UK Mom Ordered To Stop Breastfeeding In Swimming Pool Because It’s ‘Unhygienic,’ Compared To Public Urination

public poolBreastfeeding ladies never seem to catch a break. While modern mothers may live in a perpetual “breast is best!” soundtrack, the minute you start feeding outside the confines of your home, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before somebody has to come over and police your boobs. Like 22-year-old Stephanie Wilby who was breastfeeding her 4-month-old son in the toddler corner of the Manchester Aquatics Centre. She was reportedly “in the water from the waist down,” but she was nevertheless told by a lifeguard that her actions were “unhygienic.” My knee-jerk reaction is, “it’s not like she’s peeing in the pool, guys,” but oh, no. They went there.

Wilby had apparently just started feeding when said lifeguard “rushed” over to shutdown the milk bar. Much like Lucy Eades, the awesome Texas mom who schooled an employee on her breastfeeding rights, Wilby pushed back and asked to speak to a higher up. The manager agreed with the lifeguard and furthermore threatened to CALL SECURITY if this THREATENING BREASTFEEDING LADY DID NOT PUT HER LETHAL BOOBS AWAY.


Stephanie, of Denton, claims the staff said her breastfeeding was ‘indecent exposure’ and similar to someone urinating in the pool.

And she says she was surrounded by staff shouting to stop and threatening to throw her out, which made her feel uncomfortable and intimidated.

“I would have still questioned their reasons but it would not have been as inappropriate. They made a real scene. They were saying me breastfeeding was indecent exposure. But I was covered more than most of the other swimmers.”…

Not only did the Manchester Aquatics Centre employees throw a fit over breasts that happened to be breastfeeding, but then they had the audacity to compare her feeding her son to URINATING IN THE POOL. Totes the same thing, ladies:

 “One staff member also said he would stop a man urinating in the pool and that is why they did not want me breastfeeding in the water. I should be allowed to breastfeed where I want. I felt humiliated and it was very distressing. I even asked about feeding at the side of the pool but they said that was not allowed and said I should go to the changing rooms or toilet.”

While some ladies may be less inclined to breastfeed in a pool because — well — pools are filthy, the notion that nursing an infant is equivalent to a grown man making a potty out of the communal pool underscores the need for some serious breastfeeding education.

Wilby and her family have reportedly lodged an official complaint. Meanwhile, Manchester Aquatics Centre, which is run by Serco and Manchester Sport and Leisure Trust, is doing major damage control on the alleged incident, prompting an investigation and touting the whole “we support moms!” script:

Coun Rosa Battle, executive member for culture and leisure at Manchester council, said: “We have asked the Manchester Sport and Leisure Trust and Serco to investigate this incident thoroughly and to take action immediately if it is established that any members of staff behaved inappropriately towards Stephanie.

“We keenly encourage new mothers to use our leisure facilities and they have every right to breastfeed their babies when they need to do so, in line with existing legislation.

“We have also asked that the Trust and Serco review their existing policies, to make sure that they reflect the law.

“As a breastfeeding mother myself, I expect staff contracted to work in our leisure facilities to understand and respect women’s right to breastfeed in public places.”

A spokeswoman for Serco said: “We are fully supportive of mothers breastfeeding their child whilst in our centres.

“Serco’s operating practices are to encourage breastfeeding in a safe and comfortable environment for both the mother and child rather than it taking place in the swimming pool.

“We will fully investigate this matter and where appropriate we will amend our policies and put in place appropriate training for staff.

“We apologise for any inconvenience that was caused.”

Inconvenience this.

(photo: wellington fl)

Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
  • Kate

    I actually agree that people should not breastfeed in a public pool. Next to it if they want to? Absolutely. But not in it.

    Breastmilk is a bodily fluid that can transmit disease. It’s actually much more dangerous than urine in that way.

    Don’t tell me it doesn’t dribble out of the child’s mouth either. That’s nonsense and the constant pictures of babies with milk covered mouths and faces on stfu parents proves it.

