a video to Instagram explaining she was being forced to choose between competing at the Olympics and spending 28 days without her three-month-old daughter, Sophie, or skipping the Games entirely.
“Right now, I’m being forced to decide between being a breastfeeding mom or an Olympic athlete. I can’t have them both,” she said in the video. “Tokyo has said no friends, no family, no exceptions.”
Gaucher also said she had been told to try pumping enough milk for the Canadian basketball team’s 28-day stay in Tokyo, and looked into shipping milk which was proving complicated. “I don’t have enough milk in me to train as a high-level athlete, get my butt back in shape, and feed her currently, all while stocking 28 day’s supply.”
Talking to press on Wednesday, Gaucher said the IOC’s announcement was “the right decision for women in sports,” and that she was overwhelmed with the response on social media.
“I’m incredibly happy and very thankful for all the people who fought for this and helped out with this,” she said. “There can be moments of frustration, but I think women’s sports is evolving and sometimes it takes a little bit of time for everyone to get on the same page.”
“The right decision for women in sports.”
Before the Games-wide allowance, the IOC said National Olympic Committees were “dealing with requests from athletes to bring their children on a case-by-case basis,” but on Monday, an IOC spokesperson told Yahoo Sports that it would be “highly unlikely” that “unaccredited people from overseas” (including infants and caregivers) would be allowed into Japan for the event, citing strict COVID-19 restrictions. In her video, Gaucher pointed out the hypocrisy in the Games allowing media and sponsors to travel to Tokyo for the event, and the public to attend. “Sponsors and media are all flying in from around the world. Japanese fans are going to be in attendance, the arenas are going to be half full, but I will not have access to my daughter?” she said.
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Other athletes who opposed the former rules include U.S. marathoner Aliphine Tuliamuk, who is nursing her five-month-old daughter, Zoe, and American football player Alex Morgan, who has a one-year-old daughter, Charlie.
It’s a step that should have already been taken, but one that will hopefully see a march forward for women who are mothers and athletes. Both jobs should come with medals.