IN JULY 2010, Elizabeth Gomez, a mother of three from Medford, had just finished her workout at Woburn’s North Suburban YMCA and went to pick up her kids from the day-care room. When she sat down and started nursing her 3-month-old son, Christian, two day-care workers approached Gomez and told her she was in violation of the “no food” policy. Incredulous, irate, she returned home, determined to spread the word to her fellow moms — and find out if what had happened was, as she suspected, illegal under the state’s newly passed breast-feeding law.
After a frustrating call to YMCA management, Gomez posted a description of the incident on several local parenting listservs. And they told two friends. And they told two friends. And so on and so on. The story ultimately rippled out to moms all over the Boston area, triggering widespread outrage. Gomez recalls hearing that “so many people started to call them that their phone lines were jammed.” By the end of the week, the YMCA reversed course, disciplining the instigating employee and saying it would retrain its 1,500 staff members across Boston on the issue. “If it weren’t for local online groups,” says Gomez, “this incident would have not have received any attention or response.”