A mum has been left outraged after she was kicked out of a swimming pool for breastfeeding her son during a baby swim lesson.

Natalie Forester, 30, claims she was left freezing on the side after staff told her to leave the pool at Dimensions Leisure Centre, in Stoke-on-Trent.

During the session on 17 July her 18-month-old son, Josiah, began crying around feeding time so the mum-of-three walked further into the pool and away from the group before turning around to discreetly breastfeed.

Natalie Forester has been left outraged after pool staff told her to exit the pool to breastfeed her son (Picture: James Ward/Caters News)

But she claims she was approached by the swimming instructor and told to exit the pool to breastfeed, as under the centre’s food and drink policy, she was not allowed to do so in the water.

Natalie, from Sneyd Green, Stoke, was left angry and confused at what she claims is an ‘outdated’ policy and believes that it goes against the Equality Act of 2010 which states, ‘a business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age’.

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Natalie, who works in customer service, said: ‘I have breastfed all my three children and all of them have used the centre for swimming lessons over the years.

‘I know all the staff as I go so often, so I was completely baffled when I was approached and asked to exit the water, I’ve been breastfeeding for the last eight years and never had any comment made to me before.

‘Josiah is a real water baby but on this particular day he really wasn’t happy and didn’t want to join in, I could tell that he was probably hungry and so discreetly took myself away from the group so no one could see.

The two were taking part in a closed baby swimming lesson (Picture: James Ward/Caters News)

‘When the instructor asked me to leave the water I was so shocked I just did as I was told. I could feel Josiah was getting cold sat on the edge but by the time we had finished the lesson was over.

‘It takes around three minutes for him to feed and he would have been fine.’

The pool was closed to the public for the baby swimming class, which teaches youngster from newborn up to two years of age, with around five other families participating on the day.

On leaving the council-run swimming pool, Natalie, who ran a local breastfeeding support group for 18 months, asked to see a copy of their breastfeeding policy, which fell under the food and beverages rules.

It stated the centre actively encourages mums to breastfeed at the poolside but says it is ‘discouraged’ in swimming pools ‘for the health and comfort of the child and to avoid the risk of the child regurgitating or vomiting in the pool’.

But Natalie claims that the policy is at odds with the Equality Act of 2010 which states a mother is protected to feed her toddler in a public place without any age restriction.

Dimensions Leisure Centre in  Stoke-on-Trent’s breastfeeding rules (Picture: Caters News)

Natalie said: ‘The policy is outdated. No matter what age you are, the water has a calming effect and babies thrive on being fed in the water.

‘If they are worried about cross contamination, breast milk is sterile, and swimming pools are full of more harmful bodily fluids that I would not like to mention.

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‘They told me that it is to stop babies being sick in the water and so I responded by saying that they should not have a cafe alongside the pool.

‘When breastfeeding, babies could need feeding at any time, so to encourage breastfeeding and they not allow that to happen means the policy makes no sense.

‘If that had happened to a first-time mum if could have completely ruined their confidence. I could tell the instructor felt uncomfortable telling me but she was just following the policy.

Natalie claims that the policy is at odds with the Equality Act of 2010 (Picture: Caters News)

‘I have received a lot of negative comments since sharing my experience but it just shows how uneducated people are on the subject.’

Councillor Anthony Munday, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, defended the authority’s policy.

He said: ‘We have many areas at our poolside where breastfeeding can take place and actively promote and support this, although we do ask that breastfeeding doesn’t happen in the pool.

‘We take on board the feedback from mums and will do more to work with them to understand their views and consider if this is something that needs to change for the future.

‘We are sorry if this has caused any distress to any of our pool users.’


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