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Friday, May 22, 2009

Of Pools and Milk

I have been reading several stories of moms being banned from breastfeeding in or around swimming pools. The most recent is that of a mom in Nottingham, England who was asked to stop breastfeeding at the pool because she was violating the pool’s rule on no food or drink near the water.
Prior to that, there were also other incidents involving breastfeeding in swimming pools in Canada – 2 in Ontario (Scarborough and Newmarket) and another one in Calgary. Because of these incidents, protests were organized which resulted in changes in rules of the local councils and/or public apologies. Public awareness of breastfeeding in public also heightened.
I initially felt that there is a difference between breastfeeding in the pool or near/around the pool. Breastfeeding near or around the pool is perfectly acceptable to me, but I felt that breastmilk, being a bodily fluid, is something I don’t think the public would appreciate being added to the swimming pool water.
After some research, I got to this FAQ page on breastfeeding and swimming pools. FAQ No. 9 thoroughly discussed the “no drink and food” rule in connection with breastfeeding – breastfeeding is not just food but comfort and comfort certainly is not prohibited in the pool. A scientific paper is also discussed, which debunked the argument that breastmilk would deactivate the chlorine or may contain bacteria/viruses that could infect other swimmers.
Although we haven’t nursed in the swimming pool, I have nursed here in a public beach in Davao City. Personally, I wouldn’t want to nurse Naima in the swimming pool. I feel it is not hygienic. The pool waters are not clean and even if I am wearing a bathing suit, my breasts still came in contact with the icky water. I don’t want Naima swallowing pool water – nor would I want her to come in contact with something that was soaked in the pool water. But that’s just me.
I realize that breastfeeding is much like the law – there are always 2 sides and you could argue about it until you are blue in the face – but still not find a resolution. Information, biases, culture and influences all shape the perception in the face of nursing in public.

*The cartoon on this page is by Heather Cushman-Dowdee, creator of Hathor the Cow Goddess, a comics focused on breastfeeding and attachment parenting.

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