Annie Peguero got in trouble for breast-feeding her 19-month-old daughter, Autumn, in the sanctuary of the Summit Church in Springfield, Virginia, on April 23 (video below).
"I sat down on the floor outside of the [church] nursery, and began breast-feeding her," Peguero told WUSA. "Right away, the church employees were frantically grabbing for a blanket. And one of the employees came over to me, and covered up Autumn. And I said, 'Oh, no. That’s okay. We’re good.'"
According to Peguero, a church employee urged her to use a special moms' room for breast-feeding, but Peguero refused. She eventually took her baby to a back pew in the main sanctuary to hear the church sermon, but says she was confronted again:
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."
Peguero recalled speaking to the pastor’s wife, who informed her about the church's "policy": "And she said, "Well, we wouldn’t want to make a man, or a teenager, or a new churchgoer feel uncomfortable." And I said, "Well, I’m very uncomfortable and I’m never coming back to this church and I loved it so very much.""
Peguero told The Washington Post that an unidentified church lady warned her that the church service was being live streamed and the woman did not want Peguero to be seen breast-feeding.
Peguero left the church with her baby, and posted a video on Facebook telling viewers about her experience and urging them to stand up for breast-feeding moms: "I want you to know that breast-feeding is normal."
Virginia has had a law in place since 2015 that allows women to breast-feed in public where they are "lawfully present," including religious institutions.
Peguero and her lawyer, Rebecca Geller, are calling on the leaders of the church to change their policy.
"I feel like my rights as a mom have been violated," Peguero told the newspaper.
Church officials would not comment to The Washington Post, but Geller said that she received a call from executive pastor Tony Trayers who told her that the church was not aware of the state law, and would check into it.
Peguero, who works as a fitness and nutrition specialist as well as a personal trainer, told the newspaper: "I knew [breast-feeding] was the very best thing for my baby. I wanted to give them that gift for as long as I could, and that’s what I did."
Peguero also breast-fed her older daughter in public when she was an infant: "I have breast-fed in a few different countries. I have breast-fed all over the place. No one has ever said anything to me."
Peguero has attended the church off and on since January, but says that she no longer feels welcome: "I can never go back there."