Breastfeeding US runner shares relief to be bringing her baby to Tokyo

Breastfeeding US marathoner shares her relief over bringing her baby to Tokyo – after the Olympic committee backtracked on rule that banned even nursing newborns from traveling

  • Team USA long-distance runner Aliphine Tuliamuk, 32, welcomed her daughter Zoe in January and is still breastfeeding
  • Family is banned from traveling with Olympians due to strict COVID rules
  • But after several public pleas, the committee announced that an exception would be made for babies who are nursing 
  • Tuliamuk admitted she was ‘devastated’ and ‘cried a lot’ before the rule change and sent a letter to the head of the International Olympic Committee
  • She now gushed ‘what a relief’ it is to bring her daughter and said she is ‘full of gratitude’ 
  • Kim Gaucher, 37, also pled for the change so she could bring her four-month-old daughter Sophie; she, too, celebrated the rule change
  • Find out the latest Tokyo Olympic news including schedule, medal table and results right here

Team USA long-distance runner Aliphine Tuliamuk has shared relief and gratitude that she is allowed to take her six-month breastfeeding daughter to the Olympics this month, after the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee finally reversed its previous policy that banned even nursing mothers from traveling with their babies.

Due to the pandemic, the Olympics have banned any family from traveling to Tokyo with athletes, including newborn babies who are still nursing — which posed a heartbreaking dilemma to several new moms set to compete.

But following several high-profile pleas and pushback from athletes and supporters alike, the committee announced earlier this month that it would make an exception for nursing mothers and their children.

Now Tuliamuk — who admitted that she ‘cried a lot’ at the thought of leaving her daughter at home — said she is ‘beyond excited’ that she is able to bring her little girl along, writing: ‘What a relief it feels not to have to imagine my breastfeeding daughter being miles away from me.’

Team USA long-distance runner Aliphine Tuliamuk, 32, welcomed her daughter Zoe in January and is still breastfeeding

Tuliamuk admitted she was ‘devastated’ and ‘cried a lot’ when she was told that she couldn’t bring Zoe to the Olympics due to a ban on all family

A still-raging pandemic has meant many changes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was already postpone a full year.

In addition to frequent testing, masking, and quarantines, there are strict rules governing who can travel to Tokyo, with athletes barred from bringing any friends or family.

The rule left absolutely no wiggle room, which meant a few athletes who had recently given birth faced leaving their babies at home and being forced to switch from breastfeeding to formula. 

Tuliamuk was among them.

‘When they put restrictions in and sent us an email that she wasn’t going to be able to come, I was really devastated,’ she told Good Morning America. ‘What do they expect us to do? I can’t just leave my breastfeeding child behind.’

On June 27, she shared a photo of herself breastfeeding her six-month-old daughter Zoe alongside a lengthy caption about her predicament.

‘I have been working my butt off since having my daughter. I want to produce the best result possible. My long runs & workouts are coming together nicely, body is holding together well,’ she wrote.

In fact, she started training again in March, just two months after Zoe was born. 

‘I had been putting off thinking about Zoe not coming to Tokyo with me for a while now, but I had to start to, at team processing a week ago in Eugene, and I have cried a lot since,’ she went on. 

‘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, but I can’t even imagine being away from her for half a day. 

‘My throat is lumpy. I know that everything I do is a teaching moment for her. I want her to know that even in the face of challenges that she can still follow her passion and prevail.

Now I need to tell this to myself, that even in the face of challenges like leaving my now 5-month-old breastfeeding daughter behind for 10 days to race at the Olympics, I can prevail and show her how to be strong.’ 

Despite her determination to carry on, she still had not given up fighting, and sent a letter to the head of the International Olympic Committee asking for an exception.

Facing a growing public outcry, the committee announced on June 30 that it would make exceptions. 

‘If we want to support female athletes, part of being a female athlete is also having a family and if you want to support me as a complete athlete, you should be able to make room for my family,’ she said

‘After careful consideration of the unique situation facing athletes with nursing children, we are pleased to confirm that, when necessary, nursing children will be able to accompany athletes to Japan,’ the committee said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

Now, Tuliamuk is thrilled to be bringing Zoe to the Olympics, and added that her fiancé, Tim Gannon, is also allowed to travel with them as Tuliamuk’s personal coach.

‘I’m just full of gratitude,’ she told GMA. ‘I cannot wait to go to Sapporo and have an amazing race and race for myself, race for my teammates and my sponsors, my family and my daughter.’

