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Mom Asked to Leave YMCA Pool While Breastfeeding: It Made Others "Uncomfortable" and "Breastmilk Is Considered a Contaminating Bodily Fluid"

By Stephanie Precourt |

A Texas mother breastfeeding her baby in a YMCA pool was asked to leave due to breastmilk being a “contaminant”.

Yet another negative incident this week regarding breastfeeding in public: a Texas Mom was breastfeeding her baby when she was asked to leave the YMCA pool while her kids played in the water nearby. Kim Borchert decided to breastfeed her hungry newborn in the pool so that she wouldn’t have to make her kids get out of the water while they found a place to sit and nurse.

Just this past weekend a mom was asked to leave an American Girl store in NYC while she tried to breastfeed her baby in a sitting area despite laws stating she had a right to nurse her baby there.

Kim wrote on her blog,

“Now, I would have preferred to sit in a comfy lounge chair but that would have required getting Libby out of the pool.  So, since I can nurse discreetly, and my torso wasn’t in the water, I decided to sit on the step and nurse him. Full disclosure – I had on a Maternity Tankini, so everything but a part of my side were covered.  There was no breast showing at all.  In fact, some Moms were showing more skin than I was.”

She said a lifeguard approached her after about five minutes and asked her stop breastfeeding in the pool because it was making others uncomfortable, and that it is against pool policy to have bodily fluids in the pool if any of her milk were to get into the water.

Kim stood her ground, explaining her rights and the law for quite some time, but ultimately removed herself and her children from the pool so she could avoid a scene.

Personally, I am appalled at how common it still seems that breastfeeding in public is not viewed as OK to most, and I hate that we live in a time when it is not viewed as natural and NORMAL. And also that anyone would prefer to ask a mother with a newborn to stop breastfeeding because they found it uncomfortable instead of just looking away. Put yourself in the mother’s shoes (or sandals, in this matter!) for once.

I have to wonder how does the YMCA keep kids’ snotty noses from running into the pool, or kids (and adults) from peeing? Isn’t that why they put so many chemicals in the pool anyway? And, as Kim writes, any pregnant or nursing mama is going to leak at some point whether there is a baby around or not. Are they banned from swimming?

Now, I can totally see why illegal acts and certain bodily fluids do not belong in a public pool, such as the story of the couple who were arrested this week for having sex in a public pool with children present. Um, OMG. Thankfully, “municipal workers added additional chemicals to the pool and recycled its water.”

Breastfeeding your baby? Not the same thing.

 

Hat tip to Meagan Francis for the “pool intercourse” story.

Image source

How do they do it? Real moms on their experiences while breastfeeding

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Stephanie Precourt

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50 thoughts on “Mom Asked to Leave YMCA Pool While Breastfeeding: It Made Others "Uncomfortable" and "Breastmilk Is Considered a Contaminating Bodily Fluid"

  1. Kimberly says:

    Know what I think? I think she should have taken a pic of herself with her baby, and then sat there and documented the skimpy bikinis that were all around her. And then write a letter to the Board or whoever runs the Y and ask all the questions you posed. SHEESH.

  2. goddess says:

    Um no- not IN the pool. On the landing next to the pool- fine. NO ONE is allowed to eat in the pool anyone- even babies that drink formula. I am fine with public breastfeeding and support the right to extended breastfeeding- but NOT IN the pool.

  3. Lisa says:

    I agree. Not in the pool.

  4. Sara says:

    Not in the pool, not in the pool area if food is not allowed. I don’t disagree with this decision. She is not being treated any differently than a formula feeding mother.

  5. Jessi says:

    why not in the pool? if i were her, i would have wanted to be as close as possible to my children while i was nursing. she has every right and i agree with kimberly… document, document, document.

  6. goddess says:

    Why not? NO food or drinks are allowed in the pool. Plan around it- like every mom does for formula feeding children and food-eating children. The world does not exist to bend every single rule for her benefit. Talk about entitlement.

  7. skelly says:

    I am a major breastfeeding activist, but I have to point out a flaw in this article’s logic. Breastfeeding in a pool is far more similar to having sex in the pool than a runny nose or the occasional pee. The reason why is, well, it is a contaminate. Same reason why you can’t hop in with an open sore. In this day and age it’s important to abide by universal precautions and to teach them to our children, and breast milk is one of the 5 methods of HIV transmission. We wouldn’t be thinking about this the same way if we were talking about someone drenched in blood, semen, or even giving birth next to a pool. Yes breastfeeding should be embraced just about everywhere but there are safety regulations in certain environments where the risk of contamination may be higher than most.

