Posted by: Jennifer | November 10, 2008

Some interesting information

Things have become a bit heated here when discussing the breastfeeding discrimination that occurred at the Aquacentre in Newmarket, Ontario.

I wanted to put out a few things for people to ponder.

Why would someone breastfeed in or near a pool?

Swimming can be a very social activity, particularly when people attend family oriented facilities with their children and friends.  Just as no one would (or should) leave a restaurant, park, or wherever people congregate to feed a child, a nursing mother should not have to leave a pool to nurse her child, for whatever the reason.

This brings me to my next point – Breastmilk as a bodily fluid.  Breastmilk is, of course, a bodily fluid.  It is not however a biohazard.  It does not require Universal Precautions.  From the CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention):

“Handling expressed breast milk does not require special medical
precautions. Breast milk may be stored in any refrigerator or other
location where other foods would be safe and may be stored with other
foods. Breast milk requires no special labeling, it is not considered
a biohazard, and the universal precautions for prevention of
transmission of human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B virus, and
other bloodborne pathogens (known widely as “Universal Precautions”)
do not apply to it (3).
Guidance on human milk storage is found in
Table 8-5.”

With respect to breastfeeding in swimming pools, there are precidents set on this issue already, specifically in two Ontario cities, Hamilton and Guelph.  Shannon Wray, of Hamilton, won a discrimination lawsuit against the City of Hamilton.

2001 August 24. Shannon Wray has received CA$6,000 (US$3950) as settlement in a human rights action against the city of Hamilton (Ontario). In February 1999, Wray was ordered to leave a swimming pool for breastfeeding her daughter there. The city first apologized to Wray, then retracted the apology, agreeing with complainants that breastfeeding is offensive.
The official reason given for Wray ‘s ejection: “No food or drink allowed in the pool.” TERA’s reaction at the time is here.
Thanks to Wray and her lawyer Joan MacDonald, Hamilton has now instituted a policy of not asking breastfeeding mothers to move.

Due to a report by the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton (BACE), hereby referred to as the Edmonton Report, the entire city changed their policies on breastfeeding and pools.  The 50 page report notes on page 19 that, with respect to breastmilk, “No real risks were uncovered, at least no risks any greater than pool operators already encounter on a day-to-day basis in dealing with formula-fed babies, toddlers and young children.”

The Edmonton Report also notes that, on page 15, there is no evidence to suggest that there is concern from ingested water for a breastfed baby anymore than there would be for any other baby or toddler.

I strongly advise anyone who is interested to read the entire evidence-based report.  It is certainly lengthy, but full of information, and uses a variety of sources. 

From all of this, a clear picture can be formed. 

1.  Breastfeeding women cannot be discriminated against.

2.  There are many social reasons as to why a woman would want to nurse in or around a pool.

3.  There are already other discrimination cases in Ontario, including one that went to court and that was judged in favour of the nursing mother, that involve breastfeeding mothers at pools.

4.  Breastmilk is not a biohazard.  It does not require Universal Precautions.

5.  There are no risks to breastfeeding in a pool or near a pool.

6.  There is no more concern for ingested water from a breastfed baby than there would be for any other baby or toddler swimming at the time.

To keep things in perspective, women lactate, even when not nursing in the moment.  Many pregnant women are lactating, many women who have stopped nursing are still lactating, and some pituitary problems cause people to lactate.  Non of those people are prohibited from swimming due to their lactation.

Sweat is a bodily fluid.  People sweat when the swim.  They are not prohibited from swimming.

I think we need to get back to the bigger picture or – the simpler issue – in Newmarket, Ontario, at a swimming facility called The Aquacentre, a nursing mother was discriminated against.  This was wrong.  This is wrong.



  1. I love your follow through.
    Its so good to get it all out in black and white.
    I know that it will make little difference to the stiff upper lips but hey you can’t knock rules and guidelines

  2. Thanks for your research! How do you have the time? I’m very grateful.

  3. Thanks Megan and Ashley!

    I really don’t have the time so I do this when I should be sleeping or when my little man is nursing on my lap!

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