Confusion over poolside breastfeeding

Image: twobee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Confusion arose yesterday when a lady was asked to move from the poolside when she started to breastfeed her child. Unfortunately the duty manager didn’t handle the situation very well leading the mother to feel discriminated against and generally unsure of the pool’s policy. They have acknowledged this fully and are now exploring how better they can cater for breastfeeding mothers.

Tracey, from Brighton had been sat at the edge of the pool as a spectator in her day clothes, for nearly an hour, watching her 6 year old son swim at the Prince Regent Swimming complex before starting to feed her 6 week old daughter. Five minutes into the feed, a member of staff approached her and asked her if  she was breastfeeding. She replied, ‘yes’ and he asked her to move to the foyer by the vending machines. Upset and shocked by this, the mother went to the reception to ask for the manager, who it turned out was the same member of staff who had asked her to move. Tracey says he asked her to move on grounds of decency and also stated, when asked directly by her, if she had been bottle feeding, she would not have been asked to move. BrightonMums.com have since spoken to the pool’s management who have made their policy a little clearer:

– any form of food or drink is prohibited at poolside for health & safety reasons, mainly as they need to reduce the risk of contamination to the water. This would include bottle feeding, despite what the duty manager confusingly declared.

– other risks of feeding poolside is accidents may occur where the baby falls into the water. They need to reduce this risk where possible.

The complex have apologised unreservedly to the mother, stating that the staff were a little out of their depth when confronted with the issue and realised they could have handled a whole lot better. They accept that the above policy should have been made clear at the time. The pool’s Operations Manager drew attention to the fact they run Squeaky Frogs swimming sessions for mothers and babies, where mothers routinely feed anywhere in the complex. He re-itterated that many of the staff are parents and they understand the confidence issues of mothers and public feeding and fully support their right to do so. After speaking to the pool, Tracey feels happier that this was all a misunderstanding and gap in staff training, however, they still need to further clarify what mothers need to do to feed, if they are using the pool with two children under 8, one being a young infant.  After all, it is the school holidays and parents want to be out, keeping their kids amused and spending quality time together a family. The Prince Regent are further investigating this and have suggested working with Tracey and BrightonMums.com to develop their breastfeed support & facilities at the complex.

Breastfeeding in public is protected by law by the 2010 Equality Act and 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. In Scotland, preventing a woman from breastfeeding in public could cost you a £2,500 fine. Fortunately, with a few friendly telephone calls the centre have limited the damage and reassured the mother. However, she had already posted a rant on an open Facebook group which puts the matter ‘out there’ in a public domain. With the increased use of social media by parents, it demonstrates how essential it is that establishments train their staff on the law and parental rights plus how to deal with any complaints and issues that arise. If not only for legal reasons but also to empower mothers to feel confident about feeding wherever and whenever they need to.

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About Claire Jones-Hughes

Founder and co-editor of BrightonMums.com, Claire has been blogging since 2009. She has posted on a variety of sites including The Argus, The Huffington Post and The Guardian's Comment Is Free. Known as The Contented Mummy on social media, she is dedicated to honest, unsponsored blogging so that parents can benefit from shared experience. Can also be found at www.fitfaband40.co.uk - sharing her journey to health & wellness.

View all posts by Claire Jones-Hughes →

21 Comments on “Confusion over poolside breastfeeding”

  1. I think this is disgusting and they treated the mum disgustingly, i am outraged to hear this story so is my husband, as a breast feeding mum my self i dont undstand how this is aloud. im not happy at all

  2. What on earth gets into these peoples minds and how is breastfeeding ‘indecent’ its not like she was walking round flashing her boobs to everyone in the pool, and i bet if asked, any other spectators would NOT have known that she was breastfeeding her baby. I too am a proud breastfeeding mummy and have also worked in a swimming pool as a swimming teacher whilst pregnant and breastfeeding, never once was it an issue that my boobs may have leaked milk into the water, far more concerning was the little children who were piddling in there!! I suggest that the Manager in question is put on a customer relations course imminently and is taught the basics of ‘acceptable and unacceptable’ before calling the most natural thing in the world indecent…even cave men could cope with it…….

