Thanks to Vocal Moms, the Tokyo Olympics Will Allow Athletes to Bring Their Nursing Babies

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ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 20: Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan (13) and her daughter Charlie after the NWSL soccer match between the Orlando Pride and the NY/NJ Gotham FC on June 20, 2021 at Explorer Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 20: Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan (13) and her daughter Charlie after the NWSL soccer match between the Orlando Pride and the NY/NJ Gotham FC on June 20, 2021 at Explorer Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When moms speak up, things change for the better. For example, the Tokyo Olympics next month will allow nursing children to accompany their parents who are athletes. On Wednesday, event organizers released a statement announcing an exception to its strict COVID-19 protection policy. Other family members and friends are not allowed to join competitors in Japan.

"Given that the Tokyo 2020 Games will take place during a pandemic, overall we must unfortunately decline to permit athletes' family members or other companions to accompany them to the Games," the statement read. "However, 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." There will be "private accommodations" for the kids, as they're not invited in the Olympic Village.

This policy change comes after several athletes vocalized their disappointment at the exclusion of their breastfeeding babies. Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher, who is nursing her 3-month-old daughter, Sophie, pleaded with the Olympic organizers to make accommodations for herself and other moms. "Right now, I'm being forced to decide between being a breastfeeding mom and an Olympic athlete. I can't be both," she said in an Instagram video. "The basketball team is going to be gone for 28 days. 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 into shape, and feed her currently all while stocking a 28-day supply."

Long distance runner Aliphine Tuliamuk voiced similar concerns on social media. "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 wrote. "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."

Soccer player Alex Morgan, mom to 13-month-old Charlie, told People she'd hold out hope for the Olympics to change its policy "until the very last day." She also recognized that while it would be "very disappointing" to be separated from her daughter for the first time, she understood the original policy was put in place as protection. "I completely understand that right now the goal is to save lives. The goal is to make sure that we all stay healthy. So for me, it's trying not to just think of myself in this situation," she explained. "... I think as of right now, it is really disappointing, but I also am trying to understand the entirety of the Olympics still even being able to occur during a pandemic." Luckily, thanks to moms who raised their voices, Charlie and other young kids will be making their way to Japan for the games starting July 23.