Monday, 28 October 2013

Breastfeeding in swimming pools - Virginia Howes takes up the cause

Earlier in the year this post about breastfeeding in swimming pools became one of my most read ever - and I'm disappointed, after all the debate about those cases, to be revisiting the subject again so soon.

Virginia and Sophie Howes
On 26 October, Sophie Howes, a midwife and mother of two, was feeding her baby at the edge of the pool, partially submerged in the water, at the Stour Centre in Ashford when she was approached by the manager and asked to move to somewhere where she couldn't be seen. Apparently one of the lifeguards, a woman, was so 'offended' by the sight of a baby breastfeeding that she was 'unable to do her job properly'. Sophie, who left the pool and continued to feed her baby during the conversation (apart from one moment when the baby let go to look up at the manager - a mental image that has really made me smile) refused to move and pointed out that the manager was breaking the law (you can read what the law says here). The manager, however, insisted she move, citing 'company policy' (which she said she would email to Sophie later). Upset by the incident Sophie and her party left the centre.

And that might have been the end of it - another day, another breastfeeding mother discriminated against and belittled for responding to the needs of her baby, while going about her normal daily business - but Sophie is the daughter of Virginia Howes, independent midwife and star of ITV's Home Delivery, campaigner and author, who, as an outspoken advocate of the rights of women and their babies has both encouraged Sophie to complain about her treatment and taken up the cause: as she sees it, not only was the way that this individual case was handled indefensible, but it is also evidence of a widespread lack of awareness of the law that applies to breastfeeding mothers in our society. The law, as I said in my previous post, is there to protect women and their babies from being harrassed or victimised. As I wrote then:
"Regardless of how other individuals might have acted, or chosen to feed, or cover, or not, the law protects us all, whatever we decide to do. A mum who fed out of the pool, or in the changing room, or in the lobby, or under a towel, or at home before bringing the baby in, has just the same right to be respected by staff as the mum who, for whatever reason, fed in the pool itself."
And in this case, respect was the last thing Sophie got. When Virginia Howes called the centre manager to discuss the incident, the manager claimed that if a lifeguard, or a member of the public, was offended by seeing a woman breastfeed, in the pool or in the cafe, then it was the manager's duty to speak to the mother and ask her to move, because it is a public place! This is totally backwards, since the breastfeeding mother is the party protected by the law. If nothing else it highlights a serious lack of training at the Stour Centre, and I suggest that it's unacceptable for the manager of a public leisure facility to have such a lack of understanding of her responsibilities in this area. (I refer her to my previous post about what should have happened!) And as for customer service...

You might expect, in the face of the high-profile coverage of the other swimming pool stories, and given the widespread response to this latest discrimination, that the pool, the council and everyone concerned might swiftly issue an apology and attempt to make amends. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. You can read the correspondence on Virginia Howes' Facebook page here: the pool's representative has attempted to justify the position taken by the manager. Many of her 'health and safety' points were robustly debunked by the Analytical Armadillo, IBCLC here the last time the issue was debated; and indeed, many of those commenting on the campaign have pointed out that baby swimming instructors often recommend that babies are fed in the water to stop them getting cold! It also seems telling that the promised 'centre breastfeeding policy' has not materialised, despite repeated requests.

When I first heard Sophie's story I was saddened - as I always am when breastfeeding mothers and their babies are targeted - and I've been appalled at the response to the many complaints that have been lodged. But this time I think the issue will not be swept under the carpet - Sophie and Virginia have so many supporters that the campaign that ensues might succeed where others haven't. If they can raise awareness, and break down some of the barriers to breastfeeding that currently exist in our society, then that will be a great thing. And I can't help feeling just a little bit excited about that.

95 comments:

  1. thank you for writing this. My lovely daughter has two of my 5 grandchildren and is a wonderful mother. She makes sure they eat healthy, she spend hours and hours interacting with them and they look like two little angels. She doesn't say boo to a goose and should not have been treated like this. Thank you for all your support.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Virginia, you are most welcome!

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  2. Breastfeed where you like when not in a pool but its dirty to feed in the water where other people swim, what do you do when the baby burps up milk? Just let it float in the pool like pond scum? Urgh.

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    1. Well, what with sweaty adults, infected eyes and toes, runny noses, potty training toddlers and whoever/whatever else in the water, a little regurgitated baby milk seems fairly mild in comparison. The 'hygiene worries' don't stand up to scrutiny.

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    2. Sounds like a lovely place to eat... yum

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    3. Is the point that the pool is too dirty to take the baby in, or the baby will make the pool dirty?

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    4. You do realise that most lactating mothers will be leaking milk whilst in the pool anyway... it is one of the joys of breastfeeding!!! But compared to the urine and other bodily fluids there will be in the pool, it is the least of your worries really.

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    5. Silly Anonymous. Babies can spit up even if you don't feed them in the pool. Although from what I've seen, bottle-fed babies do that much more than breast-fed ones. Pool water isn't clean, you must know that? Babies can spit or pee in it, lactating mothers can -shock, horror -leak milk into it (even if they don't feed their baby in the pool). At the baby swim class I go to, the instructor has us take a mouth full of pool water and spit it back into the pool in a spout to show baby. I've heard the argument that it's dirty for the baby too but that doesn't cut it either. They're getting covered in the pool water and so are you, whether you breastfeed them in the pool or not. They're not getting any cleaner feed if you breastfeed them on the side or in the changing room without getting fully showered first. There are no buts in breastfeeding! It's legal and it's fine.

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  3. This sort of discrimination makes my blood boil. I hope Sophie gets the appology she deserves.

