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Breastfeeding In Swimming Pools

In the last few months the hot topic seems to have been asking mums to stop breastfeeding in the public swimming baths.

Imajica Gilroy was told she couldn't breastfeed at Parkside Pool in Cambridge as it was "unhygenic".  For anyone in the area, there is a breastfeeding flash mob planned there Sat 17th August @ 1pm. 

Manchester Aquatics Centre allegedly told Stephanie Wilby it was "indecent exposure", and Stephanie claims the staff likened it to someone urinating in the pool. Breastfeeding flash mob there planned Friday 16th @ 10am.  Stephanie also claims staff shouted at her to stop immediately, causing a scene - but I don't want to dwell on that as I think it detracts from the real issue.

What's interesting about swimming pools is that unlike other venues, even pro breastfeeding mums often say if the rule is no eating this should apply to all.

So I wanted to reply to a few common comments :)

1.  Breastmilk could get in the water.
If we're concerned about breastmilk getting in the water, all lactating mums should be stopped from swimming in case they leak.  I'm also wondering why when breastfeeding we would expect milk to be pooling around the mother in the water, er no it's going into baby!

b)  Even if breastmilk gets into the water, it is antibacterial, antimicrobial and doesn't pose a health hazard.

Lots of things that do pose a health hazard end up in the water.  It's rather ironic that Manchester Aquatics Centre allegedly likened it to someone urinating in the pool - because I'm sure plenty of toddlers have a sneaky pee in there, and have they ever tested for "leakage" in those without great pelvic floor muscles when doing the breaststroke?  Perhaps they should ban them too! Sweat, urine, mucous, saliva, hair, dead skin and faecal matter - not to mention sun cream, perfume and cosmetics - are among the pollutants introduced by bathers into pools.  Lordy a breastmilk bath is looking more desirable by the minute.

2.  Baby could vomit after feeding.
This is kind of a futile argument with babies though given a) they can puke anytime, even an hour or two after a feed.  b)  If the mum is leaving the area to feed as expected and then returning with baby, he may still vomit.  Some babies just don't posset, my first only ever did twice, both times after we had tried colief.

Those who have babies who are prone to refluxing copious amounts are hardly unlikely to breastfeed in the pool anyway, mums don't lose their brains when they get a baby - often the person most aware and conscious is the mum.

Important point to note:
Swimming pools are chlorinated.  

Swimming pools are chlorinated.  

Swimming pools are chlorinated.

I feel a need to repeat this as any argument over "water contamination" is wiped out with this point.

Chlorine is known to kill almost all kinds of bacteria, as well as viruses and protozoa - hence why it's used in pools. When chlorine isn't used, the bacteria in pools is comparable to that of a toilet - without anyone breastfeeding.

6.  It's indecent. 
Sorry but I'm frequently glad my eyes have an avert function when at the public baths, budgie smugglers anyone?  Aside from this it breaks the law to ask a mother to stop breastfeeding on the grounds of decency.

7.   If the rule is no eating, that means everyone.
This rule is clearly to avoid Big Mac and chips finding their way into the water, imagine if everyone took snacks!  Babies sometimes need feeding several times in an hour, whereas adults can consider the fact they are going swimming and eat more in advance.  They can also wait when hungry because they don't survive solely on a substance digested quickly and have bigger stomachs.

Furthermore the breast isn't just food,  I think a lot of people still struggle to grasp that babies don't just seek the breast when hungry.  They can do so for comfort, reassurance at a new situation (like swimming), or because they want to warm up if feeling chilly.  Furthermore we know babies don't always transfer milk - so they may not in fact be "eating" in the pool at all, they could be sucking for comfort. Are pacifiers, a nipple replica also banned?  What if they suck their own fingers?  Is sucking mum's finger OK but not her nipple?

8.  I think the mum should have got out and done it in the changing rooms.
Why?  It's not always convenient for mum to hot foot it off to the changing room, she may have an older child to supervise who cannot be left.

9.  It's unhygienic for baby.
How?  When attached to the breast the baby forms a seal, there is less likelihood of them ingesting water than when they're swimming in it. Mothers are also hardly likely to have their baby's face half in the water, don't believe me, you can see a great example here.  Some baby swimming classes involve submerging both mouth and nose under water, yet I've never heard anyone express concern that is unhygienic.

If you think pool water is that gross despite the chlorine, perhaps better off not taking your baby at all. Ultimately it's the mother's choice whether she feels it's a hygiene risk to her baby or not?

10. Other babies have to wait so why should breastfed babies be any different!
Oh no, I would be quite happy for a mum to bottle feed her baby or use a pacifier in the pool too! Not suggesting certain babies get special treatment, all have the same needs whether met by breast or bottle; our society has been intolerant of babies and children for long enough.

Unlike no petting, bombing or ducking - I can't think of a single plausible, logical reason why a baby cannot feed in a pool.  Nor has anyone else been able to offer one other than the rules say so.

Which tells me the rules need changing :)

With regard to Stephanie's case above, a spokeswoman for Serco said:

"We are fully supportive of mothers breastfeeding their child whilst in our centres.  Serco’s operating practices are to encourage breastfeeding in a safe and comfortable environment for both the mother and child rather than it taking place in the swimming pool."

Serco are you seriously suggesting breastfeeding in the pool is more dangerous than a baby swimming in it?  If so why?  I also trust we can let mums choose to decide where they are most "comfortable"?

