Breastfeeding Athletes Now Allowed to Bring Kids to Tokyo Olympics

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, nursing athletes faced the dilemma of having to leave their children at home to compete in the summer games. Now, they don't have to choose.

By Samantha Schnurr Jun 30, 2021 9:09 PMTags
Watch: Alex Morgan Takes the E!Q in 42

Nursing Olympic athletes will want to bottle up this special news. 

With the 2020 Summer Olympics set to begin in Japan in less than a month, the Tokyo 2020 organizers announced on Wednesday, June 30 that nursing children will be allowed to accompany their mothers to the games. It marks a potential relief for moms who were facing a difficult dilemma: temporarily parting from their little ones to compete amid the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, they've been granted another option. 

"It is inspiring that so many athletes with young children are able to continue competing at the highest levels, including at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we are committed to doing everything possible to enable them to perform at the Tokyo 2020 Games," a statement read. "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. 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."

Since access to the Olympic and Paralympic Village will be restricted to athletes and team officials only, nursing children will have to stay "in private accommodation approved by Tokyo 2020." According to the International Olympic Committee, nursing mothers will be allowed to stay in those private accommodations and bring a caretaker or partner to help, Today reported, citing NBC correspondent Molly Hunter.  

2021 Summer Olympics Status Check

In response to the significant exception, the International Olympic Committee said in a statement, "It is great to see so many mothers compete at the highest level, including at the Olympic Games. It is important to note that entry into Japan is the responsibility of the Japanese government and the current situation of the pandemic requires a very significant reduction in the numbers of accredited participants who do not have essential and operational responsibilities. We are very pleased to hear that the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has found a special solution regarding the entry to Japan for mothers who are breastfeeding and their young children."

The announcement was met with resistance by soccer star Alex Morgan, who tweeted, "Still not sure what 'when necessary' even means. Is that determined by the mother or the IOC? We are Olympic mothers telling you, it is NECESSARY. I have not been contacted about being able to bring my daughter with me to Japan and we leave in 7 days." 

Long distance runner Aliphine Tuliamuk recently reflected on her worry over having to be apart from her 5-month-old daughter while competing in Tokyo. 

"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," Tuliamuk wrote in a June 28 Instagram post. "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 5month [sic] old breastfeeding daughter behind for 10 days to race at the Olympics, I can prevail and show her how to be strong."

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