She also celebrated the win on Instagram, writing last week: ‘ZOE’s VISA ARRIVED TODAY!’

‘We are beyond excited that you get to come to Japan and cheer on your mama as she goes after her biggest running goals,’ she said.

Her fiancé, Tim Gannon, is also allowed to travel with them as Tuliamuk’s personal coach

‘I want to make sure my daughter understands that this world is not easy but that does not mean that you give up,’ she said

‘What a relief it feels not to have to imagine my breastfeeding daughter being miles away from me,’ she went on, thanking the IOC President Thomas Bach ‘for reading and responding positively to our letter petition our daughter to join us.’  

Tuliamuk told GMA she wanted to speak out to show that ‘mom athletes can compete at the highest level of sport’ — but that means institutions need to support them.

‘If we want to support female athletes, part of being a female athlete is also having a family and if you want to support me as a complete athlete, you should be able to make room for my family,’ she said.

‘You should be able to make room for me if I decide to have a family. You can’t just talk about supporting women and then not actually support them.’ 

She’s also intent on building a better world for her daughter.  

‘I want to make sure my daughter understands that this world is not easy but that does not mean that you give up,’ she said. ‘It means that you double down and you work very, very hard and you seize every opportunity that you get.’ 

Kim Gaucher, 37, also asked she be allowed to bring along her infant daughter to the Olympics

In March, she and her husband welcomed a daughter named Sophie, who is still breastfeeding

Tuliamuk wasn’t the only nursing Olympian to object to the strict rule and ask for an exception to bring her baby. 

Before the rule change, Canadian basketball star Kim Gaucher, 37, lamented on Instagram in June that she was being forced to choose between feeding her four-month daughter and realizing her Olympics dreams.

Gaucher, who was born in British Columbia and played at the University of Utah before competing in several FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cups for Canada, now plays for USO Mondeville in the championnat de France de basket-ball de Ligue féminine 2 (LF2). 

But her dream has been to represent Canada at the Olympics, and this year, she qualified to do so. 

‘All I’ve ever wanted out of my basketball career is to rep Canada at the Olympics,’ she said in an Instagram video. 

‘Last year my teammates and I qualified for Tokyo but right now I’m being forced to decide between being a breastfeeding mom or an Olympic athlete. I can’t have them both. Tokyo has said no friends, no family, no exceptions,’ she said.

Unbendable rules: The Olympics had told athletes that no friends or family can come for the Games, with no exceptions

‘We’ve looked into shipping milk. We’ve run into complications, [but] we’re still exploring that option. But it’s not going to be easy,’ she went on

But she argued that this rule seemed arbitrary considering how many people are actually going to be at the Games, and the fact that many will be traveling from different countries. 

‘Athletes and media are flying from around the world, Japanese fans are going to be in attendance, the arenas are going to be half-full. But I will not have access to my daughter?’ she asked.

‘The basketball team is gonna be gone for 28 days,’ she continued. ‘People have told me to try to pump like mad. 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, all while stocking a 28-day supply. 

‘We’ve looked into shipping milk. We’ve run into complications, [but] we’re still exploring that option. But it’s not going to be easy,’ she went on.   

‘I need the help of the internet. If anyone knows anybody, anything, let’s see if we can make a difference. It’s 2021, let’s make working moms normal,’ she concluded

After the rule change was announced, Gaucher took to Instagram to celebrate, writing: WOOO!!! Sophie is coming to Tokyo. Way too many people to thank’ 

On July 12, she shared a snap of herself carrying her baby at the airport on her way to Japan

She said that she had protested through ‘all the traditional routes, we’ve tried appeals. Everyone says they’re on board but nobody can do anything.’

‘I need the help of the internet. If anyone knows anybody, anything, let’s see if we can make a difference. It’s 2021, let’s make working moms normal,’ she concluded.  

Support poured in for Gaucher, with commenters calling the rule ‘brutal’ and ‘crazy.’ 

Fellow Olympian Alysia Montaño, a six-time USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships 800 metres champion, said she is ‘outraged’ on her behalf.

After the rule change was announced, Gaucher took to Instagram to celebrate, writing: ‘WOOO!!! Sophie is coming to Tokyo. Way too many people to thank.’

On July 12, she shared a snap of herself carrying her baby at the airport on her way to Japan. 

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