cgy-breastfeeding-mom

Gemma Kelsall breastfeeds her daughter Kaliya in Calgary's Killarney pool. ((CBC))

A group of mothers plan to breastfeed in a Calgary pool Sunday morning to protest what they are calling harassment from lifeguards.

The women say it's their right to breastfeed wherever they want to, but the lifeguards at the southwest Killarney pool have asked them to get out of the water or use the change rooms for nursing.

Gemma Kelsall takes her two children to the pool every Thursday morning where they meet up with other families. If her 21-month-old Kaliya gets hungry, they don't leave the pool to breastfeed.

But lifeguards have told her she is not allowed to breastfeed in the water, she said.

"It's also happened that I've been breastfeeding outside of the pool either on the ledge of the pool or in a chair and I've been asked to go into the change room as well," she said.

'The intention of the staff is to provide information to the mothers just to prevent the possibility of ingestion of water.'—Calgary aquatics manager Jim McDonald

Kelsall said such confrontations have gone on for two years, with lifeguards telling her the child could consume pool water, drown, or vomit or defecate in the pool after breastfeeding. Lifeguards have also pointed to a sign that said no food or drink is allowed, she said.

Lisa Kathleen also breastfeeds in the wading pool and has been told to feed her three-year-old elsewhere.

"The lifeguard said, 'You need to get out of the pool,' and I said, 'Well, do you have a written policy that states that there's no breastfeeding in the pool?' and they said No."

The city's aquatics manager, Jim McDonald, said it is a misunderstanding on the part of some lifeguards – mothers can breastfeed in or out of city pools.

"The intention of the staff is to provide information to the mothers just to prevent the possibility of ingestion of water," he said.

Kathleen said her daughter is above the water when they breastfeed.

"She's more likely to drink pool water when she is jumping around and trying to swim," she said.

McDonald said from now on verbal warnings will be kept to a minimum and signs will be put up instead.