    In this particular circumstance they were being a little over protective. She obviously wasn’t pumping into the water, the risk was negligible. They clearly should not have asked her to leave but rather explained the regulations more clearly and offered an alternative. I definitely get why she chose that location to nurse and feel awful for her. I just thought I should explain why the pool referred to her breast milk as a contaminate. A lot of comparisons to eating near a pool or to exposing pool water to less harmful body fluids are being drawn, that doesn’t factor in to this type of regulation. It’s simply a tool to prevent disease, whether or not it’s almost impossible to transmit in that type of environment anyhow. Just a heads up from your friendly neighbourhood HIV/Hep C/STI prevention educator :)

  8. goddess says:

    Can the HIV be passed through urine?
    No. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS is transmitted via blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. There have been no documented cases of HIV contraction from urine, sweat, and saliva.
    So HELL to the NO on nursing in the pool!

  9. skelly says:

    Goddess, you beat me to it!

  10. Kim says:

    Goddess – Just to be clear, I do not feel entitled at all. Nor am I asking for every single rule to be bent for my benefit.
    I have food and drink on me at all times, so does that mean I am not allowed to swim in the pool? What about other establishments that clearly state no food or drink – like department stores or movie theaters? Am I not allowed to frequent those places either?
    I am not asking for an exception to be made for ME, but for all mothers of newborns, regardless of how they are fed. If my baby was bottle feeding, I would have done the same thing.
    Personally I would not have batted an eye if a Mom had a baby with a bottle and was sitting on the step feeding her baby.
    i just think that we need to have clear policies about this so that others are not placed in the same situation.

  11. goddess says:

    Not in places where no food or drink are permitted. And especially not where people are literally submerged in the concoction. No food, no drink, no nursing. No one is telling a nursing mother to cover up. Just move to the deck. Quite clear.

  12. goddess says:

    And just to make sure all the bases are covered: feces is not a body fluid that is known to transmit HIV.

    Oh- and to answer your questions- food and drink on you at all times? Do you mean breastm9ilk in your breasts or other foods/drink? You can’t take the food or drinks in places where they are not permitted and you shouldn’t be in a pool if your breasts leak either. Breast milk can transmit HIV. There’s plenty of food in theaters, but that’s a a whole nuther can of worms- infants in theaters, LOL.

  13. Kim says:

    Last things I will say about this Goddess. It is not possible to transmit HIV through swimming – http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/aids/facts/questions/transmission.htm

    Also, regardless of the no food or drink policy, it is the legal right of EVERY nursing Mom to nurse whenever, wherever she needs and wants.

    If you are looking for a fight, you came to the wrong place.

  14. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    I did the same thing as the mom in this story at the neighborhood kiddie pool. Sat off to one side of the pool, my feet still in the water and nursed my baby while at arms length of my three y.o. I didn’t realize it was such a big, hairy deal. Thing is, I may breastfeed my child anywhere I legally have the right to be. Period.

  15. the orginal Sarah says:

    A little off topic, but today I saw a Today show segment where they talked about that breastfeeding doll. 2 of the panelists were completely disguested by the doll, and Star Jones said “Would you give your kid a doll that simulates sex?!?” with the context of “it’s the same kind of thing.” Don’t know when the world with figure out that nursing is normal and nonsexual.

  16. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Super BF advocate here and I say she should have gotten out of the pool.

  17. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    To clarify, not because of any completely imaginary HIV risk, but because no one is allowed to eat inside the pool. I would have also wanted to rinse the pool chemicals off of my nipple before putting it in my baby’s mouth (I’m a regular lap swimmer and that stuff can eat through your hair and fabric, so why would you want your baby ingesting it?) I’d also think that the baby would be wet and cold when taken out of the water, so I’d want to move a few feet away and wrap the baby up in a towel.

  18. Jenn says:

    Would I have been asked to stop bottle feeding in the pool? Of course. Sorry guys–I’m all for breastfeeding rights, but I think this crosses the line.

  19. Gretchen Powers says:

    I am a big supporter of breastfeeding wherever and whenever, mostly, but, yeah, totally not in the pool for all the other reasons people already said. And, actually at the pool we go to, technically there is no eating or drinking on the pool deck, according to state health regs. There is a specified picnic area a little off and away for that.

