Leisure centres update breastfeeding policy after mum makes a stand
A MUM who was told to stop breastfeeding at her local pool has emerged victorious after challenging the decision.
Alvis West, from Bromley Heath, was with her then seven-month-old baby Rory at Kingswood's Active Lifestyle Centre in April.
When Rory started to nuzzle because he was hungry, Alvis sat on the step of the children's pool and started to breastfeed.
But she was shocked when a female lifeguard approached her and told her to stop.
Alvis, 35, said: “I was sat on the step of the pool and wasn't fully immersed in the water so I didn't think twice about feeding him. A young lifeguard came up to me and was so abrupt and rude. She said I couldn't breastfeed because it was against company policy and told me I needed to get out.”
Embarrassed, Alvis left the pool but was surprised not to see any signs advising of the policy.
She asked to speak to the person in charge but as manager Martyn Hinam wasn't there his colleague confirmed to Alvis that it was indeed company policy.
Alvis, who lives with partner Daniel Gould and their other son Leo, aged eight, said: “I was told you could breastfeed outside the pool but couldn't while you were in the water because of hygiene concerns. I'm sure there are far worse bodily fluids that pass through the pool than a bit of my breast milk, which is a sterile liquid anyway, or a bit of spit up from a baby. I didn't think it was much of an argument.
“It was also brought up about babies swallowing chlorinated water but I'm pretty sure, as a responsible adult, I'm going to make sure my newborn baby isn't ingesting the water.”
Alvis asked if the manager could call her about the issue.
She said: “He called me the next day and said he didn't know why the policy was in place but he would look into it and get back to me.”
True to his word, Martyn spoke to his managers and discovered the issue had never come up before. He went on to speak to Bristol Breastfeeding Mummies, a 5,700 member Facebook group, as well as Barnardo's and a breastfeeding support charity.
Martyn came back to Alvis and told her that, based on his research, he saw no reason why she couldn't breastfeed at the pool and therefore they were going to change the policy in all of their centres in South Gloucestershire - Longwell Green, Yate, Kingswood, Thornbury and Bradley Stoke.
Avis, a national account manager, said: “He really did listen and used his powers to influence management to make changes as quickly as possible. He definitely went above and beyond. He even purchased a sofa for mums who don't want to breastfeed in the pool to have somewhere comfortable to sit.
“I was really pleased with the outcome. Breastfeeding rates have really dropped in this country so anything we can do to help mums stay on that journey should be welcomed. It also shows other companies what can be done and how easy it is to make that change. To be able to breastfeed wherever you are in the centre is brilliant – common sense has prevailed.”
Martyn said: “We are delighted we have been able to work with Alvis and draw on her experience to give us a better insight into an important, and potentially sensitive, area of customer service.As well as speaking with Alvis, we talked to a number of other mums to help us review what we are doing at the centres and where we could make positive changes. We also consulted with the charity Barnardo's who work with South Gloucestershire Council to run breastfeeding support groups. As a result, mums can now breastfeed anywhere in our centres where they feel most comfortable, including the swimming pools. Kingswood has invested in a nice comfortable sofa, as opposed to the plastic chairs; and parents are welcome to use the Clifford Suite when it’s available.
“Breastfeeding posters have also been updated across all Active Centres and each centre now has its own dedicated private breastfeeding area.
“Dealing with breastfeeding customers has now also been included in staff training and awareness sessions.”