Friday, July 9, 2010

Guest Post: When Breastmilk and Water Don't Mix

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.


This post is also a guest post, written by a wonderful woman by the name of Heidi. Big thanks to Heidi for allowing me to publish her story!


I was approached at our local pool two times in less than two weeks for nursing my 11 month old there. The first time someone in the pool who saw me nursing her said something to the life guard. The life guard came over to me, after we were done nursing, and asked if I could breastfeed my baby in the locker room or family bathroom or cover up.

COVER UP?! I was in a swimsuit in the WATER!

Luckily I was with my Le Leche League leader and she jumped in and stated that it was against the law to ask any nursing mother to move or to cover up. I told her that I would not be moving into the bathroom and suggested that she learn the law, especially since it's a public facility!

After thinking about what happened, I sent a letter to the director of the pool and suggested that he teach his employees about the law so it doesn't happen again. Imagine if this happened to a mother who was unaware of her rights! The pool director was very apologetic and said they were having an employee meeting in a few days and that he would address the issue. He said that he knows the law and has taught his staff about it.

I think the person who reported me to the lifeguard must have been another mother because there were only a few other women and children in the pool at the time. How another mother could have a problem with this is beyond me!

The following is the email correspondence between myself and the pool director. 

To whom it may concern,

Today I took my two children to Fairmont to go swimming on this beautiful day from 10-11am. I love your pool and it's accommodations to the children. (We also attend Galaxy Gymnastic regularly) I also meet two other friends and their children, who I invited to join us. My 10 month old was getting tired and wanted to breastfeed and I would NEVER leave my 2.5 yo by herself in the pool so I nursed my child in the shallow end. After, we swam over behind the slide to let the children out to see the ducks. Just then, one of your young female staff members came over and politely asked me to cover up or go into the bathroom/locker room if I was going to breastfeed my child again. I said why? She said because someone complained about it. We (my other nursing friend and I) explained to her that it is against the law for anyone anywhere to ask a mother to cover up or move or stop breastfeeding her child in Utah. From her reaction I don't think she knew of this law. That is why I am writing. Both my friend and I thankfully know of our rights as nursing mothers in public. If it were an unknowing mother I think she may have felt very offended by this and compliant when she didn't need to be.

I have included the two UTAH codes for a mothers right to breastfeed in Utah so you can educate your staff about this subject, especially since you are a public city ran facility. I have MANY other friends that come to your pool that are breastfeeding mothers and will nurse their children at your facility. Please educate your staff so this doesn't happen to another mother. I will continue to be a patron and will also continue to breastfeed my child there if need be.
Please, feel free to contact me if you have further questions.
Thank you,
Heidi L.

Their response:


I am sorry for any inconvenience that this may have caused. We have covered this topic with all of our staff in previous in-service trainings. We had instructed all our staff that breastfeeding could be done anywhere in our facility. There is another staff training this Saturday and this topic will be added to the agenda. We have counseled the staff from this morning and corrected the information.

I am proud of our facility and hope that we continue to keep it kid-friendly. Thank you for continuing to use Fairmont Aquatic Center for you and your families' enjoyment. Again I am sorry for any inconvenience that this morning's situation may have caused.
Gene M.
Program Manager

The second incident happened at the same place. I was a bit reluctant to nurse there again and wanted to hold off until we got out of the pool. My discomfort was the result of being confronted for doing something so natural. My daughter was inconsolable, so I decided that I'd better nurse just before we left to change.

Before I had even letdown, a different life guard came running over and asked if I could get out of the pool to breastfeed.

I told her that I wouldn't move and that it was my right to nurse there. She told me that she wasn't asking me to cover up or nurse in the bathroom this time, but that she wanted me out of the pool so no milk would get in the water.

"How would my milk get in the pool when she's nursing?" I asked.

She claimed to know how letdown works and said that if the baby isn't latched on the milk keeps dripping out. She even compared it to eating Doritos in the water!

I explained that it's only for a brief time and that it won't effect the water but she continued to ask me to get out. Still refusing, I asked if this was her policy or the pool's policy and she said it was the pool's.

She finally gave up and decided to return to her post to watch over the pool.

Later I called the pool director who said that he had heard what happened and had tried to find me to apologize. He said that it was not their policy to ask nursing mothers to leave the water. He was sincerely apologetic and said that I can nurse wherever I need to. I suggested that he continue to educate his staff.

I stated my concern for the mother's who are unaware of their rights or who are already uncomfortable nursing in public. If they had to go through something like this, it could really jeopardize her nursing relationship! I also sent the director a link to the international nursing sign to put on the front doors of the pool, but in the months since these conversations I have yet to see it posted. I have been there and nursed there since and will continue to do so. The more it's seen the easier, I think, people will expect it as the norm!

On both occasions I had my 2 year old daughter with me as well. I wasn't going to leave her in the pool or make her get out and be cold as she waited for her sister to finish nursing. I wonder if they ever even considered that!