    • Victoria

      I’m with you on this. I don’t think we should compare it to urination, obviously, but I don’t think that she should be feeding her child in a public pool. Would you give your child any other sort of food in a public pool? You wouldn’t.

    • CortCab

      This was my first thought as well. Next to the pool, absolutely.
      But no one should be feeding children in the pool.

    • Courtney Lynn

      Very true. My son would spit it out when he was done nursing to let me know he was full! Graceful, kid. Thanks.

    • Beth

      Eh… I’m a little bit torn on this. I think kids peeing in the pool I’m in is a helluva lot more disgusting than breast milk. Breast milk IS a bodily fluid that can transmit disease, but the odd of contracting a pathogen from a pool would be extremely remote even WITHOUT all the chlorine that’s probably in there. The odds of catching something like Hepatitis from a swimming pool is almost nonexistent.

  • thisshortenough

    Tbh I’ve no real sympathy for the woman. Yes she has the right to breastfeed and no it’s not a terrible hygiene risk. But she’s causing an inconvenience for all the other swimmers there. Not because her breasts are going to be a horrible sight for but because now people have to take extra caution around her while she feeds. She may have been in the toddler corner but toddlers splash, proper swimmers going by splash, kids playing in the pool throw balls and toys and splash. If any of that hit her and disturbed her kid during feeding time you’d bet she’d have been straight up complaining. What was stopping her from getting out, feeding her child by the side of the pool and then getting back in?

    • Victoria

      It’s not really safe for the child, in all honesty.

    • AugustW

      I wouldn’t want my kid sipping on chlorine dipped nipples, but maybe that’s just me. ;)

    • Iwill Findu

      Yum yum, chlorine and unknown bodily fluids does a growing body good.

    • CrazyFor Kate

      Drowning, bashing his head on the pool, ingesting chlorinated water…accidents can happen in a second, and even if you think you’ve “got it” there’s always a risk.

  • Iwill Findu

    What happened to the whole “No food, or Drinks poolside” rule? I don’t really think in a public pool is the best place to try and breastfeed, and not because I have a problem with breastfeeding. But because pools are gross enough as if, lets not add freshly feed baby vomit into the mix. Blah, lets just not feed babies poolside no matter how you choose to feed them. And vomit is just as gross as pee.

  • Rachel

    I am also on team ‘breastfeeding is cool, but not actually standing in the pool.’ The lifeguard was unreasonable for declaring the poolside off-limits, though.

  • AlexMMR

    She was actually standing waist deep in the water? Yeah, I’m gonna have to side with the lifeguard on that. If she were sitting on the edge with her feet in the water, nurse away! Or sitting somewhere outside of the pool, hey boobs out and rock on mama! But actually standing waist deep in the water? Yeah, no.

    Breastmilk is a bodily fluid, it does drip, and it’s inappropriate to (potentially) contaminate public swimming facilities with it. At public pools I’ve been to, you’re expected to rinse off in the shower before entering. One should make an effort to keep bodily fluids, be they sweat, urine, vomit, ejaculate, blood, breastmilk, whatever, out of public swimming pools. It’s also not appropriate to clip your nails, pumice your feet, or trim your hair in a pool either.

    Personally, I’d be afraid of dropping the baby or the nose getting splashed with water and being inhaled while nursing.

  • intererested

    No one’s accidentally lactated in a pool before?

    • Emil

      That’s a good point, anyone currently nursing might leave a drop or two in the pool. One more excuse to make my husband take my daughter to baby and me swimming lessons.

    • Amber

      How can you seriously compare doing something on accident to doing something on purpose?

      If someone becomes ill and accidentally vomits in the pool, that’s still very gross but few would condemn someone for suddenly becoming violently ill.

      Getting into the pool and putting your fingers down your throat so you can purposely vomit is a whole different ballgame though.

    • Iwill Findu

      They don’t want you at the pool if there’s a chance you’ll be ill, so yeah I’m pretty sure people would condemn you for willing bring a sick person there. If for no other reason that after you’ve been sick in the pool they’ll need to clean the whole thing, thus shutting down the pool for everyone. Doing it on purpose might get you a gang beat down by 10yr olds.

