The Australian Breastfeeding Association has praised Unanderra mum Jacqueline Estraube for sticking up for her nursing rights at Port Kembla Olympic Pool, saying women are legally entitled to breastfeed whenever and wherever they choose.
The mother of seven was reportedly told by lifeguards to ‘‘refrain from breastfeeding’’ while sitting on the pool steps with her feet in the water last Friday because it was ‘‘inappropriate’’.
Breastfeeding counsellor Nicole Bridges said the story reminded her of a Queensland case that landed television host David Koch in hot water last January.
The breakfast show host came under fire after he suggested a Bribie Island mum – who spoke out after being told to cover up or leave an aquatic centre – needed to show some modesty when breastfeeding.
His co-host, Samantha Armytage, quickly challenged Koch’s views, saying: ‘‘I don’t agree. I think if you want to breastfeed along the side of a pool, you should be allowed.’’
‘‘The Bribie Island mother was doing exactly the same thing [as Mrs Estraube], dangling her feet into the water and was supervising another child, so she didn’t want to move away from the water,’’ Ms Bridges said.
‘‘Mothers are able to decide the safety [of the place they are breastfeeding] for themselves based on their own experiences with their baby.
‘‘Everywhere that a woman and her baby are legally allowed to be, they are allowed to breastfeed, regardless of whether they are in a public pool.’’
Mrs Estraube’s story sparked a strong reaction among Mercury readers on Thursday, with many online commentators saying they supported breastfeeding in public but believed lifeguards were within their rights to ask her to move.
This echoed Wollongong City Council’s explanation of the incident, in which public relations manager Susan Wardle said ‘‘the communication [to Mrs Estraube] may have come across poorly but our staff were just trying to maintain safe access to the pool’’.
However, other readers took issue with breastfeeding on the side of the pool because it was ‘‘offputting’’.
‘‘I’m sorry but breastfeeding a child on the side of a busy pool is offputting and she should just move over to the side with some privacy. Young children and men don’t need to see this,’’ a commentator named 1969 said.
Likewise, Facebook poster Kylie Toomey said ‘‘people didn’t pay to see that at the pool [you should] go sit back on your towel and do it’’.
Ms Bridges said these types of attitudes were unhelpful for nursing mothers, and risked putting them off breastfeeding earlier than recommended.
‘‘We hear of these public pool incidents several times a year, but what concerns me is the times we don’t hear about them,’’ she said.
‘‘There’s only a small number of mums who have the courage to speak out and do something about it. The problem is that for some mothers, especially those that are struggling to breastfeed, being told to move could be the last straw.’’
She said the World Health Organisation recommended breastfeeding for two years or beyond, noting many health benefits including disease protection.