British Columbia

B.C. mom upset at being asked to get out of the pool to breastfeed

Williams Lake resident Brianna Stennes has become frustrated after being asked on two separate occasions by a lifeguard to not breastfeed her son in the pool.

City confirms breastfeeding in pool is permitted, but mother has been stopped twice from doing it

'I think that you know as moms we should have the right to breastfeed our kids anywhere we want, any time we want,' says Brianna Stennes. (Submitted by Brianna Stennes)

Williams Lake resident Brianna Stennes has been taking her 13-month-old son to the local pool for almost a year now.

However, recently, she has become frustrated after being asked on two separate occasions by a lifeguard to not breastfeed her son in the pool at the Cariboo Memorial Recreational Complex.

The lifeguard told her that they support breastfeeding anywhere at the pool, but that she couldn't do it in the water, and instead needed to move over to one of the benches on the deck, said Stennes.

"I think that you know as moms we should have the right to breastfeed our kids anywhere we want, any time we want," she told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.

"My little guy loves going to the pool and I love being able to take him to the pool, but it's highly inconvenient for us to have to get out of the pool to go sit on the bench freezing on the side just to give him a little snack and then keep having fun."

In B.C., nursing mothers have the legal right to breastfeed their children in a public area. It is discriminatory under the province's Human Rights Code to ask mothers to cover up or breastfeed somewhere else.

Stennes said she spoke to the pool manager over the phone after the first time she was asked to get out of the pool to breastfeed, to share some of her concerns about being asked to move, and the isolation many mothers feel around breastfeeding.

"The manager had let me know that their concern is simply a baby spitting up in the pool," said Stennes.

"So I chatted with her about [how] breastfeeding your baby sitting in the pool isn't going to increase their chance of splitting up in the pool any more than going and sitting on the bench breastfeeding your baby and then getting back into the pool. There's still a risk that your baby's going to spit up in the pool."

Stennes argued that if the concern is around babies spitting up in the pool, then staff at the pool should ask moms just to be mindful of that.

After her conversation with the manager, Stennes said the manager agreed with her. However, since then, she has been asked a second time by a lifeguard not to breastfeed while in the pool.

"I would like them to adopt the anytime, anywhere policy where moms can breastfeed their children when and where they'd like," said Stennes.

Breastfeeding allowed in pool, says city

"In this particular case, where our lifeguards saw the mom in the water breastfeeding, their concern was the risk of recreational water illness passed on to the users," said Ian James, director of community services for the City of Williams Lake.

James confirmed that the manager at the city-run aquatic centre verified that the policy is clear, that parents can breastfeed in the water.

"But it's to be made known to the parent, and it is stated here in the policy, that if there was any vomit of any kind, or bodily fluids that could potentially cause a risk, that we would have to close down the pool," said James.

The pool has an incident response procedure, a procedure which requires people to vacate the pool if water is contaminated by either vomit, blood or fecal matter, he said.

Breast milk does not not qualify as any of these three things, but James said there are two situations that can occur in relation to recreational water illness: the baby could get recreation water illness from swallowing water that was contaminated by someone else in the pool or the baby could vomit up some water they may have swallowed with the breast milk.

"So the lifeguard would have to make a decision based on what transpired."

With files from Daybreak Kamloops


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