Aliphine Tuliamuk and other Olympic athletes may not be able to bring their babies with them to the Tokyo games while they are breastfeeding. Many are outraged by the policy.

By Anna Halkidis
June 10, 2021
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The anticipated Tokyo Olympics are getting close but for some athletes it's a cause of stress-and not because of the competition. Breastfeeding athletes are worried they may not be able to bring their babies along with them.

Long distance runner Aliphine Tuliamuk, who is still nursing her infant, is one of them, and in an interview with The Washington Post 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."

Back in March, Tokyo Olympics organizers announced a ban on overseas spectators to avoid pandemic risks. While overseas spectators will be refunded, it's 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, are also 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.

An image of Aliphine Tiliamuk on a colorful background.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

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

But the news has outraged many. On social media, users are 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, has publicly also 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 tells Parents.com. "If this is not possible, we want to help athlete-mothers and coaching-mothers get their breast milk home."

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

The Olympic news comes 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," adds 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."