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    1. It's not discrimination - no-one is meant to be eating or drinking in a swimming pool.

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  4. Oh and as a pool lifeguard U can tell you that a little milky burp in the pool is the least of your worries. The water is highly chlorinated which renders any bacteria dead in under a minute.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Caz! Interesting to have the lifeguard's perspective too :)

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    2. Hmm. That chlorinated water will also kill your baby's gut flora. Jesus how dense are you people. You see an affrontary to your beliefs and jump and shout without thinking. You complain about having to feed a baby in a public toilet, but a public toolet is a three star Michelin restaurant in comparison.

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    3. If you read the rest of the discussion and the links below, you'll see that in fact the risk of a breastfeeding baby ingesting pool water is no greater than that of any baby in the water - and babies going swimming is widely accepted.

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    4. They're not swallowing the water generally when swimming though. By the way I'm a gastroenterologist. So good luck with that argument

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    5. I don't doubt your qualifications; but I wonder how many babies you've taken swimming? Certainly all three of mine have got water in their mouths when swimming, and as older infants they would deliberately swallow it! I thought urgh, but not much you can do to stop them... I would have thought from a gastroenterology point of view that breastfeeding in conjunction with ingesting pool water would be better than ingesting pool water alone, given breastmilk's anti-infective properties...

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    6. Further, it's all academic in this case anyway, since the mother was not breastfeeding with the baby in the water - the mother was sitting on a wide step with her own legs in the water, and the baby out. And as has been repeatedly pointed out, the circumstances are not the issue, it is the fact that the manager broke the equality laws in her conversation with the mother that is in question.

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    7. I while heartedly support breastfeeding. However as infants that are solely breastfeed are at their most vulnerable to stomach upsets it is common sense not to feed them in the pool or the aerosolised chlorinated pool side. Also as someone who has took seven children swimming through their lives I am aware of they get water in their mouths. I also notice that they retch if they swallow it and generally spit it out at each other. However no matter what I say will not be good enough, as you're on a sanctimonious crusade.

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    8. I think we'll have to accept that we disagree on this issue! (And as an aside I think that infants that are solely formula-fed are actually the most vulnerable to stomach upsets, if we look at the scientific evidence). I maintain my position, which is that if the law protects these women from discrimination, protected they should be - not, as in this case, singled out and berated. If you wish to believe that's a sanctimonious crusade, that's your prerogative, of course.

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    9. None as deaf as those who can hear.

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  6. I once fed my son in the cafe at the Stour centre and it was probably the most uncomfortable place I've ever fed. I felt like the staff were really staring at me, but thought I was being paranoid. Maybe not....... Wasn't asked to stop though and would have ignored any such request!

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  7. I can feel another song coming on - watch this space! However, I do hope that this doesn't become a stick to beat either party with - I'm all for dialogue, but hate slanging matches. We mustn't push each other's head under the water!

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  8. Im totally pro breastfeeding but Im sorry I dont agree with doing it in a swimming pool, fair enough to get out and sit around the pool but not in it people wouldnt eat or drink or bottlefeed a baby in a pool so why breastfeed.....this is an ongoing saga that prob wont ever be resolved x

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    1. finally someone with a little common sense. yes i agree people have a right to breast feed but there is a time and a place and physically sitting in a swimming pool is NOT the right place. you wouldnt bottle feed in a pool so why breast feed.

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    2. one major point isthat many breastfed babies feed for comfort, not just food. so it helps calm baby in the 'new enviroment' making the experiance much more fun for everyone.
      formula fed babies dont feed for comfort, so other comforts are provided. (normally just mum or dads presence)

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    3. You're not 'totally pro breastfeeding' at all. If it's completely legal for a mother to breastfeed somewhere and yet YOU have a problem with it, that's not pro breastfeeding. I get so sick of people saying I'm all for breastfeeding BUT... It's not pro breastfeeding when you add your own personal terms and conditions as to when it's OK.

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    4. Personally I would certainly not feed my baby in a pool, we are obviously not allowed an opinion, its not about terms and conditions its about what WE would not do. This is not an argument, this is MY right.

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  9. As a father my wife has breastfed at the Stour Centre and has never had a problem. The problem I have is the fact she was breastfeeding in the swimming pool; would you be happy for someone to eat a packet of crisps or a can of coke whilst swimming. I don't think so!! Lets get realistic...

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    1. This is your 'get real response' comparing brestmilk to crisps? Oh dear learn a little more about the process before comparing it to solids.

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    2. As a father myself, I believe my wife knows when baby needs feeding and if it is by the side of a swimming pool, so be it! I'd rather baby is fed and happy and mother comfortable than run around with the poor little mite trying to 'get out of sight of the public'. Most babies like my son will upset and screaming if he is not fed soon when hungry. And I heartily say that if strangers who are offended are not my concern. Very much agree 'they should cover their face or move away, no harm done. As for the lifeguard being so distracted and not be able to do their job, this person has some serious issues and is obviously as much good as a chocolate teapot, what with all the revealing bikinis some people wear around the pool, this person can probably never do their job as they are distracted! Or god forbid someone is drowning and loose their gear, that lifeguard will probably let them drown!
      Might I add that if you have seen a mother breastfeed, it is not an offensive sight, you can barely see any expose breast as babies are feeding, you often see a lot more expose skin on fully dressed, not feeding people! Why are people looking anyway??

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  10. maybe to protect the embarrasment and humiliation u feel ur daughter was subjected to you should have kept this as a private matter between the 2 people who actually know what happened. not everything in this world is about discriminatiin its about using common sense. something which sadly seems to be lacking in this case.

