HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Richmond International Airport officials issued an apology to a Richmond mom who was breastfeeding her son at the airport.
Stephanie Joyce said she was waiting for her husband to land at the airport Thursday when her infant son grew hungry.
"A security guard approached me and told me I could not breastfeed in the open area. He said that when my son is no longer nursing and my nipple is visible, it is considered indecent exposure," she wrote on Facebook. "He told me someone had complained about my indecent exposure and that I could go to the bathroom or family bathroom if I wanted to nurse."
Joyce said she declined and asked to speak with an airport security supervisor.
"When the supervisor arrived, he told me that it was OK for me to breastfeed in the open area, but I needed to try and 'cover up myself,'" she wrote. "The two security guards continued to stand about 20 feet from me, facing me, for the duration of my time in the waiting area while I finished nursing my son."
In a statement released Friday, airport officials made it clear they understood Virginia law "supports a mother’s right to breastfeed her child in a public venue."
"The proper response would have been to advise the complainant of the mother’s right to breastfeed her child in public venues like the Airport, instead of offering alternatives to the nursing mother in an attempt to mitigate the complaint," an airport spokesperson said. "We apologize to the mother for this unfortunate encounter."
Airport officials also said the airport's police chief will "reaffirm and emphasize" to officers a mother’s right to breastfeed her child in public.
Joyce says she hopes this story will prevent something like this from happening again.
"We [should] use what happened to me as an opportunity to grow and make our community supportive of breastfeeding mothers and families," Joyce said. "Any mama should be confident to speak out when she feels that her rights as a citizen are violated. We should feel proud that we have the ability to feed our babes, and the law supports us to do so as we need to in order to care for our children."
“I don't want any other women to feel persecuted or to be made feeling like they aren't doing something that is great for their child,” she added.