Recently, I saw an article about a local woman ‘winning’ a legal battle after supposedly being sexualised for breastfeeding and being stopped in a public place. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? In all fairness, that sounds like a victory. It isn’t. The real story – as headlines and news articles themselves have a great tendency to be misleading – is that she was breastfeeding in a swimming pool and was asked to leave the pool due to their health and safety regulations. The article is here if you would like to read it.
The article is written to sound ambiguous. It never clarifies whether she was in the pool or at the pool when she was breastfeeding. The real reason why she was asked to leave the pool (as written in a response by the pool owner on Facebook in their defence) was that the father of the family was in charge of 3 children and she was in charge of 1. The pool has a rule put in place for health and safety stating that for each 2 children in the pool under a certain age there must be 1 adult there to supervise. To clarify, the woman was in the water while feeding.
False allegations (quite a common theme these days, hm?) were made about what was said about the breastfeeding mother – comments about how the lifeguards would not be able to control themselves if they were to see the breasts of a woman in the pool (more insulting to the lifeguards, if you ask me). The mother also claimed that she was told to leave the pool due to this, rather than the health and safety rules.
Now, let me get this clear before I continue; I am 100% okay with a woman breastfeeding in public, whether she’s next to me or across the room, but I cannot understand why a woman would breastfeed in a swimming pool. Surely there is a lacking element of common sense here. Firstly, there’s the issue of hygiene. Pools are kept clean constantly throughout the day due to a lot of risk when it comes to children possibly peeing, bodily fluids, every gross thing you can think of. I believe this puts the baby at risk, in the sense of what it’s sucking off the mother’s breast. I cannot for the life of me understand why she was doing it. Secondly, there is no reason whatsoever for her to have stayed in the pool to breastfeed. She should have left the pool, cleaned herself of the chemicals used in the water and only then should she have fed her child (thought articles like this one state this is not much of an issue, chemicals are most definitely not the only thing in swimming pool water). There’s plenty of room at public pools to breastfeed and this pool have actually clarified in their statement the following,
“Firstly, I can state that we have always allowed, and continue to allow, breast-feeding at the Western Swimming Pool, our policy states: It is the policy of the Western Swimming Pool Board to support families by allowing women to feed infants at the Western Swimming Pool. We believe that breastfeeding is the healthiest way for a woman to feed her baby and recognise the important health benefits known to exist for both mother and child. Staff will not discriminate against any woman with regard to her chosen method of feeding and will support her when she has made that choice to feed on the premises.”‘.
They are breastfeeding friendly, so the issue was not caused by breastfeeding and they in fact encourage it as they understand that it is what is best for the baby.
My opinion on this issue is that this woman lacks common sense and it really does seem as though she was out for the money in suing the company. The pool owner continues to say that the only reason they settled on compensation was because it was the only option available to them that did not involve spending more than they should. The pool is funded by the tax-payer and it’s profits, they wanted to spend as little of that as possible on something that was beneficial for no one but the woman in question and her family. I feel like the woman in this story really was only in it for money. After the lawsuit was settled what reason did she have to run to the papers? Even less respectable was the paper she ran to in order to sell the very one-sided story.
As a mother, I understand that babies need to be fed wherever and whenever they want to be but I – under no circumstances – would ever feed a child in water. I feel this puts the child in danger. I know how frustrating it can be to have to deal with the child crying and screeching until they get the feed they want but I would still have the decency towards the child and everyone else to remove myself from the pool before breastfeeding. Besides, no one else is allowed to eat in the pool; I would not be allowed to bottlefeed my child in the pool and I would be completely understanding of this. I feel this mother thinks in an overly entitled way – not only entitled to breastfeed literally wherever but also entitled to money over something as scandalous as what seems to be a very one-sided story in one of the least reputable news sources out there and a lawsuit that involved taking from the tax-payer and giving to oneself.