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    1. Law is law, black and white. Even the other swimming pool that had a publicised case have now reviewed their position and told their staff not to stop mothers as there is NO H& S issue that stands up to scrutiny.
      If the 'industry ' cannot justify it how can you argue it.

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    2. If they decided to keep this incident quite, like so many women have, it would let people like you (ignorant and patronizing) do the same thing to other women. This is what Virginia and her daughter are trying to stop! And sadly to do that it must be made public, to educate people, that yes a breastfeeding mother and her child has the right to breastfeed in public and if anyone is offended, they might as well cover their face, or go hide in a corner, where they cannot see the breastfeeding mother. Why should she move if YOU are offended?

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  11. I breastfed all my children both in public and private spaces. I never experienced any issues. I agree with anonymous though - would you eat your soup in a swimming pool? Blimey there are much bigger things for Virginia to get to grips with - what about ensuring the NHS has enough midwives to go round on a busy maternity unit? That would provide a much better platform for her campaigning talents. A word of warning though -defaming and targeting people as individuals (which I noticed on Virginia's facebook page and looks like cyber bullying to me) does not do her any credit as a person, woman or professional.

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    1. well said!!!!

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    2. You might have been lucky and not experience any issues, but not every women have been hun. As things stand at the moment 'not having any issues' breastfeeding in public is just luck. A lot of women have been told to move, or had upsetting remark made about them while breastfeeding. As far as bullying a person, it is not the case, as far as I make it, Virginia is targeting the Company, but as the letter came from a named person, which I presume is the person handling complaints, it would be ignorant to not address her letter to the person who signed it!

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    3. Well, I fed in McDonalds, in the street, in cafes, on the train, on the seafront, restaurants, in the stour centre, at NCT meetings, at friends, at my home, the list goes on. And I had no issues but I am sorry if other people did and I can see how that would be very upsetting. So education on breastfeeding is good.

      It's not the letter I have an issue with - it's all the comments (just take a look it's really nasty)

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    4. oh ok , i get it, the facebook comments. Some nasty people! I agree there is no need for those. But as I can see not Virginia though and it is wrong to blame her for others' actions.
      Maybe people should be aware that if they want a grown up response they should behave as one.

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  12. I agree with Alison Blenkinsop that this whole discussion shouldn't turn into a slanging match - it needs to be kept respectful if we are to make any progress. That said, the comments above about there being 'a time and a place' I find interesting - the law doesn't make any such distinctions, and protects women and babies wherever they are. Why should we bring other people's subjective opinions about what mothers and babies should do into it? Surely a mother is best placed to respond to the needs of her child - for food, for comfort, for reassurance? The 'no eating or drinking' in the pool rules are there to avoid crumbs, litter, mess and spills on the poolside - none of those are an issue with breastfeeding. My feeling is that it's been shown (by other authors that I've linked to) that the hygiene worries are a red herring; there are no legitimate health and safety worries in swimming pools that make them a special case in terms of the legislation. As that is the case, it's all about a lack of understanding and education in the pool's management, and the way in which their staff handled the situation. Thus, Virginia and her daughter want to see a copy of the breastfeeding policy the centre allegedly has, an apology for Sophie's treatment, training for the staff involved, and disciplinary procedures for the manager. It's really a proportionate response that they are asking for, not a revolution!

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    1. Hang on - the clues in the job title LIFEguard! Their primary concern is for the safety of the pool users. I want them to save my life if I am drowning and I don't want them distracted by a 'slanging match' about breastfeeding. Lifeguards are not politicians, policy setters, or breastfeeding campaigners - they are there to ensure the safety of the public using the pool. Please get off their case - they are not the main problem here.

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    2. I can see what you are saying but here all we are suggesting is that the lifeguard should have been trained, by the management, to know that breastfeeding is fine anywhere in a public facility, and not to ask the mother to move. (In this case, once the lifeguard had said she was 'offended' it was the manager who approached the mother - I don't think there's any particular 'lifeguard-bashing going on!)

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  13. For all those who don't put their name but are disparaging of me for fighting this cause rather than other causes I can assure you I am willing and I do fight ANY cause that sees improvements for women and babies and if you would like to join me on one of those many causes rather than just say "here here" please feel free to ring me and give up some of your time. To those who have commented about not feeding in the pool? she was not in the pool, she was sitting on the side of it with just her feet in the water. When first asked to move she was apologetic and only got defensive when told to go out of sight of public as what she was doing was offensive. The letter from the pool may have said the baby had her head level with the water but I can assure you that was not the case, even if it was relevant. The battle here is not about whether she was in or out of the pool it is about discrimination. The manager said she would have the same view about a bottle feeding woman if that women was offending someone and that applied to wherever she was feeding in the pool or in the café how bizarre is that?.....this is a battle worth fighting and if people cant see that I do not care. If the leisure facility see the error of their ways because of this and a new policy is put in place wouldn't that be a fight worth having fought for all woman ? If it was kept between us and them do you think they would care? Do you think they would be concerned if they were not named and shamed publicly for breaking the law? Virginia Howes not afraid to name myself and stand up and be counted.

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    1. And I for one applaud you!

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    2. Can I just point out that defamation of character is also breaking the law. I do believe calling someone (and it's on your facebook) 'an effing tit' and a 'pervert' is quite horrible and seriously offensive. This issue should not have been turned into a cyber bullying situation it should have been kept to a mature, civilised and reasonable debate.

      If you don't want two sides to an argument regardless if they are anonymous or not - don't use the internet as a debating chamber.








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    3. What are the 'spiteful' comments made by anonymous here on the blog?