    • Amber

      That’s why I said “suddenly becoming violently ill.” As in it hits you out of nowhere, not you showed up sick. Showing up sick and puking in the pool is more comparable to getting in and sticking your fingers down your throat.

    • Iwill Findu

      Really I always have a “warning” before I vomit, I can’t remember not knowing a fair amount ahead of time that I was going to become violently ill. Normally I get about 30 min warning lots of time to get my butt out of the pool.

    • Amber

      I would say you are fortunate then. I once stood up and immediately vomited and passed out cold just out of nowhere. Turned out I had a health condition I wasn’t aware of.

      It happens sometimes.

    • Iwill Findu

      It would suck to pass out in a pool.

    • Iwill Findu

      I don’t think that’s what bothering people. I know for myself I’m looking at the fact that as cute, and sweet as babies are they are also little vomit monsters. You feed them and they vomit. If you feed them in a pool there’s a good chance they will vomit in the pool, if you feed them poolside there’s still a good chance they will vomit poolside were people walk barefoot. I don’t want to step or swim in vomit thanks. So I personally don’t want anyone to feed babies around the pool, be it boob or bottle it doesn’t belong. And I plan on breastfeeding when I give birth so I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

    • AugustW

      The bodily fluid thing is an issue, but it’s not THE issue. Why would she want to expose her lil snookums to the pee-and-god-knows-what-else-infested PUBLIC pool?
      To make a point.

    • Iwill Findu

      The number of children that pee in the pool she might have been better off feeding her child in the bathroom, after she had rubber her nipples on the toilet. And I’m normally of the thought that I’ll feed my baby in the bathroom if you go with me and eat this sandwich in the same bathroom.

  • keelhaulrose

    I’d think the amount of urine alone would deter most people from wanting to have baby’s mouth anywhere near pool water.

  • AugustW

    There is a lady freaking right the hell out about this on the STFU,Parents facebook page.
    I’m sorry, but yeah, breastmilk IS a bodily fluid, even if some people eat it.
    And yeah, at least in places I’ve worked, it’s considered OPIM and you use gloves if it’s not yours.

    • wmdkitty


    • Paul White

      Other Potentially Infectious Materials

    • wmdkitty

      Ah, thank you.

  • Paul White

    I don’t see an issue. I think my post history here demonstrates that I am all for women being able to nurse in public, but this IS actually unhygienic, for the baby and the public. And doing this while standing waist deep in water? Isn’t that dangerous for the kid, and a damned inconvenience for the other swimmers?

    You’ve got milk and spit up possibly (hell, probably) getting in the pool water, you’ve got the risk of the baby ingesting chlorine, you’ve got people being massively inconvenienced by not being able to actually play in the area the woman’s in (at least not if they’re more considerate than she is)…declaring the poolside as off limits was inappropriate, but come the hell on, you don’t need to feed him in the damn pool; there are actually good reasons not to, and it isn’t like you can’t climb out. This isn’t an issue of “ZOMG BOOB!” here.

    • Iwill Findu

      They did try and say it was indecent exposure, but I mean really? At a pool have you seen some of the butt floss that people call swimsuits these days?

  • Courtney Lynn

    I’m sorry, I support public nursing 100%, cover optional and the mother’s decision but I see NO reason to BF IN the pool. It just doesn’t seem like a good spot. Poolside, sure.

  • RW

    I’ll be honest – I’ve done it, and honestly it never even occurred to me that it was an issue until I saw this! I was at the public pool, but there was literally just 5 of us in the pool – me and my baby, my cousin, his wife and their baby. We were in the middle of the pool when my son started fussing and wanting to feed. I thought nothing of letting him have a little snack while we visited in the pool. The lifeguard didn’t object.

    If I was concerned about the water/chlorine/bodily fluids in a public pool I wouldn’t have brought my son in to begin with. I don’t think the little bit of chlorinated water on my skin will do him any more harm than him putting his own wet hand in his mouth, or trying to stop him when he actually tries to drink it!

