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Tokyo Reverses Decision To Bar Nursing Infants From Accompanying Their Olympian Mothers To the 2020 Games

The Olympics haven’t always had the best track record with mothers. For the longest time, being a mother and being an Olympic athlete was somewhat taboo. In fact, many female athletes hid the fact that they were mothers or pregnant for fear of losing lucrative sponsorships. Unfortunately, the habit of discounting women who are athletes as well as mothers has continued into 2021. This time, the Olympics were discounting breastfeeding mothers.

Until recently, Tokyo officials barred breastfeeding mothers from bringing their infant children with them to the 2021 games. The Olympic committee reversed the rule in late June.

“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,” said the Olympic organizing committee.

The reasoning behind the original rule in the first place was, of course, COVID-19-related. This year, the Olympic committee has been exceptionally cautious about unnecessary guests attending the games. Because of this, Japan has barred foreign nationals from an immense amount of countries from entering the country. That is except for “special exceptional circumstances.”

Many Olympic athletes were frustrated that Tokyo didn’t think breastfeeding an infant was a “special exceptional circumstance.”

“Right now, I am being forced to decide between being a breastfeeding mom or an Olympic athlete,” said Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher in an Instagram live video. “I can’t have them both. Tokyo has said no friends, no family, no exceptions.”

Gaucher was not the only athlete and mother to decry this rule. Multiple breastfeeding Olympic athletes expressed their concern about being away from their infant children for such an extended time period.

American marathon runner Aliphine Tuliamuk wrote a lengthy Instagram post saying that she felt like her “heart is hanging out of my body” at the thought of going to Tokyo without her daughter.

“I had been putting off thinking about Zoe not coming to Tokyo with me for a while now,” Tuliamuk wrote. “But I had to start to at team processing a week ago in Eugene, and I have cried a lot since.”

“I know that I will be leaving her for only 10 days, and she will be just fine, and that so many other moms have done the same,” she continued. “But I can’t even imagine being away from her for half a day. My throat is lumpy.”

Thankfully, and in the nick of time, Tokyo decided to allow young children to accompany their mothers to this year’s summer games. But the fact that it took such effort on the part of Olympian mothers proves that the Olympic games are still not as inclusive as they could be.

Still, the Olympian mothers are grateful that the rule changed before the games started.

“What a relief it feels not to have to imagine my breastfeeding daughter being miles away from me,” wrote Tuliamuk in an updated Instagram post after the decision was announced. “Thank you to IOC and the host country of Japan for making sure that nursing moms didn’t have to choose between their babies and their careers.”

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