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    4. totally agree with you Virginia but dont see that other people are being spiteful just saying what they think nothing wrong with that I agree that the stour centre is in the wrong I like to be anonymous as I like my privacy

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    5. quoting 'an effing tit' and 'pervert' as you do says nothing about the context of which the terms were used. If you want to claim defamation of character you will have to provide more evidence than this. I say this as I have read a lot of what Virginia has written on her pages. I have seen a woman with determination and a strong character. I haven't seen her defame anyone's character. But seeing that I may have missed something, I am willing to be corrected with the appropriate evidence.

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    6. Anonymous#?, I'm a little confused as to why you are bringing up Facebook conversations in this blog. It seems as though you are upset by something on Facebook so why not address your questions and views actually ON FB rather than here ? Then you wouldn't have put your aggressively worded reply on my response, it would have been in the right place and aimed at the right person.

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  14. I find it interesting to note that those in opposition don't have the faith in their views to actually put their names to them. That aside, the point here is about the law. Whether or not you agree or disagree with Virginia's view, whether or not you believe the law is an ass, the fact is that it is the law to allow ladies to breastfeed their babies in public and they should not be harassed, made to stop or feel unwelcome in any way for doing so. If those anonymous people believe it is OK for a business to disregard the law entirely and not be held to account for doing so, then a precedent is set that sends out a message that the law is there to be broken without consequence - and then where will we be ?
    If people really believe so strongly that, on this subject, the law is wrong, then they need (and have the right) to fight as hard to have the law changed as Virginia does to have womens' and babies' basic human rights upheld. But as it stands, whether you like it or not, the law is in place to allow ladies to breastfeed in public - and that includes swimming pools.

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    1. Virginia - Please can you point out the 'spiteful' comments made by the anonymous contributors on this blog as you have stated on your facebook page?

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    2. Anonymous, why are you replying to my comment in such a tone ? You are addressing the wrong person.

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    3. Sorry about that - I'll ask Virginia.

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  15. Thank you for taking the time to write this measured, detailed and informative post on this issue. All mothers really need is some magnanimity when going about their day. And it costs the rest of us nothing.

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  16. I fully support what Virginia and her daughter are doing. I have been following her campaign and I have found her communications coherent and the cause she is fighting for worthwhile as it is against discriminating against all breastfeeding women in public!
    Specially as some are quite vulnerable at this stage with young babies, and often have their confidence shattered by unthoughtful and illiterate comments and action.
    A baby even if breastfed has the right to his/her dinner in public, just like any of us have. As mentioned above a breastfed baby needs mummy's boobies for comfort as well, specially when in a new environment or upset. I for one, will not think twice to breastfeed in public if my baby is upset/hungry and I know will be comforted and sated by breastfeeding as my first priority is my baby. As mentioned above, if you are offended, just remove yourself from sight of a breastfeeding mum. Do any of you know how hard it is for some women to go out and take their children out, specially when they have older toddlers needing some activity because of prejudice against breastfeeding in public?
    This could be your daughter, your wife, you yourself as a nursing mother! Wouldn't you want them to be comfortable to comfort and feed their baby, when baby needs it?
    Being a leisure centre, it is quite awful the staff are so ignorant, as it is meant to be a family friendly place!
    Good luck in doing the right thing Virginia and Sophie, I hope everyone realises what you are doing is paving the way for every women and baby, to include the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters of those nasty people leaving nasty comments.

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  17. I can agree this is definitely something worth fighting for, mums right to breastfeed is the best way to feed a young child. The law says anywhere in a public place but does that mean you want to for example? i'm not so sure...

    but I am sure this so called campaign is the right way to go about it.

    For starters pop over to FB stour centre page and take a read. Personally to me that is nothing short of a manhunt and bullying! and I feel so sad reading it. Just think Would you let your child do that over FB to someone if not Id perhaps reconsider your action and perhaps take it down and reword it. some people calling people pigs etc that I saw, thats not fair and not appropriate.

    I see you have been campaigning this cause for a while so surely can you see that this is a great chance to turn something so unfortunate into a great campaign boost by actually going in to educate persons on the law and even use it in the media after to show a great outcome for all.

    currently pushing for a public apology and saying to late for meetings is a far cry from a good campaign that just shows small mindedness and id go as far as to say even a personal vendetta. don't we teach our children two wrongs never equal a right? what kind of example are we setting here if as adults we cant even come to a positive result without all this fighting and insults and looking to humiliate someone for a mistake.

    yes I would agree some sort of apology should really be made due to the way it has all been handled but not like this and certainly not through the media.

    Further to this pushing for disciplinary? since when did we start punishing people for lack of understanding/knowlege of the law in this case (keep context here)
    I think as a midwife you are in a unique position to perhaps impart some knowledge and wisdom through arranging training, not going all out for public humiliation.

    further yes whilst the law doesnt dictate a place where you cant, I would say a pool is perhaps not a great place to feed for anyon. you dont wanna know whats in that water and chlorine is not as effective as stated, a lifeguard with an NPLQ has little to no working knowledge of pool chemistry as normally hey aren't pool plant trained.
    UV is now used in many places and so if the centre has this in place that water has to pass through it to ensure death of bacteria . Baby spit of milk is nothing its more a case of not giving anything to the baby I think.

    people do pee in pools, you don't eat on the toilet so do you really wanna feed a bay in there? just because you can doesn't mean you should? but that's my opinion any ways.

    I don't believe this was an attack against mums breastfeeding in public, there was no malice in it and you have to remember these lifeguards these days are youngans and therefore lack wisdom and understanding at times. I can see there was a genuine mistake made at the time and perhaps some panic replies later, it could have been avoided with perhaps some better working knowledge that you have the power to provide. My only hope is that you and the manager of this centre can see this and view it as a great opportunity.