  20. Gretchen Powers says:

    The reasons the guard gave this woman, though were wrong and silly. The guard could have (if in fact these are the state regs in Texas, and they should be) that state regulations say no eating in the pool and it wouldn’t have had to be about the more subjective issue of whether or not people were uncomfortable. Fat, overly hairy people with bad skin make me uncomfortable in pools but that doesn’t give me the right to complain about them.

  21. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Please. Like everyone isn’t already ingesting the microbes of everything else that’s been inadvertently deposited in the pool water. If you’re gonna get bent about chlorine, or vestiges of pee, poop, blood, snot, sweat, farts and queefs for that matter… then don’t swim in a public pool. Of course, if a mom’s boob leaks into the pool water, drain it and then burn it with fire. /sarcasm

  22. Gretchen Powers says:

    I think it’s more about ingesting what’s in the pool (including the harsh chemicals, yes)…for the ones doing the eating. That’s what I would not like if I was the breastfeeding mother. Oh well, looks like she got the rules bent for her in the end anyway.

  23. stacy says:

    I am an avid supporter of breastfeeding. But I agree that it was fine for the woman to be asked to leave the pool. The pool isn’t a place for eating. The mom should show some courtesy to others and leave the pool.

  24. jennifer says:

    I guess the mom felt comfortable about where she was sitting that there wouldn’t be the possibility of water splashing in the baby’s face. I would have been more concerned about the yucky pool water getting in the kid (prompting me to find a place to nurse away from the pool where I could still see the other kids) versus my breastmilk contaminating the water…

  25. anon says:

    I’m not sure I have any dog in this fight at all. I doubt I would have bothered this woman, given the situation she describes. But there’s a couple of factors that cut in different directions here. One is that if you don’t want breastmilk in a pool, then you pretty much have to keep any lactating mother out of a pool, whether she’s actively nursing at that point or not. It doesn’t seem fair, especially since chlorine will probably kill whatever gets in there. The other is that you don’t want pool water anywhere near a baby. Truly, that water is disgusting, and the combination of organic material and the chemicals that break down organic material combine to make it that way. If we’re going to argue about keeping people out of pools, lets talk about keeping non-potty trained people out. Feces may not transmit AIDS, but it does transmit E coli, and that actually has been known to sicken people in public swimming situations.

  26. goddess says:

    @Kim: LOL= I can hold every opinion I want and fight to change and refine any law with which I disagree. So YOU have engaged a former BFIP advocate to refine those laws in a way you may not really like. Congrats. Job well done today.

  27. Nay says:

    I’m in the “not in the pool” camp. Maybe make your kids get out for five minutes? Go with another mom (or dad) while breastfeeding? Sanitation for the baby and sanitation for everyone else who uses the pool. Imagine someone getting in and seeing a trail of period blood go after them. Menstrual flow is normal too, and women have a right to be on their period whenever, wherever – but most know better than to swim with a free flow going on. And… I wouldn’t want my breast-feeding baby in a pool to begin with – if something happens with an older kid that requires my attention, the infant will be at greater risk (one hand for baby, one hand for older kids? or was she planning on putting the infant at the side of the pool? ‘Course, I’m thinking the baby isn’t yet to skilled walking. Though with extended breast feeding – If the kid is old enough to swim in something deeper than a bathtub, the kid is old enough to hold out for an hour or two.)

  28. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    I’m typing this on my iPhone, nursing my baby and have my feet in the kiddie pool at the park again. My older kid is here next to me, playing in the water. Oh yeah, I have my whole boob out, not making an effort to cover up in this heat, and I wasn’t shelling out for a nursing bathing suit. And I have the only shady spot, so anyone else wanting some is going to have to share breathing room with this here nursing momma. Good times.

  29. high-concept troll says:

    Don’t drop that iPhone in the water!

  30. Bunnytwenty says:

    Um, don’t boobs leak spontaneously? So if breastmilk in pool water was such a big deal, then all nursing moms would be forbidden from pools. This is dumb. (Although I agree with those who said that they wouldn’t want to put a pool-water-contaminated boob in their baby’s mouth – but that’s the mom’s business, not the lifeguard’s.)