    As for the unhygienic aspect of it – you all DO realize that baby swim diapers only hold in solids, right? A baby in the pool is guaranteed to pee in it. The lifeguard isn’t going to necessarily know that man over there is peeing to stop him. Or that kid who just surfaced and blew his nose. Or the bandaid drifting along the bottom that came off a seeping cut. Babies are going to drool, and maybe even spit up, whether they’ve just fed or not (some of ‘em can hold it for a long time!). That’s why the water is chlorinated – to kill the nastiness guaranteed to get into the pool. the potential for a little breastmilk is hardly the worst thing going on in there.

  • LET

    I’m a little confused by people’s “concern” for baby ingesting chlorine & possible urine…you do know any child (and probably many adults) ingest some of this at the pool? It’s kind of an expected side effect of being at a public pool (part of the reason I avoid them).
    We really avoid chlorine pools all together, but I don’t really see the problem. There is tons of unsanitary stuff in a pool, and I acknowledge that when I enter one (or let my son do so). I probably wouldn’t choose to BF in a pool, but I really don’t see how it’s any more unsanitary than a child peeing in the pool (unavoidable) or someone with a small cut entering the pool (likely, especially with those non slip floors!)…it’s really not my business where someone feeds his/her child.

  • Whit

    What I want to know is, where is everyone else when these moms are being reprimanded for feeding their children in public. Where is the mom love and standing up for each other?

    • chickadee

      Maybe the other mothers in this pool agreed with the lifeguard.

    • CrazyFor Kate

      Parents are not a monolith. And some are quite capable of being assholes and behaving badly. Surprisingly, other parents may disapprove.

  • JLH1986

    I agree its unhygienic, but more for the baby than necessarily the breast milk in the pool. There is so much…gross stuff in the pool, chlorine, feces, urine that a splash or something could get in the babies mouth…but I also wouldn’t take my infant child into a public pool that young. When I baby sat infants that age I never put them in the pool where they could get that nasty water in their mouth. Of course kids are usually super resilient so I think baby would be fine and this is making a mountain out of a molehill. But my first thought was “that poor kid is gonna drink breast milk/chlorine water”. Yuck.

  • Helene

    My thinking is that if it is reasonable to ban a bottle, it’s reasonable to ban a boob. I only have an issue where separate rules are made for nursing as opposed to bottle feeding. It seems reasonable to me to ban both bottle and boob IN a pool. On the deck is a different story.

    • Iwill Findu

      I think it would depend on the setup of the pool and deck. It would have to be reasonable to have any kind of food/drink in the area that you were going to allow for breast or bottle feedings. Since some breast pumps will use glass bottles, you have no clue what kind of bottles people are using.

    • SDA

      Reasonable rules for the pool – no eating of any kind in pool and no glass on premises. Glass bottle feeding moms will just have to switch if they want to be at the pool.

    • Iwill Findu

      For sure but you know some mom somewhere would raise a big stink over a lifeguard telling her glass bottle of breast milk shouldn’t be poolside. Because some people are stupid.

  • Annona

    Sorry, but I’m strongly in favor of keeping any bodily fluids out of the public pool. Breastfeeding is great, yay boobies, whatever…I know that “liquid gold” is great in your baby’s tummy, but to the rest of us it’s a potential biohazard, just like pee. Sit by the pool and breastfeed, sit on the edge with your feet in and breastfeed, but keep your body and your fluids away from the water while you’re doing it, please.

    • Iwill Findu

      But if you’re breastfeeding at all there is the chance of breast milk leaking all on it’s own. Thus getting into the pool just by having a bf or even pregnant women (they’ll sometimes leak to) at the pool there could be trace amounts of breast milk in the pool, and not because they wanted to feed their child in the pool, but just because they were there. So unless we’re going to start banning mothers with young babies and Prego ladies there’s going to be some breast milk in the water.
      Breast milk is like pee we all know it’s in there when we jump in the water we just don’t chose to think about it, and we tell ourselves that’s what the chlorine is there to kill.