    So with this in mind urge you to reconsider any rash action. Step back and reassess the situation with a calm sound mind. then perhaps go to a meeting with all that passion you clearly have for this cause and see what can be done. Look for a positive way forward with education and training and the impartation of your wisdom. Use this unfortunate incident to set up a positive campaign marker and yes put some momentum behind your fight and show kindness and compassion that you must all have as mums first and as a professional as well.

    please don't see this as an attack I am mealy just trying to add some perspective I feel is being lost to to preconceived notions and other bad experiences.
    I hope you find a good resolution.

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    1. Thanks for your long reply, I appreciate you joining the discussion. I'd like to say at this point that discussions that happen on Facebook are obviously way beyond my control, or Virginia's - what people do and say is their own responsibility online. I'm glad that on the blog we've managed to keep the discussion civil as I think that's the only way to make progress. Again, I don't think Virginia's requests, for a copy of the policy, an apology, retraining and possible disciplinary action (in terms of HR, that means an investigation, rather than a definite consequence for the individual - that would only come if they were found to have acted wrongly), is unreasonable. It's not a witch hunt, and if the campaign seems robust it's because the issue itself is important in a society where breastfeeding is increasingly marginalised.

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    2. maybe people OUGHT to be more aware of what lies in the top few inches of a swimming pool and how if a baby is splashed whilst breast feeding this could be ingested, the dead skin, hair, wee ...... do i need to go on, not a very pleasant thought, and before anyone jumps on the bandwagon of babies swallowing water if they go under, it doesnt happen, until they are 18 months old, babies have a natural reaction which stops them from swallowing or inhaling this water, by which point i would think that most mums would understand their childs routine and even if they are still breast feeding would time activities around this so their children can get the full benefit and enjoyment of that activity

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  18. "since when did we start punishing people for lack of understanding/knowlege of the law" For donkeys years, not knowing a law does not make you exempt from it no matter what the context.

    "I don't believe this was an attack against mums breastfeeding in public, there was no malice in it and you have to remember these lifeguards these days are youngans and therefore lack wisdom and understanding at times."

    For heavens sake, please stop insulting young people like my teenager by using their age as an excuse for incompetence and unkindness. It's not on, youngsters have enough to deal with without trying to blame their age for law breaking, no wonder teens get such a bad press. The Mother was told her feeding was offensive and told she would be told to stop in the cafe as well, so this most ceryainly WAS an attack on breastfeeding.

    The law is there to protect women and babies. I hope this goes from strength to strength. If making legislation doesn't stop ignorance and small mindedness, then maybe this action will. That "youngan" was paid to do a job, and was clearly incompetetnt at it, regardless of age. Firstly had no understanding of the law pertaining to their line of work and no interest in following it once it was explained to them, and secondly, was unable to do their job in the prescence of a bodyparyt at a swimming pool. THAT in itself needs attention ASAP before more people are put at risk. Only safe as long as no bikini brastraps snap...

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  19. If I was a male lifegaurd and I women was breastfeeding I wouldnt be offended but if I was watching the pool I wouldnt know where to look because if the mum saw me DOING my job and watching pool but happened to be looking at her at the same time she was looking at me they could easily say I am looking at her boob and get you in trouble that way

    so either way lifegaurds seem to be in the wrong.

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  20. Exactly! then you find yourself being the subject of a witch hunt and slagged off on FB for just doing your job! I've read through all the responses on here and all I can gather is if you don't bend over backwards agreeing with breastfeeding mums you are a biggot! whatever your views! .....it seems that common sense has gone out of the window totally and people are so focused on pushing their own point that this whole situation has been blown totally out of proportion! It seems that feeding mums are demanding total consideration yet they seem to think that that excludes them for considering others! a little consideration goes along way and that should work BOTH ways! I've read though the FB comments and feel so appalled by what I've read in fact quite disgusted by some of the comments. I've read on here that Virginia cant be held responsible for what people write(and that is quite true) but she can delete the personal comments but has chosen not to which can only be perceived to her agreeing with them! She could have put a post on asking for people not to but to help her cause in a positive way but did nothing! So before I get a roasting for speaking up with some common sense remember that FACTS are FACTS and what i've stated is totally true!

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    1. Well said. You have totally summed it up.
      By the way, I've seen a lifeguard save a young boy who was struggling in the deep end of the pool at the stour centre. Absolutely brilliant - they may be young, they may be inexperienced but if they can save a life surely that is all that matters.

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    2. We're not talking about a lifeguard who glanced at a woman in passing, but a person who told another person that they were being offensive and in the course of that conversation broke the law.

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    3. since when was it against the law to say something either did or that it may offend people. where does it sate this in the law???

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    4. Anonymous if you read the post you'll see a link to the relevant law. It's not against the law to say that you personally are offended by something, that is your affair, but it is against the law to call a breastfeeding mother 'offensive' and ask her to leave public view because she is feeding her infant. Do you see the difference?

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    5. please quote me the law because from the research i have done this is not the case. and from the information given by both parts sophie was not asked to move out of public view but a short distance out of the swimming pool. so in this instance no i do not see the difference. i think that people are reading far too much into the rights of people and extending their subjective opinions to it and in so doing so slandering individuals and a business

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  21. I have to totally agree with the last comment! if nothing has been mentioned to try and stop hurtfull comments against an individual that is shamefull!