  3. Oh for heaven’s sake! ‘Out of their depth’??? It’s not like she was taking drugs! She was breastfeeding her baby – why is breastfeeding such a big deal that it throws otherwise sane normal people into a panicked frenzy? Madness!

  4. This is both a shocking and sad for all mums. What’s the point of a massive nhs campaign to encourage breastfeeding if this is how women get treated. I bottle fed my children because I’m horrificly shy and the thought of having to feed outdoors made be ill. We should be supporting the women who are brave enough to do this in the hope that it will encourage others, and action should be taken against those people who make them feel shame and humiliate them for doing a perfectly natural and beautiful process like feeding their child. Also as I said I didn’t breastfeed but my boobs still leaked all through my pregnancy and for several weeks after, are they going to start removing pregnant women and new mothers from their precious pool to avoid contamination. They know they have done wrong they just didn’t expect this lady to fight back they expected her to hang her head and leave shamed, well how wrong were they which is why they have decided to backtrack with the most stupid excuses I’ve ever heard. I hope she takes them to the cleaners!

  5. Breast milk is classed as food and drink? Does he gave any idea how ludicrous that is?! By that reasoning we can’t feed in any shops, we can’t feed on a bus, we can’t feed in a cafe or restaurant where only food bought on the premises may be consumed. Here I was wrongly assuming we had the LEGAL right to feed our children where and when needed. Looks like we’re stuck in the house until our children are fully weaned

  6. This is absolute crap! I want to see them explain how they are hiding behind ‘health & safety’ on this one and what piece of legislation you are on breach of by feeding poolside. I am a health & safety officer and this sounds ridiculous! ‘baby could fall in the pool’??? Oh yeah because I’m always letting my LO slip out of my hands when I’m breastfeeding or not!! Also how the heck are you going to contaminate the pool with breast milk??? On the extremely rare occasion that your boobs have a complete mind of their own and start uncontrollably spray breast milk into the water, surely the chemicals in the pool water would kill any potential risks, you know like the chemicals are designed to do!!!! Im surprised they weren’t worried that breast milk could spray into a swimmers eyes temporarily blinding them causing them to stray into another swimmers lane causing a massive crash and build up in the 100m lane – could you imagine the mass panic, I’m pretty sure no one would ever feel safe going swimming again!! Sounds to me like they have no idea about managing risk and I’d like to see their health & safety arrangements for the actual running of the pool!! 

  7. “other risks of feeding poolside is accidents may occur where the baby falls into the water. They need to reduce this risk where possible” – so what will you do stop babies, children from going to the pool side – whats the difference to them being held not feeding to being held feeding.

    “any form of food or drink is prohibited at poolside for health & safety reasons” – hmmmmm so are us breast feeding mums supposed to leave our boobs behind outside the door!!!! Like other mums said boobs will leak in the pool all the time, babies will be sick – does that contaminate – no becasue theirs chlorine there to help clean the pool!!

    “The pool’s Operations Manager drew attention to the fact they run Squeaky Frogs swimming sessions for mothers and babies, where mothers routinely feed anywhere in the complex” – why is this session any different – rountinely feeding anywhere must mean that mums at this session can feed their babies at the pool side.

    If this was me I would definitely be taking this further its outrageous xx

  8. This is appalling! Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world and should be supported. This pool has clearly realised that it has discriminated against this mother and is back tracking it’s reasons for asking her to move! She is hardly likely to contaminate the pool with breast milk! Would they prefer for her to have left her son unsupervised while she went to somewhere they deemed ‘more appropriate’ to feed?
    If it is true that the employee involved was not sure of the pools policy on breastfeeding then this does not instill confidence in anyone who uses the pool as surely the manager, as this employee turned out to be, should be the very person to know all company policies in order to teach others under his charge! There is no excuse for the way this poor mother was treated. She was clearly made to feel uncomfortable and upset when doing something which should be encouraged by everyone!

