The mother at the centre of a row over breastfeeding at an island swimming pool insists she didn’t set out to get compensation.
Victoria Hodgson secured a £2,000 out of court settlement from the Western Swimming Pool board following an incident in which she was told to stop breastfeeding her baby daughter Amelia.
In an email challenging the pool’s policy on breastfeeding, she wrote: ‘I felt tearful and sick with nerves. I was saddened and humiliated. I thought we lived in more liberated times. Just because I am confident enough to, heaven forbid, leave the house and breastfeed in public, it doesn’t mean I should have to face criticism, ridicule and public humiliation.’
But Western Swimming Pool board chairman Adrian Christian has insisted they would never discriminate against any woman who chooses to breastfeed.
He said the pool has a policy not to allow any food in the pool or poolside and that while mothers who want to breastfeed are given support, they are asked to do so in the cafe, spectators’ area or changing rooms.
Mrs Hodgson had visited the baths with her husband Stephen and their four children at the end of July 2014 when she was told to stop breastfeeding Amelia on a step in the middle of the infant’s pool. She claims she was told it was causing offence to some of the younger lifeguards.
The family returned for a swim two days later and Mrs Hodgson was once again told to stop breastfeeding.
Speaking to the Examiner, she insisted that she had breastfed in the water there ‘numerous times’ before. She said: ‘If what I was doing was so dangerous, in breach of the adult-child ratio etc, why was I not approached immediately, the first time I did it? It obviously wasn’t such a risk. If it was such a hygiene risk, why was I not spoken to sooner?
‘I was never out to get compensation. I never ever said anything about compensation at either incident. Compensation was not my main motive.
‘I wanted to speak out so they don’t treat anyone else the way they treated me and so that any woman who needs to breastfeed while at the pool and has other children to supervise is allowed to breastfeed at least at the poolside.’
Mrs Hodgson emailed her complaint on August 4, entitled ‘compensation claim for breach of the Breastfeeding Act 2011’, sought a written apology, proposals for ‘reasonable compensation’ and an undertaking to change the pool’s policy on breastfeeding.
Following the incident, the pool board ordered an independent review. This concluded that while breastfeeding in the pool may be interpreted as a legal right, circumstances as a whole had to be considered given potential ‘untold harm’ to other bathers, spectators and staff.