  31. anon says:

    Not to pile on Kim, but if the law says she should breastfeed where she otherwise has a right to be, and the law also says no eating/drinking in the pool, then it does seem like the existing law won’t back her here.

  32. yahoudi says:

    Good to know that the self-important and self-entitled people are surviving the heat and to hell with anyone else. Don’t shoot a cop in the eye with that breast milk though. That’s assault.

  33. yahoudi says:

    Um yeah Bunny- nursing Moms made a choice. Live with it. Your sacrifice ain’t everyone elses.

  34. k. annie says:

    I have trouble with this being “yet ANOTHER” example of breast feeding women being discriminated against. I’m pro-breast feeding, but I think this woman was out of line–for many reasons. The idea of breast milk in a pool doesn’t bother me (it’s not bodily “waste”), but the idea of spit up in the pool DOES–and that’s a pretty typical cause and effect. I also agree with the commenters that say no one is allowed to eat in the pool, and this baby shouldn’t be allowed to either. But, more, I think it seems dicey to think a mother can successfully watch her child in water while being occupied with something as physical as breast feeding. If her older child started sinking or started having trouble in the water, what would she have done? Or, if that older child doesn’t require that kind of close watching…why couldn’t she step a few yards away and watch from there? I don’t really get the situation where it makes sense to breast feed in a public pool.

  35. Shandeigh says:

    Yeah… not in the pool for just about all the reasons stated. I don’t think it was safe for either of her children. And really…. why would you take a newborn to a public pool?! I was scared to take mine to the grocery store.

  36. Denitta says:

    I am a fairly strong BF advocate. I think moms should be allowed and able to nurse babies anywhere that is safe for both mom and baby. I am just concerned that she nursed an INFANT in the pool. Sunscreen is a no-no for babies under 6 months, and the sunlight in and of itself is not beneficial to an infant. I am not even beginning to think of the chemicals added to the pool water and the mixture of other people’s sunscreen or tanning oil that definitely is bathing mom’s skin and now coats baby boy’s tongue/mouth. UGH FWIW, I “get” her wish for convenience and not taking her older daughter out of the pool, but IMO it would have been safer and a nicer experience for both mom and baby had she gone to her chair, wiped her breast down and fed baby outside of the stew of human excretions that float in and around pools. ugh I nursed my dd in the mall, at the food court and at the salon, and FTR i would never have nursed her in the pool or in a bathroom..just too much potential grossness there. MO only but I think this mom was a bit off base and should have just had her older child put her big girl pants on and have a snack while baby boy ate his lunch.

  37. Mello says:

    I have a really hard time understanding why women who BF feel like they have to “stand up for their rights.” I BF’d all three of my children so far up until they were a year old but never felt the need to sit where everyone could see me and feed my baby. Out of respect for others I would use another room or use a nursing cover. I have four brothers and even they get weirded out if I nurse in front of them. When it comes down to it.. yeah you are feeding your child, but you are still using a BREAST that no one needs to see except your husband. If you can’t walk away from what you are doing, you should have pumped and brought a bottle. Who wants the sick perv man in the corner watching you the whole time anyway?

  38. Francecsa says:

    I was at one of the YMCA pools here in Fort Worth Texas with some friends, we had gathered to celebrate a my friends daughter’s birthday. My friend was nursing her 4 month old at the picnic tables in the farthest corner away from the pool and she was facing the fence when one of the life guards came over and said “Um excuse me, you are going to need to cover that up or go to the bathroom!” we all sat there stunned for a minute and then one of our group got out her iPhone and pulled up the Texas state law and marched inside to find a manager or someone in charge. She showed them the law, gave them the website and asked them if they would eat in the bathroom or feed their toddlers in there. As far as covering up, it was 100 degrees and she had WAY more covered than most of the people there anyway, her baby’s head covered more than a average bikini top. The managers and life gaurds apologized and we asked them to please inform all of their staff about this law so as not to make other breastfeeding moms feel like crap. I’m still shocked, I am nine months pregnant and I plan on breast feeding for the second time and I will be so hurt and angry if someone tells me to go in a bathroom. I’m sorry this happened to you. Frankly if you are in the pool your breastmilk is in the pool as well as any other fluids from your body. I don’t think I matters.