I cannot, do not, and will not have sympathy for this woman. I feel there is an aspect of this society that is doing exactly what is right in promoting breastfeeding (breast is best, so they say) but I also see that there are women like this that are doing nothing but setting the breastfeeding movement back because she thinks she was sexualised when she was actually in the wrong by going against the policy of the environment she was in. The person to have allegedly made the comments against has also released a statement saying that the comments are entirely false and should have been published in the story. They have written to the Daily Mail to have them edit it accordingly and are considering legal action regardless.
To be fair, there are other occurences of pool staff asking women to leave the pool due to breastfeeding, such as this one about a lady in Manchester back in 2013, which also includes a link to yet another story of the same occurence. Also, if you vote in the poll at the bottom of the page I doubt you would be surprised to see that opinions are very varied when it comes to whether or not mothers should be able to breastfeed in the water.
Personally, I’m going to say I would much prefer that women do not breastfeed in the pool as (although kept as clean as possible) the water isn’t a healthy place for anyone to eat and I wouldn’t want my child sucking on my nipple after being in a pool full of chemicals. In fact I have yet to take my child swimming because I do not want her in a pool full of chemicals and who knows what else. She is already six months old, I still want her to be older before we have our first swim together.
The situation in this story does differ a bit from the tangent I have left of on, the fact that she was told to leave the pool due to health and safety procedures of the pool regarding other children and not because she was breastfeeding and it was unhygienic and bad for the baby shows that this woman has twisted the story for financial gain. She is now making more money from it by selling it, which is damaging the company due to the bad reputation it will now receive. Honestly, I feel it is selfish for her to have done this as the money she was given as compensation could have been used for far better things and she has undermined the rules of the pool and won. I feel this a loss for breastfeeding women. She would rather put her other children at risk to feed one than to take the children she is responsible for out of the pool to make sure everyone is safe.
I understand you could argue that breastfeeding a child does not necessarily mean that her attention was not on other children but I would argue that it is divided. This is important because it only takes a second for something to go wrong when it comes to children, they need to be supervised at all times – especially in water. I only have one child and even though I cannot watch her all the time as I do have things to do, I really do try my best to keep my eyes on her as much as possible as I know something can go wrong in the blink of an eye. I always keep her within my periphery or just to the corner so that I can see what she’s up to. I constantly check back on her even if she is quiet. I am a very paranoid mother as you hear all the horror stories, but I do not feel it is paranoia that forces me to have to watch my child all the time in a pool – it is simply common sense, something this woman was clearly lacking and has now profited from. I strongly feel she should not have received any compensation as in my opinion there was nothing she needed to be compensated for.
So in conclusion I do feel that she was in the wrong entirely – ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ as they say – and should have followed the pools regulations whether she agreed with them or not. If you go out to a venue you will find almost all of them have rules about child supervision if they allow children, especially places with child play areas. Pools are no different and this story is one I really feel could have been avoided if the woman understood that she was the one in the wrong instead of making up lies and excuses to make a case. Once they told her the rules all she had to do was take another child out for a few minutes or so. Not exactly a hard thing to do and there would have been no trouble. I tend to be a parent who wants the least amount of trouble possible. This woman seems to be out for the drama of it all.
I’m going to throw a disclaimer in here; I do not breastfeed (I gave it a go but it wasn’t for me) but I do understand the struggle that comes with it. Bottlefeeding is somewhat frowned upon itself these days (with all the controversy about it being because of how hard it is to breastfeed, because some people believe it’s because we’re lazy as mothers, because bottles are not as good for them as breast milk, etc.) and it isn’t easy. I would not have a choice but have to leave the pool if my child wanted to be fed. I cannot feed my child easily without some struggle to find at least two empty seats in a cafe and space for the pram. It’s never going to be easy being a mother but I really do feel that the mother in the story is taking a bit of the Michael and that mothers should think before they decide to breastfeed inside a pool. Every different aspect of parenthood comes with its own drawbacks and there’s never going to be full agreement of what is wrong and what is right. That’s just a part of life.
Also, I would like to stress that this article is a discussion on my own opinion on the situation. If you have a different one, please feel free to share as I would love to hear it and try to understand different points of view. Have you ever breastfed in a swimming pool? Do you breastfeed or bottlefeed? What problems have you experienced with your way of feeding your baby?