A mother-of-three has said she was shocked to be asked to stop breastfeeding her seven-month-old baby at UCD swimming pool.
Marguerite Sinnott takes her children to the pool at Belfield in Dublin two or three times per week as her four- and six-year-olds are learning to swim. “I was in the toddler pool with my children between 2.30pm and 3pm (on Tuesday). It was only just my family in there. There was nobody else in there at all. Oisín started crying, so I just gave him a feed. I sat up on the side of the pool.
“We were in there on our own, not disturbing anyone, not putting anybody out, not making anyone uncomfortable. Even if it was full, I don’t care if it’s full or not, because I’ll get my boobs out anyway if I need to feed my child.
“There was no abrasive, controversial behaviour happening that would or could really offend any reasonable person in any event.”
Marguerite said a staff member came to the toddler pool steps and said, “I need to address something with you”.
“The language was so bizarre I got up and walked over to the steps to see what she was on about. She said, ‘I have been made aware that you have been breastfeeding your child in the pool’. I said ‘that’s right, I have been breastfeeding my child’. And she said, ‘it’s not allowed to breastfeed your child in the pool – if you need to breastfeed your child, you will have to go to a cubicle in the changing area’.”
Marguerite said the staff member insisted that it was not safe for the baby to be breastfed at the pool, adding that it was a health and safety issue.
Replying, Marguerite said she told her, “I’m shocked, I’m completely shocked. I can’t believe that you’re asking me to do this. You are a woman and you’re asking me to do this.”
Marguerite said she asked the staff member who made her aware that she was breastfeeding. “She said it was another pool user. I said, ‘was it a man? Was it the man who just walked past there?’ And she just shrugged her shoulders. I said, ‘you are a woman asking me to stop breastfeeding my child because a middle aged white man asked you to have me not breastfeed my child’?”
In spite of the experience, Marguerite said she will continue to use the pool at UCD. As a solicitor, she is familiar with her rights, explaining that breastfeeding in public is protected by law under the gender and family status aspects of the Equal Status act. “I will breastfeed there again next time. I’ll probably be there tomorrow morning and I will breastfeed there again tomorrow morning if my child is hungry. And I will keep doing that until people get used to it.”
UCD have not responded to a request for comment. However, on Twitter, the UCD Sports and Fitness account did post a message to Marguerite, saying: “Please accept our sincerest apologies. Rather than approach you, the member of staff should have explained to the individuals who complained that breastfeeding is rightfully permitted in public places. We have taken the necessary steps to ensure all of our staff are fully aware of this going forward.”