      Now that doesn’t mean I think it’s all cool to sit in the pool and bf away. There are lots of reasons that you shouldn’t, and I think everyone had pretty much covered them. But to say it’s because we don’t want the milk in the pool it’s already there, and like the pee it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

    • shel

      But, by that logic, it’s almost like saying, hey, we already know there is some pee in the pool, so go ahead, just let ‘em rip, pee away!
      Just because there is the probability of milk leaking from some of the swimmers doesn’t mean activities that could most certainly lead to some milk/spit up etc. getting into the pool are okay.
      I’m on board with her being allowed to breast feed at the pool/on the deck wherever, but not IN the pool. Yes the baby was hungry, but taking 15 seconds to get out and sit somewhere on the deck isn’t a big deal… heck, it takes longer for me to get the boob out sometimes depending on what kind of wacky nursing shirt I’m wearing.. my baby has survived.

    • Iwill Findu

      I’m going to go with more then a probability what with all the baby swim classes out there there’s been breast milk leaking at the pool. The point being saying you don’t want breast milk in the pool because it’s a bio-hazard doesn’t change the fact that it’s there already and we can now actively mentally add it to the list of other bio-hazards you’ll likely encounter at your public pool. Just because you didn’t think of it last week didn’t mean it wasn’t there. Knowing that it’s there doesn’t change the amounts that are there. Lets not do things that will add to the amount already in the pool just like we try not to let the kids pee in the pool, lets not breastfeed and add more milk to the pool.

    • Annona

      I realize that lactating women leak, and I realize that nasty little children pee in the pool, and that the chlorine is there to compensate. And yeah, everyone knows public pools are sort of icky. The difference is, I believe if a child were in the pool screaming at the top of its lungs “I’m peeing! I’m peeing right now!” the lifeguard would probably intervene, the same way they would probably intervene if someone were about to dive off the diving board with a fresh cut on their leg gushing blood…and the way this lifeguard intervened when this woman was breastfeeding while in the pool. I’ve been at the public pool with my friend and her child when another child pooped in the pool…and the lifeguards made everyone get out of the pool, and it was closed to swimmers until they felt it had been adequately cleaned; so while some incidental biohazard in the pool is inevitable, it also seems like dealing with potential contamination is something that lifeguards have to worry about. They can’t stop every child who gets in the pool from quietly peeing…but if they see someone openly doing something that could cause pool grossness, they can do something about that. I think the lifeguard was a dick to refuse to let the woman breastfeed poolside…but I also think that she was kind of an asshole not to get out of the pool to breastfeed in the first place. And the “indecent exposure” thing is total bullshit…but if I was swimming in the pool with someone who thought it was appropriate to breastfeed in the water, I’d probably appreciate the lifeguard saying something (in a non-asshole way) because god forbid I do it, then I’d be an evil nasty breastfeeder hater.

  • SDA

    No, she shouldn’t be breastfeeding in the pool. No one should be bottle feeding in the pool and no one should be snacking in the pool. Same rules for everyone. I have no problem with public breastfeeding. I nursed in public (while I was still trying to work out the nursing thing). I would have never ever even considered nursing in the pool. I don’t bottle feed in the pool either. Seriously, just get your kid and sit down with them for a bit and let them eat in peace.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    Look, breastfeeding at the pool is just fine. But breastfeeding IN the pool? No way. Your balance could be thrown off super easily (people can be knocked over in surprisingly shallow water), there are probably people all over the place playing Marco Polo and splashing and jumping in, as someone mentioned you can get diseases from breast milk if it slips into the pool. Sanctimommies may cry persecution, but other people’s safety is well worth the ten-foot walk to your deck chair.

  • momma425

    Breastmilk is a bodily fluid that can transmit disease, in the same way semen, blood, and vaginal secretions can. Consider this- you can get HIV from breastmilk, but cannot get it from vomit. Or pee.
    But telling her that she was exposing too much…I dobut anyone saw more of her boobs than every single other woman there in a string bikini.
    On the pool deck? Be my guest. I lifeguarded for years and many women sat on the pool deck nursing. Don’t care at all.