Aliphine Tuliamuk and other Olympic athletes worried they wouldn't be able to bring their babies with them to the Tokyo games while they are breastfeeding. Many were outraged by the policy. But the International Olympic Committee now says nursing athletes can officially bring their babies along.
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The anticipated Tokyo Olympics are getting close but for some athletes it had been a cause of stress—and not because of the competition. Breastfeeding athletes were worried they would not be able to bring their babies along with them.

But the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that breastfeeding parents will now be permitted to bring their infants along. "After careful consideration of the unique situation facing athletes with infants, we are pleased to confirm that, when necessary, young children will be able to accompany athletes to Japan," the committee said in a statement.

This comes after athletes, including long distance runner Aliphine Tuliamuk, who is still nursing her infant, voiced concerns. In an interview with The Washington Post, Tuliamuk said, "If I'm going to perform my best, she's going to have to be there with me—and I hope she will be."

Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher, who is breastfeeding her daughter, had recently also posted a video on Instagram saying she is being forced to "decide between being a breastfeeding mom or an Olympian athlete." She added she looked into her options, such as pumping to stock for the 28 days the team will be gone, but it's not feasible. "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."

Back in March, Tokyo Olympics organizers announced a ban on overseas spectators to avoid pandemic risks. While overseas spectators will be refunded, it was an insurmountable dilemma for athletes with infant children, especially those nursing. Athletes with slightly older children, including tennis champ Serena Williams who has a 3-year-old, and soccer player Alex Morgan, who has a 1-year-old, have also been concerned. "It's important to allow mothers the option to have their kids with them when they compete. If a child is under 1 or 2, they might still be breastfeeding, so that's a huge piece of it," said Morgan in a conference, according to the Washing Post.

At the time, requests for athletes to bring their kids were being handled on a case-by-case basis. The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee told the publication it's working to "find a solution" with the national governing bodies, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, and the Japanese government.

The news had outraged many. On social media, users were calling it "outrageous," saying babies shouldn't be considered "spectators" and "you shouldn't have to choose between your profession and your baby."

Kate Torgersen, the CEO of Milk Stork, a breast milk traveling service for working parents, publicly opposed the news. "These mothers should be given the choice of having their infants and young children travel with them to the games—this is particularly critical for mothers who are breastfeeding," Torgersen told Parents.com. "If this is not possible, we want to help athlete-mothers and coaching-mothers get their breast milk home."

Milk Stork had partnered with &Mother, an organization co-founded by Olympian and mother, Alysia Montaño, to connect with athletes and coaches who may have needed breast milk shipping if they were officially not allowed to bring their babies to the Olympics. Torgersen added any athlete or coach who needed the service should contact milkstork@andmother.org

The Olympic news had come at a time when mothers need more support than ever—they have disproportionally been affected during the pandemic. "The issues facing these athletes are what so many accomplished, ambitious working moms face every day, everywhere. Working mothers' professional achievements should not come at the expense of their choices as mothers, nor should their choices as mothers come at the expense of their careers," said Torgersen. "We need to create a world where working moms can go for the gold whether it's at the Olympics or in the 9 to 5."