  39. Spring says:

    Here’s the thing…breastfeeding moms can let down at any moment – involuntarily – and leak milk in the pool. It happens ALL THE TIME. And it’s really not a big deal. Breastmilk doesn’t harm anything. Maybe a little breastmilk in the pool might accidentally cure someone’s pink eye or something. lol

  40. Alison says:

    I’m a little bit shocked that Kim is STILL getting so much grief over this. I hope that each of you at least took the time to read her blog post before sharing your opinion. She was not IN the pool. She was sitting on the side of the pool, feet in the water. If you read Kim’s blog (which many of you who commented obviously do not), you would know that she’s a good person & a great Mother. She’s not someone looking to stir things up just for the sake of attention, but rather is looking to make a change in a peaceful way. I’m always confused when I see women get so upset & attack other women for breastfeeding in public. We should be supporting one another as we all try to be the best Mom’s we can be. Give Kim a break ladies.

  41. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    @Alison, what are you talking about? Directly from the blog: “While Seth and Amelia were swimming I was sitting on the step with my rear and feet in the water, watching Libby, when Elliott needed to nurse.

    Now, I would have preferred to sit in a comfy lounge chair but that would have required getting Libby out of the pool. So, since I can nurse discreetly, and my torso wasn’t in the water, I decided to sit on the step and nurse him.”

    “the Swim Lesson Coordinator approached me. She informed me that I couldn’t nurse in the pool.”

    “She also told me I was welcome to nurse on the deck of the pool”

    I mean, clearly the YMCA employee was an idiot for saying the pool would have to be “decontaminated” but what you’re trying to claim isn’t accurate.In fact, after actually reading the blog post, I feel less sure of the veracity of the story rather than more so since it seems so hyperbolic. I mean really, the person who just told you you could nurse on the pool deck then turned around and said all that other stuff? And the bit about her being “heartbroken” and the child crying over having to get out the pool? Seriously cringeworthy. I guess Libby needs to get used to the fact that she now has a sibling whose needs will occasionally override her own. Quelle horreur!

  42. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Sorry, Lily, not Libby. And why would the bathrooms be mentioned when there are multiple locker rooms at the YMCA (ours has a family locker room as well as a women’s locker room.) Just weird really, but whatever. Not a person or blog that would hold any interest for me. Too much drama.

  43. caradee says:

    Stupid. For God’s sake…no food at the pool is hardly the same thing as breastmilk in a breast. People are stupid. like there are no cuts and bruises entering that pool with higher likely hood of HIV contaminate. Hence the chemicals…unreal how people are so put off by a healthy natural act. Get over yourselves!

  44. Voodoofoxx says:

    I believe it states that she was sitting on the pool steps, her body wasn’t in the water.

  45. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    The pool steps are inside the water.

  46. Jessie Bryer says:

    These comments are stupid.

    1. She said she was sitting on the ledge, thus her baby and breasts were OUT of the water. 2. The basic mechanics of breastfeeding dictate that the milk is going into the BABY not the WATER. (It isn’t like she was breastfeeding the baby underwater, it would have drowned.) The tiny bit of dribbling that does happen is much less by volume than pee or snot or anything else. 3. Women secrete vaginal fluids ALL the time and when women swim the pool water enters the vagina and flows back out, so if everyone wants to freak out about fluids, they should probably start there. Lets see them try to keep women out of public pools for having vaginas! 4. I’ve breastfed in our pool and I did not consider the tiny trace amount of pool chemicals on my nipples to be hazardous to my baby’s health, that’s silly. Kids drink pool water by the mouthful all the time.
    I think everyone is using the imaginary health issues to create an argument against someone that is proud and brave enough to do what’s best for her baby, even when it isn’t convenient. If she had left her other children unattended in the pool you’d all be ragging on her for that instead, and none of you would have been willing to drag your fun-having older kids out of the pool to make them stand around while you nursed OR formula fed either. If you really think that half a teaspoon of bodily fluid in more than 10,000 gallons of chemically treated water is enough to transmit HIV to everyone in the pool, you should probably just avoid public pools.

  47. dawn salvitti says:

    Bottom line all breastfeeding mothers leak… And if her baby was hungry she was more likely to do so. You should be thanking her for emptying into the baby and not just letting it leak… If u are going to argue breast milk is a contaminate then it say no lactating mothers can swim in the pool and of that’s the case what about woman on their mentral cycles

  48. Your Mother says:

    I totally disprove of this, you should be ashamed.

  49. Your Father says:

    I couldn’t agree more honey.

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