A mum has vowed to boycott a leisure centre after being told to breastfeed near a drain in the swimming pool or go into a cubicle.
Rachel McCarey, 39, claims she was ‘openly discriminated against’ in a ‘disgusting’ incident at Haven Point Leisure Centre in South Tyneside.
‘I’m flabbergasted that this is happening in the 21st century. I feel so livid for all breastfeeding mams. I feel so frustrated that this is still happening’, she said.
But the local council, which runs the leisure centre in South Shields, has insisted ‘we have no issue with mums breastfeeding’ and said the incidents were a matter of ‘safety risk to pool users’.
A staff member approached Rachel while she was feeding her daughter Annie on her first birthday in the swimming pool on November 22 last year.
She was asked to move to the side in case her baby was sick, but complained to staff.
Someone she believes to be the manager assured her the situation would be investigated and appropriate measures would be taken.
But she returned on Monday to have a lifeguard tell her she was allowed to breastfeed in the pool but she needed to stand beside a drain.
After filing a complaint, she has been informed that an investigation has been launched by the leisure manager.
But the Newcastle local was told she would need to move to the side of the pool or use a cubicle while breastfeeding until the investigation was complete.
Rachel, who works as a teacher, says she won’t return to Haven Point unless an official apology is offered and the policy is changed.
The Equality Act 2010 says it is unlawful for a business to discriminate against a woman because she is breastfeeding a child.
‘In the eight years of breastfeeding I have never been approached and told to feed in a specific location’, Rachel said.
‘I felt so uncomfortable, I felt like my swimming experience had just been ruined. I felt like I might as well get out of the pool.
‘I can’t believe this is their policy. We should be openly allowed to breastfeed where we want. I don’t even think women should be approached, we should be able to feed as necessary.’
Rachel, who is also mum to Bella, 7, has pointed out that breastfeeding by a drain would mean she couldn’t use the bubble pool as it is on the other side.
She added: ‘I think their attitude towards this is absolutely disgusting. I’m disgusted that I have to wait 10 working days for a response and have to go along with these archaic rules.
‘Does that mean I need to go to a cubicle 10 times to feed my baby? A baby could need to be fed five times in an hour. It’s an incredibly responsive style of parenting. It’s like no one is willing to listen and that’s the way it is.’
A South Tyneside Council spokesperson said: ‘South Tyneside Council is a huge advocate of breastfeeding and actively supports breastfeeding mums to feed their babies on demand wherever necessary.
‘We want all our pool visitors to feel safe and comfortable using our facilities.
‘While we have no issue with mums breastfeeding in our swimming pool areas, we ask that mums feed their babies at the edge of the pool to reduce the safety risk to all pool users.
‘If breastfeeding mums prefer more privacy, then cubicles are available. We believe we take a balanced approach to the needs of mothers, babies and others pool users. We apologise for any distress this has caused.’
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