Confusion over poolside breastfeeding
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.