Mum defends decision to breastfeed child in public pool after being told to get out by staff

A woman who says she was told to get out of a council run pool in Wellington because she was breastfeeding her toddler in it has spoken to Seven Sharp about the experience and why she believes the council's policy is wrong.

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Rebecca Robertson explains what happened at Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre in Kilbirnie. Source: Seven Sharp

Rebecca Robertson outlined the moment a staff member approached her at Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre in Kilbirnie on Sunday to ask her to leave the pool with her 20-month-old Frankie.

"My son got hungry so I thought I would give him a feed. I sat in the shallows of the children's pool and just started feeding him and one of the lifeguards came up and asked if I could not feed in the pool and get out at that stage," Ms Robertson says.

Ms Robertson says the staff member explained she couldn't breastfeed in the pool as it breached the food and beverage policy.

"They were concerned about my breast milk contaminating the pool, potentially like a fizzy drink you might spill."

She has issues with the pool's policy.

"I thought well breasts are very different than that and they're not viewed like that in many areas of New Zealand, for instance there might be a bus you can't eat on but you can breast feed.

"I also thought if they're worried about contaminating the pool any lactating woman could potentially put milk in the pool and could be banned.

"I did read it might be around the child vomiting, but any child could potentially vomit in the pool, so I thought it was a bit strange."

After talking about her experience Ms Robertson has had some negative feedback to her breastfeeding in a public pool online.

"Didn't expect negative backlash when I talked about my experience I hoped it was just because the council to look at their policy and potentially look at possible evidence for it around hygiene which I don't think is there.

"If someone is grossed out by it I would hope they would think, 'ok I might be grossed out by it but if her baby demands a feed she has every right to feed'".

A Wellington Council spokesperson told Stuff if someone is seen eating or drinking in a pool they will be asked to leave.

"Under this policy we clarify that while breastfeeding is welcome at our facilities, it is to be treated like consuming food and our staff will advise parents of a more suitable area, such as on the seated area just outside the water," the spokesperson said.