Organizers of a national curling tournament in Grande Prairie, Alta., have set aside an area for nursing mothers today after some competitors voiced concerns about having to breastfeed in a players' lounge across the parking lot.
Because of a lack of space in the Revolution Place curling arena, nursing athletes at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts had to find their own spot in public areas of the building to breastfeed or walk to a curling club about a block away, Curling Canada spokesman Al Cameron said.
It's a long-standing policy that children aren't allowed in the backstage areas of the building where the players' change rooms are, he said, due to liability and safety issues.
"It's just a matter of keeping everybody safe," Cameron said. "This is the first time I've ever run across this issue and it's specific to this building. We did make the best accommodations we could with the Grande Prairie Curling Centre so close by, but the players had concerns and we've addressed them."
Cameron said about three competitors were concerned about not being able to quickly nurse within the building between matches. By Tuesday morning, a draped area had been set up in an area of the volunteer lounge in Revolution Place for mothers to nurse without having to leave the building, he said.
Cameron said there will be a breastfeeding area in the players' lounge of the arena during the upcoming women's world curling championship next month in Swift Current, Sask.
Locker room just fine, player says
Canadian and world junior championship curler Heather Nedohin is not competing at the Scotties this year, but said she breastfed her two daughters during her 20-year curling career.
She said accommodations were always made for nursing players, such as breastfeeding in a locker room, even when turnaround times between games were tight.
"Obviously they're looking at making sure the location is clean and in a working manner that would provide the athletes with a comfortable setting to do so, and I get sometimes that's not accessible," Nedohin said.
"I know there is a change room that is a comfortable place that would work just great. A locker room stall is perfectly fine for a woman to do so. It may not be ideal, but ideal would be that the player, athlete, mother could do what she needed to do ... get back on the ice and perform again."
Nedohin said that if a volunteer had stopped her when she was breastfeeding, she would have quit competing.
Email policy reminder
Amy Nixon is competing at this year's Scotties tournament for Team Alberta. She said an email was sent to players reminding them that no unauthorized guests or children were allowed in the back areas of the arena.
Nixon said she doesn't believe it's been a long-standing rule and that she had breastfed her child in the bowels of curling arenas in 2013.
She said the onus is on both the event organizers to accommodate nursing mothers and on nursing mothers to request additional accommodations if necessary.
"As of today …there has been an accommodation made," she said. "I don't think it's a big issue that you can't breastfeed your kid in a locker room," she said.
"I think it's much ado about nothing, honestly."