Mum sparks debate over rules for breastfeeding babies in public pools

An Australian mum has sparked debate about whether it is safe to breastfeed babies in swimming pools, and whether lifeguards should be allowed to kick breastfeeding mums out of the water.

Posting her query to a Facebook group, she asked if other mums had ever been asked to get out of a public pool for breastfeeding.

“Yesterday was the second time the lifeguards at the pool I take my son to for swimming lessons has asked me to get out of the water because I was breastfeeding my 10-month-old son,” she explained.

A mum has sparked debate about whether it is safe to breastfeed babies in swimming pools Photo: Getty
A mum has sparked debate about whether it is safe to breastfeed babies in swimming pools Photo: Getty

“The reasons they gave me were: no food and drink allowed in the pool, getting milk in the water is a hygiene risk and my baby might vomit in the water,” she continued. “I’m not usually one to make waves but it’s really affected me and I’m quite angry and upset by this experience.”

Her questions drew a mixture of responses, with many claiming the pool staff made the right call.

Some agreed with the lifeguards

“Using the same logic as would you eat your lunch in a toilet stall… would you eat your lunch in a pool?” one group member asked.

“Why make something of it? If you was eating in the pool and asked not to you would accept that. I get the whole breastfeed anywhere but that’s just pushing it. I am all for breastfeeding but don’t see why you need to do it IN the pool,” one person replied.

“I’m sorry but no. I’m totally pro breastfeeding but really people use some discretion, with the amount of germs in public pools there is no way I would feed my child in there,” one wrote.

“Legally you can feed in public. But they didn’t ask you to leave the premises only leave the water. I agree with them in this case. Not necessarily for the reason they gave but for the safety and health of the baby. A baby can wait a minute while you exit the pool. Those saying you can feed anytime and anywhere, this reasoning means you could breastfeed while travelling in a car. But that’s not allowed. And those saying they are supervising other children it is actually safer and easier to supervise from outside of the pool, which is why lifeguards are not in the water,” another argued.

Other agreed with the mother

However, others were on the mother’s side and claimed it was harmless.

“Tricky question. Maybe ask the Australian Breastfeeding Association. They will give you the best answer,” one mother suggested.

“I breastfed my one-year-old in Cessnock pool a few days ago and to be honest didn’t even consider that it might not be ‘allowed’, another admitted.

“I’m sure you could pursue it further if you wanted to as it does sound like discrimination. Breastmilk is not considered a bodily fluid and it’s not like you would be leaking litres of breast milk into the pool… Plus a little bit of spit up isn’t going to do anything in a massive chlorinated pool. Yeah their reasons are pretty dumb,” one mum added.

Many believe it is a safety issue

“What if your baby accidentally got chlorine in their mouth though? It would be a lot safer FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY if you just got out of the pool to breastfeed? I’m all for breastfeeding in public as it’s such a lovely thing but for yours and your baby’s health I would do it out of the pool,” one mum suggested.

“I feed in public, but I’d be worried bubs may get some of the water and get sick while feeding. My baby also poo’s whenever she feeds so I’d deff get out for a nappy change after feeding. A friends bub does big vomits after feeds, so in that case also you’d want to be out of the water to be prepared for that also,” one mum commented.

“I must ask why you’d want to BF in a chlorinated pool amongst all the wee and bodily fluid already in there (sounds horrible). People argue that they should be feed in restaurants at tables and such as its food and drink, got that. But then when we want to feed somewhere where food isn’t allowed it’s now considered not food or drink? I’m confused as a mother who breast fed no wonder how are other people supposed to figure it out (sic),” one mum added.

“The reasons they have given you are stupid but really you can’t eat or drink in the pool or bottle feed a baby in the pool so why breastfeed in the pool if your other 1 out of 5 kids were hungry you would take them all out to eat so why not to breastfeed,” one mum queried. “Not bringing you down and fully support breastfeeding anywhere but come on women fight to be able to breastfeed in public a little bit of common curtesy for certain things wouldn’t be bad.”

What the law says

According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, in Australian Federal Law breastfeeding is a right, not a privilege.

Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding.

In the FAQ section of the site, the topic of breastfeeding in a place with a sign saying ‘NO FOOD or DRINK ALLOWED’ present is answered.

“This sign is not relevant to a baby who is breastfeeding. Again, common sense will be helpful in this situation. Look at why this sign may apply. If it is just to keep the area clean, you can breastfeed. However, if it is because there are chemicals present or some type of hazard, then it may not be an appropriate area to breastfeed in,” the answer reads.

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