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  22. what happened to being innocent until proved guilty? Some democracy - when a group of people on a social media site can demand that a named person is publicly sanctioned and then subjected to extremely hurtful comments. The whole tenor of this 'battle' is bringing the cause of women into disrepute. Women should be above all of this nasty name calling and tackling real issues with proper debates and arguments - not demeaning ourselves with personal, vicious attacks. Accept that others may have a differing point of view and then argue your case in a clear fashion. Accept that some may wish to keep their privacy but that they too have a point of view, and, more importantly, don't judge or condemn until you have all the facts from both sides.

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  23. I have been a lifeguard for 6 years and this is crazy what is being said I have never been envolved with something so stupid in my life I go to work to save lifes and protect people not to be told where I can and cant look if someone is breastfeeding.

    Yeah do it out it public if you feel comfortable but some places you just dont its common sense and for me a swimming pool is one of them.

    If my baby was hungary I wouldnt go get a bottle and go sit back poolside unfortunately with kids they dictate you day so if they hungary means your swim is being cut short.

    I have saved about 12 people in my job over 6 years and one of them was 3 days ago if I didnt save them I would be in alot of trouble for not doing by job properly yet someone breastfeeding is apparently more important than saving a life.

    I dont get a mention every time I save a life doctors and nurses dont get a mention when they do it so lets look at bigger picture we are LIFEguards saving lifes if we wasnt there you would have more than wee and dead skin cells in the pool you would have dead people would you breastfeed you baby with them in pool.

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    1. Never think that saving a life is less important. Of course it is. I think that saving a life is miles more important than worrying about upsetting someone.
      Tell you what - let's take Virginia at her word and next time the stour centre is running cpd for the lifeguards - instead of them concentrating on 1st aid, resuscitation, lifesaving techniques for adults, children and babies - lets make them develop their politically correct skills which are, as everyone knows, very useful in a life or death situation...

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    2. Or, how about this, let the breastfeeding women get on with their job (caring for their babies) and the lifeguards get on with theirs (which doesn't include attacking women who are minding their own business, caring for their babies). Virginia, I am sure, would agree with you wholeheartedly, that a lifeguard's role is to save lives, not humiliate people.

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  24. Seems like a few of the comments above have spilled over from Facebook - to repeat, this blog is separate from the Facebook discussion and this discussion neither names nor shames any individuals, it is taking the wider view. Virginia, although she cooperated with the writing of the post and has taken the time to post in the comments, is not responsible for what I've said in the article above, nor am I responsible for any discussion that has gone on on FB - I've reserved my comments for here. And I'm more than happy to update the post as further information comes to light in the course of events. Let's keep it polite and respectful here please!

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  25. I am a middle aged man with 2 young kids who as a teenager worked at a pool as a lifeguard. There are several comments about how a LG should know all the laws and regs relating to their job. This is correct but there are many laws and regs which come into play when working in a pool. There are many cultures, ethnicities and beliefs in the world which as a lifeguard you need to understand. However some of these beliefs mean that a person may prefer to swim in the pool in a single sex session with the same sex lifeguards, or there are many naturists who like to swim. Now surely that is within their right to be able to do this? Unfortunately in most sports centres this is physically not possible to accommodate. It is not that the centre is discriminating against them it is just not logistically possible. When I first started lifeguarding we had female only sessions and 60+ sessions. With equality laws these sessions then had to be removed from the programme. So managers and lifeguards on a daily basis have to take into account many beliefs and considerations of all the public. Some people criticized the lifeguard for being uncomfortable, and that they are not suitable for the job.Many of you will not realise the training and exam that a lifeguard has to undertake in order to become qualified. As part of their job they have to be prepared to make rescues, perform CPR and nowadays be trained to use a defibrillator. This can put the lifeguard under immense stress and emotions knowing they have someones' life in their hands. Equally if having to use a defib on a woman on poolside then everything above waist height is laid bare to perform this action, therefore I feel the comments about bikini straps breaking are irrelevant. The lifeguards are often young in age and have a massive responsibility. They also have a vast knowledge of lifesaving skills which many of us older people would love to have. continued on next post

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  26. Cont from prev post. Now to get to the main issue that relates to the manager dealing with the lady breastfeeding in the pool (not on the pool edge). The managers main intention was to ask the lady to move to an area where she would be safer and was a more suitable and healthy environment for the baby. You may be unaware as to the make up of pool water and the chemicals and contaminates involved. Approximately the top 5 inches of the water contain many contaminants such as hair, skin, sweat, saliva, urine and faecal matter to name but a few!! These contaminants are introduced into the water by people. These germs can cause Recreational water illness (RWI's), which can cause people to be sick or have diarrhoea. The RWI's are spread by swallowing the pool water which is shared by all and therefore not sterile. Germs are killed by chlorine which is in the pool but not immediately. To give just a few examples the germ inactivation time is as follows:E Coli (bacteria) less than 1 minute / Hepatitis A (virus) = 16 minutes approx. / Giardia (parasite) = 45 minutes approx. / Cryptospiridium (parasite) = 10 1/2 days. In addition to this the interaction between the disinfectant and the pool water contaminants can produce chloramines and trichloramine which has been detected in the air above the pool which has been linked in with increasing asthma. Diarrhoea is the most common illness associated to these pathenogenic contaminants. Now to minimise these contaminants can be done relatively easily by simple methods such as showering before swimming, not swimming with a stomach or intestinal illness and not eating or drinking within swimming pools. It is impossible to prevent the introduction of pool contaminants which is why filtration systems and chemicals are in place. So on this note I feel that the manager made the right decision in advising the lady she needed to breastfeed in another area. I would not have wanted my wife to have put either of my children at risk from these water spread illnesses by breastfeeding in the pool. I do not understand why any woman would want to feed their young baby or child in these conditions. A babies immune system is still developing and therefore more prone to picking up these germs which are in the water. Some of you may also say that the baby would take on more contaminants whilst being submerged during a play session or lesson. A baby up to the age of 18 months when submerged naturally will close their mouth and airway and thus not inhaling or swallowing the water and contaminants. I cannot comment exactly on what the manager said but I am sure that they did not intend to upset the customer in any way and was thinking of what was best for the child. At the end of the day we are all human and we all make errors of judgement. The intentions were all good but possibly did not come across in the best way or with the correct intentions. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and it is not illegal to be offended by a situation. This post was not intended to upset or annoy anyone but to make a few points which may have been missed.