There is a petition here to ask Manchester Aquatics to review their policies

Councillor Rosa Battle, executive member for culture and leisure at Manchester council, said: 

"We have asked the Manchester Sport and Leisure Trust and Serco to investigate this incident thoroughly and to take action immediately if it is established that any members of staff behaved inappropriately towards Stephanie.  We have also asked that the Trust and Serco review their existing policies, to make sure that they reflect the law.".


"Lifeguards at Manchester Aquatics Centre told they CAN’T stop mums breastfeeding"

"Now the M.E.N. has seen an internal memo sent to staff warning them not to discriminate against breastfeeding mums and warning ‘we must comply with the law’." - read more here


  1. Why? Why the hell wouldn't you just climb out? Seriously. I'm a massive advocate of breast feeding. But dear goodness...

    OK, so here's a counter to one of your points - the baby might not injest water. But when they latch on, your nipple is covered in chlorine. It sticks. If you haven't rinsed it off, then it's there. I can't think of anything I rather do less with my baby than breastfeed in a swimming pool. Seriously. Too far. Breast is best, but this? Too far.

    1. Breast is NOt best. It's NORMAL!
      Anything other than human milk is substandard.

    2. Except the baby swallows more chlorinated water than could possibly be on your nipple.

      If you say, "I'm a massive advocate for breast feeding BUT", you're not an advocate for breast feeding. Advocate for moms doing what they feel is best with their own breasts and babies. Why do you even care if you're such a supporter of BFing?

    3. Why would i, as a breastfeeding mother, not just climb out? Unless i'm going to get out of the pool and make my baby wait even longer for his feed whilst i get myself and him dressed, which is just silly if i intend to return to the pool after, we are both going to get cold. I can cope with that, he can't. That in itself is enough of a reason to stay in the pool to feed him. He ingests more water, gets more chlorine in his system, when his sisters slash around and accidentally get him in the face (which happens every time, at least once lol) than when i feed him. Thankfully the lifeguards at my small local pool have some common sense and have no problem with him feeding.

    4. If a babies bottle is sterilised in milton (or some other cold soak sterilisation method) the baby is going to get chlorine! I personally wouldn't breastfeed in the water as I found it easier to sit (on the side of the pool), but to each his own.

  2. Very nicely written. Could I add to your point number 7 please? If people are such sticklers for the rules (no food or drink in the pool) then do these same people feel the same about mother breastfeeding her baby while shopping in a clothes shop? Should she leave that area too? Because, most clothes shops also have no food or drink policies.
    To SomeRandomBint - there are a number of reasons why you might not just climb out. At least three of them were touched upon in the above post. Also - chlorine on the nipple? Really? Would you tie your baby's hands to their sides while in the pool just in case they so happen to put their fingers in their mouth or do you prevent your baby from touching the water altogether? As said above, if you don't want your child infected with the disgustingly contaminated pool water, just don't take them swimming. Then, there's no need to breastfeed in the pool. If you see a woman who is happy to breastfeed in the pool, my guess is that she has enough common sense to realise that doing so poses no health risk to her child.

  3. I'm a breastfeeding mum and have fed in many places but I have not fed in the swimming pool. I personally think I would go out and wrap my lg in a towel and feed in the changing rooms where we would be comfortable and warm. If someone did decide to feed in the pool it would not offend me. It is a personal choice and I don't think people should be attacked for their opinion.

  4. Thank you for this. I was surprised how many people, who are usually pretty BF supportive, argued against being allowed to bf in swimming pools when the Parkside incident was reported. As always, you've articulated it so much better than I was able to.

  5. I am just amazed that bf-ing in public is an issue for anyone, whether in a pool or not. Why would anyone other than the mother and baby concerned care at all? What exactly do the objectors think will happen if they leave well alone and say nothing?

  6. I was suprised by all the negativity towards breastfeeding in a swimming pool. We have a small pool at home (only waist deep) and my 3 year old would live in it if he could. My 10 month old doesn't like the water as much and i often bf him in the pool so he stays happy and his brother can continue to swim. My husband works nights so he is asleep in the afternoon. So if I don't keep baby happy in the water, toddler misses out on swimming because daddy is not awake to watch brother. I never thought twice about it. I would be the same if it was a public pool my son wanted to swim in. There are a lot of reasons to bf in a pool. And for all the "its dangerous" comments, i would just like to know how? How is it any more dangerous? You are still holding your baby in a swimmkng pool. The only difference now is that he is calm and your boob is out. I just don't see any added danger and no one has pointed out a realistic scenario describing the danger.

  7. Great post. I'm really suprised by people's reactions to this.

    I really cannot see one good reason for this being an issue. I discussed this extensively on twitter last night and many of the arguments people were making are ones that you have mentioned here, with the additional theme of "Breastfeeding in a pool is attention seeking" thrown in for good measure. I wrote a similar post about it here

    It seems to me that it is somehow publically acceptable to berate women for feeding in a pool, therefore it's being used as an avenue for the criticism of public breastfeeding by people who would otherwise not be willing to express their opinion. Massive speculation on my part here, but I just can't fathom why else anyone would have a problem with this whilst claiming to support the rights of mothers to breastfeed in public.

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  11. Can an organisation, such as a hotel, stipulate where you can and cannot feed if it is in their 'rules'? i.e. can they ask you to leave a pool and feed in the changing rooms?

  12. Read the attached post, it's in the toddler pool.... Ain't no one drowning whilst breastfeeding in the toddler pool.


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