Tuesday, 19 August 2008

No-one wants to see you doing that...

A Mum was told that feeding her hungry baby was completely unacceptable, in Rothwell Leisure Centre this week, and the mother has asked that all mothers of breastfeeding babies in the local area, help her stand up for the right to feed her baby.

This is how the mother describes what happened:

We had been there about 40 minutes when the duty manager arrives and tells me not to feed the baby by the pool. I said: "Why? Is it health and safety issue?" He said: "No, no-one wants to see you doing that." I said: "If it was a bottle would that make any difference?" He said: "I haven't had a problem with bottles." I said: "It's my right to feed my baby and the council has a policy to support me in local government buildings."

He wanted me to stop or leave; I did neither. He walked away without introducing himself or telling me what he expected me to do.I am very upset and disappointed.

I then rallied my family together and left.We were in the pool less than an hour, my son distraught that his birthday treat was ruined, my three-year-old barely got wet, and my baby didn't even feel the water.

I also spoke to the ladies in the canteen who also agreed it wasn't acceptable to be asked not to feed my baby but quoted that it was against Rothwell Leisure Centre's rules to breast feed.

I am very upset. Nobody from the leisure centre wanted to speak about my complaint so I have put it in writing but where will it go?

Seeing that is was quoted by an employee, as against the leisure centre rules, and seeing that the leisure centre is run by Leeds County Council, I phoned the council and asked to be put through to the person in charge of this area of sports facilities, and his name is Mark Allman.

Now, Mr Allman is on leave, and a gentleman named Ian Waller, Sports Operations Manager for Leeds CC, was dealing with the issues, and I had a long conversation with the Secretary in the office, who phoned him through for me. I have to say, that Mr Waller was in a meeting, and even though he had to attend the meeting, he made sure I got all the info I needed - so very well done there.

And what they confirmed for me, which is what I suspected, is that breastfeeding is not only allowed on all Leeds County Council properties, but supported and encouraged. In fact, materials supporting breastfeeding from the NCT are displayed on doorways in their sports facilities, and mothers can have a choice in many locations on feeding their hungry babies where they are, or going to separate rooms if they wish too.

Leeds had also taken the time to discuss if there were 'Health & Safety' issues on breastfeeding babies feeding in the pool area, and I was assured the only time there would be a health issue with a baby in a pool, was if the baby had vomited whilst in the water - and that was nothing to do with how the baby was fed!

So this seems like the 'usual suspect' in these cases. A person doesn't like what they are seeing, and uses their position to claim the company they work for objects. They don't like it, and they resort to stating 'policy' says it is unacceptable. Which is, of course, why babies need to be protected from this personal prejudice. I'm sure Leeds County Council will follow this complaint up seriously, and support this duty-manager by retraining, and reinforcing the message throughout all their facilities. Hungry babies get fed, and that is the council policy!

But whilst this sort of nonsense keeps happening, babies and their Mums are left feeling exposed and stressed, by always wondering if the next person to walk by, is going to say something negative to them. And this stress and fear of criticism, often prevents mothers from allowing their babies to feed in public at all.

I hope Leeds gets it through to all their employees : it doesn't matter what they want to see or not, hungry babies get fed. Their rights to food comes before anyone else's personal feelings on the matter.

I'm very confident that this Mum and her children are going to have their rotten time at Rothwell pool made up to them by Leeds officials! Go Leeds!


Anonymous said...

Free swimming lessons for life, for the whole family!!

Morgan said...

Indeedly doodly! :-)

But wait... don't you actually feel sorta sorry for duty manager? I suspect he's going to see more babies breastfeeding at the pool side, in the next week, than he's every thought existed!

Katherine said...

If I were anywhere near Leeds, I would be making him as uncomfortable as possible!

Lucy Muncaster said...

Crikey! My jaw just hit the ground! I live just down the road from Rothwell Sports Centre and I must have fed both daughters there at some point - in fact I know I fed my 2.5 year old upstairs in the pool viewing gallery last term. I don't think I've ever fed her right by the pool (she's usually too busy trying to drown herself). If you know of anything organised, I'd love to help!