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    1. The flaw in your post is this. Breastfeeding babies seal their mouths around the breast, and don't take in any water. However, while they're swimming, they'll swallow water if it gets into their mouths. One of my babies actively tries to drink the water for some reason. When I breastfeed him in the pool he's drinking milk, and he's actually taking in less water. If the water is not safe for babies to drink, then it's not safe for them to be breastfed in. But that's not an arguement to not breastfeed in the water - as the act of breastfeeding is protecting them from swallowing the water.

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    2. Would you take a diner plate down to the pool - submerge in in the top 5 inches of pool water for about 30minutes then remove it and eat off immediately?

      If so your arguments has a shred of credibility.

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  27. I personally don't feel that breastfeeding IN the pool should be done, but the lady in question should not have been discriminated against as the law does say she's entitled.
    As a breastfeeding mother myself I wouldn't be doing it there, more because I see breastmilk as feeding, and noone else would eat in the pool.
    If the manager had brought this point to her attention, I think the debate would be reasonable... but the fact the manager said it was a public place so she didn't have a right if people were uncomfortable is wrong - and it is very wrong that a member of staff is allowed to say they are uncomfortable or distracted by a woman breastfeeding - because it shows the total lack of knowledge about the rights of breastfeeding mothers, and more notably the complete lack of normality of feeding an infant in a public place - to me it sounds as though even if the mother had gotten out of the pool and fed the baby at the side it still would have been an issue to the staff!! Outrageous really!!!!

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  28. A recent Sunday Times poll distinguished specifically between breastfeeding a baby ‘in a public swimming pool’ and “by the side of a public swimming pool’. This poll found that 65% think the latter is acceptable, but about the same proportion of the public (64%) think it is unacceptable for women to breastfeed ‘in a swimming pool’,

    Given the statistics (64% of the pool's occupants would have found feeding the baby in the swimming pool unacceptable) the lifeguard would not be 'unreasonable' in consulting with her manager when she saw the baby being fed in the water.

    What was said between the two parties i.e. the complainant's daughter and the manager is all hearsay. We were not there and therefore none of us are in a position to comment upon it.

    The Stour Centre's response to the complainant, which has included making a new policy specifically for Breastfeeding and is in addition to the general Equalities and Discrimination Act is fine though a bit over the top, however, I am concerned that this will engender additional costs to an already overstretched council budget.

    On a personal note I am very concerned about the personal attacks on the two employees and the staff in general at the Stour Centre. This is totally uncalled for and is both demeaning to the employees and those who are make the attacks. I find the complainant's persistence in constantly asking for the staff to 'face the consequences' is uncalled for, nor is it within her remit as she is not the employer.

    I recommend that the staff get their unions involved and consult with their lawyers.

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  29. Actually don't think even the person who is complaining was even there - it was her daughter cos her daughter says that she phoned her mum to tell her.

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  30. Noticed that Virginia is wondering why people might be a bit cross with her. Could it possibly be that one of her main targets was on a lifeguard who is still a teenager? Subsequently this young girl was then subjected to name calling and abuse from various people on Virginia's website, etc.

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    1. This is such a SET UP, Virginia and her daughter knew exactly what response they would get, and actually wanted the response..just so that they can kick off again about woman's rights... Yes I'm a woman, and breastfed both of my children, however, I used common sense.. I considered other people, yes considered other people. You have to use some kind of decorum surely. I agree with the stour centre manager that it's not hygenic, and considering that they offer seats nearby, then why feel the need to feed an 18 month old child in the pool. The same saying goes when mums say I wouldn't eat my dinner in the toilet, so why should I breastfeed my child in the toilet. Exactly right... So the same saying applies, would these ladies choose to eat their lunch in the pool, or would they get out of the pool and eat it on a seat ? I also feel very concerned for the teenager in question, if she did use the word Offensive, then yes she was wrong, but again it's hearsay isn't it? no proof.. I am all for breastfeeding, but totally totally against bullying a young person, in the name of a staged point.

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  31. There has been no name-calling or personal attacks against anyone on this blog. As far as I have seen in the reporting of the story, although there's been disappointment that the lifeguard was offended, the chief criticism has been of the management who should have been aware of the equality legislation (which also covers race, disability etc) and communicated that to employees. The latest letter from the chief executive of Ashford council says that a new policy will be put into place to prevent this sort of lapse from happening again. The ins and outs of what other individuals would do in this scenario, although revealing, only tell us that some individuals disagree with another individual's personal choices - as with many things in life. It's not often though that one party's rights are specifically covered by a law: we only do that to protect those who we expect may otherwise suffer prejudice. A report compiled after similar cases arose in Canada makes very interesting reading, for those both 'for' and 'against' - the link to it is here: http://www.breastfeedingalberta.ca/files/BMPC-MainDoc.pdf

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  32. Even though I don't agree with Virginia regarding her attitude towards the staff at the stour centre which led to vicious name calling by her followers on her website, I do not agree that two wrongs make a right i.e. the daily mail followers & km followers doing the same thing back. I hated the thought of the teenage lifeguard being upset and likewise, I'm not happy with Sophie (and her daughter because I think these things communicate to your children especially when you breast feed) being in tears.

