A mum from the Isle of Man secured a £2,000 out of court payout after being told she could not breastfeed her daughter in a public swimming pool.
Victoria Hodgson, aged 33, visited Western Swimming Pool at the end of 2014 and started to breastfeed her four-month-old baby on a step in the middle of the infants’ pool. A lifeguard at the Peel baths asked her husband to tell her to stop.
Adrian Christian, chairman of the Western Swimming Pool board, said they do not discriminate against any mother who chooses to breastfeed but said health and safety is paramount.
The Examiner visited the Sea Terminal to find out people’s views on whether women should breastfeed their children in public places.
SUSAN WILKINSON, 58, BALLASALLA:
‘I think it’s a very natural thing to do. I once got asked to move on because I was breastfeeding my youngest son and I was just very polite and I said “I’m not going to stop feeding my son”. I was covered up so there wasn’t a problem but it was a comment made in passing by two older people who were sitting next to me.
‘They said “there was a time and a place” and I just said “the time is now and the place is here”.
‘It was in a cafe in Douglas but I was in the corner, there was nobody else really there and I was facing the wall so it’s not like I was in full view. I was very discreet and I had a shawl over my shoulder.
‘They obviously knew what I was doing but if somebody else had gone past they may not have even known that I was feeding.
‘I think everybody is entitled to their own opinion but I think if a mother is feeding her baby and it’s making somebody else uncomfortable, they should move because that’s their problem. I think it’s a lot better these days, it’s a lot more open and I think it’s more acceptable.
‘When a baby wants feeding, it needs feeding and it’s those people who are probably the first to complain if the baby cries so the best thing to do is feed the baby very discreetly and there’s not a problem.’
EMMA CALLOW, 36, DOUGLAS:
‘I have absolutely no problem with it at all, the child needs to be fed. It’s the same as a bottle fed baby, the parent is going to feed the child in public so I don’t have an issue with it.
‘I don’t know anyone who has ever been told to stop breastfeeding, I’ve never come across that with any of my friends. I’d be quite angry [if anybody said to stop breastfeeding] because it’s a person’s need to give their child food and I think wherever they are that shouldn’t be an issue. If other people have a problem with it, they need to sort themselves out.’
BEN WRIGHT, 30, RAMSEY:
‘I think you should let them crack on, there’s nothing wrong with it as far as I’m concerned. I can’t think of a time when I’ve actually seen a woman breastfeed in public, I don’t know whether that’s because they feel like they can’t or I just haven’t noticed. It’s just like me having my lunch, babies can’t feed themselves.
‘I think recently there’s a lot more pressure on people to allow it, businesses are saying women are fine to breastfeed. I don’t remember hearing that so much in the past and I think that’s a good thing because if women thought that they couldn’t, then they wouldn’t.
‘Now there’s a push to make it more acceptable and that’s good. I think attitudes are changing not just with breastfeeding but with everything, things are becoming more acceptable so we’ve got to move with the times.’
ROGER AND WENDY PETTIT, AGED 68 AND 67, FROM BOLTON:
Roger said: ‘I think it’s a very good idea and I have no objection to it. It’s good for the child and good for the mother, long may it continue. If they have the right dress or shawl, there’s no problem at all.’
Wendy said: ‘I think you’ve can’t be over blasé about it, perhaps put a shawl or something on. You’ve got to be a bit sensible with how you do it but it’s a natural thing.’
CAROLINE KNEEN, 32, PORT ERIN:
‘I have absolutely no problem with it. I think anywhere you can bottle feed, you should be able to breastfeed. I read a comment a while ago and it said that if you do have a problem with breastfeeding it’s because you’re looking for too long and I think that is very true because if you just glance and look away, you don’t see anything.
‘I think if people have a problem with it, it’s to do with their own issues and not minding their own business.
‘If someone did say something to me I would say something back, I would say “If you have a problem with it, that’s your problem not mine”. It’s completely natural, it’s the way they’re suppose to be fed. Some babies are bottle fed and it’s to do with the parents’ views, it’s totally a personal choice but I think you have to give the option to breastfeed.
‘It should be the person that says something [to the mother] that feels bad, not the woman who is breastfeeding. Some people are quite shy and if someone does say something it really does damage them, it really upsets them and knocks their confidence and I think that’s wrong.
‘People shouldn’t have to go into a toilet or somewhere like that to breastfeed because that’s not a place to feed your baby. I think it needs to be normalised and brought into public more. It’s natural, it’s what your body is supposed to do and it shouldn’t be a big deal for someone to breastfeed in public.’
LAURA O’GRADY, 31, DOUGLAS:
‘I’m all for breastfeeding in public, in fact when I do see breastfeeding in public I want to give them a high five because I think they’re quite brave in this modern society where it’s really frowned upon. Some people don’t like seeing it but I kind of want to say “Well done for being brave and doing that!”
‘I’m pregnant right now with my second child and I’m hoping to breastfeed when he comes along and I will be breastfeeding in public if I can do. I’d be quite modest about it and make sure I’m covered up but I wouldn’t stop [if someone makes a comment] because I think most places on the Isle of Man are quite pro-breastfeeding.
‘If anyone did say anything it would be quite shocking. It wouldn’t make me stop, if anything it would make me continue just to prove that it should be done. It’s natural and more people should be out there doing it.’