Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday February 25, 1999
No food or drink in pool, breastfeeding mom told
A mother breastfeeding while swimming at a city recreation centre was ordered to leave because “no food or drink is allowed in the pool.”Shannon Wray, 25, was enjoying family swim time Friday morning at Huntington Park Recreation Centre on the East Mountain when her nine-month-old daughter Chyenne got hungry.
“I was sitting in the hot pool with my daughter in front of me and I pulled down my bathing suit strap, ” Wray said. “And I took my breast out and put her on it.”
A moment later, Wray was approached by the pool’s aquatic director, who advised the mother she would have to go into the change room to feed her child. Wray said she was told that it’s the culture and recreation department’s policy that there is no breastfeeding in the pool area.
“I’m very sorry you’re offended, ” Wray told the woman. “But that’s your problem. I’m nursing my baby and I’m not moving. You’re going to have to deal with it.”
Wray believes other swimmers complained.
When Wray refused to leave, she was told by the aquatic director that she couldn’t stay in the pool because of the state of “her attire.” Then, she said, a male lifeguard told her she had to stop breastfeeding “because no food or drink is allowed in the pool.”
Wray said she has breastfed her baby in public many times — including at the Huntington Park pool — but never had any complaints before now.
“It’s unfortunate that a natural act had to become some political brouhaha, ” said Wray. “This was very inappropriate and very humiliating.”
Alderman Mary Kiss, vice-chairperson of the city’s parks and recreation committee, said she was “appalled” that breastfeeding in public was still an issue for some people.
“It’s great to have mothers breastfeeding their children. I’ll definitely look into this.”
The lifeguard and aquatic director were just plain wrong, said Gary Makins, manager of the city’s east recreation district.
As far as the culture and recreation department goes, said Makins, mothers can nurse “at the pool, in the pool or on the side of the pool.
“I think our lifeguard or aquatic supervisor shouldn’t have asked her to leave, ” he said. Makins will send a copy of the city’s breastfeeding policy to each of the pools he supervises and he will write Wray a letter of apology.
As for no food or drink in the pool? “That doesn’t apply here, ” he said. “But if she was eating a sandwich in the pool, that would be a problem.” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)