    This will all die down in a couple of days and perhaps will give all concerned time to consider lessons learnt.

    For example, the gentle art of negotiation - perhaps Virginia should have met with stour centre managers in the first instance which could have led to an excellent result without all this pain (remember there has to be a benefit for both sides when going into negotiation - ideally with both sides feeling they have 'won' something).This would have been a considered and professional approach. Going into 'battle' with all guns blazing and without having negotiated first was bound to be a disaster. I am afraid Virginia had already created an 'us' and 'them' approach which instantly put up peoples' hackles hence the adverse responses (in both instances). Going to the papers and using social media should be the last resort rather than first.

    Bringing people with you has a much better chance of success rather than the 'do what I say, it's the law' sledgehammer approach is, in most cases, disastrous.

    May I suggest that instead of sharing everything on her facebook that for the moment Virginia gives it a rest, arranges a meeting with the managers, discuss the issues, comes to an negotiated agreement and then shares the result with her followers. As her face book is a public site if nothing else it will give her daughter and grand daughter a break and give her time to reflect.

    Lonely Scribe I have valued your calmness in all of this. You enabled people to air their thoughts - essential in a democracy.

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    1. Just read Virgnia's facebook - she wants to start up a petition to lobby parliament to discuss breastfeeding with special reference to prosecution and/or recompense (i.e. getting money). My sympathy has now gone out of the window - the whole situation is ludicrous.

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    2. Thanks to all for their comments: I'm glad this has been a forum for genuine discussion, unlike the pages of the KM and the Daily Mail! Just a note about Virginia's suggested petition (which was mentioned above). It's my understanding that what she means is simply that there should be a clear-cut method of implementing the law so that individual women do not have to jump through hoop after hoop trying to get their point across when the law is on their side. I imagine this could work in a similar way to something like raising a grievance against an employer in the workplace - as in, as soon as someone makes a complaint in specific terms (i.e. under the breastfeeding legislation) then a clear process of investigation, mediation and restitution takes place, perhaps overseen by an external body (like ACAS to continue my workplace parallel). That would seem a sensible thing to me; it would certainly prevent a repeat of all that's gone on in this case (and in the other cases earlier in the year). Recompense would not necessarily be financial - it could include things like requiring companies to have a written breastfeeding policy, or to have new/additional training for employees, and there might be a form laid out for the way in which a formal apology should be made (perhaps in writing, and somehow published publicly, for example on a company's website/noticeboard). I don't for one minute think Virginia and her daughter are in this for the money!

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  33. There is a time and a place for breastfeeding. The time is whenever my baby needs it, for food or comfort. The place is wherever it is convenient for ME to do so. I try not to be in clear view of everyone because I tend to feel vulnerable with lots of people looking though equally I do not hide away or use a big scarf.
    I would not feed my baby in the pool because I would feel a little exposed and uncomfortable just standing in the pool. For me, I would be more comfortable both physically and emotionally comfortable sitting at the side of the pool with a towel to keep us warm. But that's me. I think all the discussion regarding germs is just a misnomer, germs are likely to be injested by all users of the pool.... it really doesn't matter what anyone thinks because the point is you can legally feed where you want to and for some mums it may be in the pool to help baby settle, to aid them getting used to being in the water, to comfort them if they are afraid, or simply to prevent having to get in and out of the pool several times for feeding of baby.....this can be tricky and hazardous in itself. Finally it is worth remembering that babies can't tell you that they need feeding, or why they are crying, mum may offer the booby, but baby might not take it, this can happen a lot in a half hour session and staying in the water whilst doing so may prevent chilling/ unsettling the baby. I can certainly see many benefits to doing this, even though as I say I haven't found it right for me. As for seeing a bit of breast being unnerving or distracting, well surely this is one of the hazards of being a lifeguard. Flesh being on display comes with the territory....And there are worse things to see than a flash of errant nipple! Ps I am anonymous as this venue for reply only offers limited choice for your submission, my name is Emma, mum of 2.

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  34. Can I please ask about the 70k of public funding raised towards securing insurance for independent midwives that Virginia et al have be working so hard for. Can I mention that the fight has not yet been won on that front so why is the emphasis of so many of the causes resources being shifted to a personal vendetta whilst a very real and important campaign has fallen by the way side.

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    1. I think your question is beyond the scope of this post/comments - you'd be better off approaching Virginia/the independent midwives on Facebook or elsewhere as I certainly can't speak for them! However, I do wonder why you think the resources of the independent midwifery campaign are being 'shifted to a personal vendetta'? I certainly don't see any reason why individuals can't be campaigning for several different causes at once. It would seem to make sense that if there is enough interest in/commitment to an issue, then it is worth harnessing that to make improvements to the system - that is how democracy works, after all. Indeed, one of the criticisms levelled at those who have 'opposed' the idea of breastfeeding in public/in pools is that they are not out there lobbying for the law that protects women to be repealed - which is the logical extension of their position.

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  35. I don't see anything wrong or illegal with mothers breastfeeding in swimming pools. Mothers can breastfeed their babies wherever they want as long as they are comfortable about it. Whether they do it on the bus, in swimming pools or everywhere else in public, it's really up to them. Personally, i don't see a big deal with Sophie feeding her baby at the edge of the pool.

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