  9. Of course they backtracked… they are not going to admit what they said, they are going to rephrase it or say they meant something else to cover themselves because they now know they are in the wrong.

    A simple apology is nothing, because the damage is done. To ask her to move on the grounds of decency is to say that what she was doing was indencent and who is this manager to say breastfeeding is indecent.

    If they are so worried about contamination then they need to worry about all the little children who pee in the pool, all the dirt and sweat that comes off people getting in the water… surely thats contamination too… also mothers who are still producing breastmilk… that still could leek into the water when they are swimming… so why did this manager cause such an issue, and cause unessassary upset and embarrassment?

  10. I really do feel that once the manager had made his case he spent the next day trying to think up an excuse for when the press got wind of it- his excuses are ridiculous and it’s people like this that make it so hard for mums like Tracey (and me) to leave the house with our small babies because we’re worried about peoples reactions to us breastfeeding.

  11. an absolutely appalling situation! this poor lady should never have been treated in this way. breast feeding should be encouraged as its one of the most natural things, she should never have been told to move from the poolside, she was feeding a newborn, holding the baby close to her so unsure how they thought / think by breast feeding there was going to contaminate the water. surely they get more contamination on a daily basis from people peeing in the pool!!!
    this lady deserves a full apology, the council this pool belongs too should be very unsatisfied with how their staff handled this situation!

  12. I am shocked and appalled that this type of narrow minded ignorance continues to exist. There is absolutely nothing rude or offensive about a mother providing the best milk and care to her young baby. This is a supposedly family environment where young mothers should feel confident to care for their babies. At a time when there is ever increasing pressure for mothers to encourage and facilitate physical activity this type of event may put mothers off accessing such environments with their children. This mother was clearly doing a fantastic job of providing a stimulating physical activity for her older child whilst feeding her new baby. That is no mean feet (as a mum of four I know!!). You go girl, this is discrimination and will not be tolerated by us who breastfeed proudly.

  13. I think this is disgusting and they treated the mum disgustingly. As someone else has stated their excuses are stupid and obviously they are just trying to cover their tracks. Breastfeeding your child poolside has the same risks as holding your child poolside and yes if they are worried about contamination then are they banning all breastfeeding mothers from the pool as let’s be honest we’ve all leaked breast milk at some point!!!

  14. Frankly, I’m disgusted by this. They appear to have invented policies to cover for their downright idiocy! Even if such policies were in place, this is still discrimination as the member of staff was clearly unaware of them thus meaning that the reasons he gave for asking the mother to leave were based on his own, personal prejudices. There are always risks of contamination in swimming pools and I feel certain that many substances that enter into the water are far more offensive than breastmilk. I was always under the impression that this was why chlorine is used! I too think that action needs to be taken to eliminate the ignorance that still overshadows a beautiful and natural process.

  15. Sounds like a very hasty back track to me! I absolutely hate this kind of prudish attitude to breastfeeding and I am certain that it puts mum’s off trying to feed naturally because they worry about getting unsupportive comments. I breastfed in public (when I say public I mean generally living my life outside the home as a normal active human being!) and luckily never had a bad word, but I did worry a lot as a new mum about what other people thought.

  16. This is crazy, breastfeeding poolside would not contaminate the water at all. It isn’t like there is food or even a bottle to fall into the water. Looks like backtracking to me.

  17. if they are worried about contamination does this mean that mums that breastfeed are not able to go swimming as they might leak and contaminate the pool. If the pool offers baby swim classes you cant tell me that they would expect all the mums and babies that take part not to need feeding at some point. You have to realise the chances are the pool is contaminated by urine daily.. how do they combat against this?? I agree with Jodie i think legal advice needs to be arranged….

  18. How can they say that its to reduce the risk of the baby falling in the pool? Does that mean you can’t hold a baby at the poolside? Surely feeding a baby doesn’t make that risk any higher! I think the manager was out of order and if I was that mum I would be seeking legal advice.

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