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Breastfeeding mother in tears after being told to cover up

Liana Webster – pictured with Kylan, 6, Jayda, 5, and daughter Rori Webster-Camilleri – has faced discrimination after breastfeeding at the Bribie Island Aquatic Centre.
Liana Webster – pictured with Kylan, 6, Jayda, 5, and daughter Rori Webster-Camilleri – has faced discrimination after breastfeeding at the Bribie Island Aquatic Centre. IAIN CURRY

WOULD you be offended by a mother breastfeeding her child in public?

A Bribie Island woman was left feeling embarrassed and ashamed when staff at Bribie Island Aquatic Centre asked her to cover up or get out while she was breastfeeding her daughter at the side of a pool.

Liana Webster, who was with her three children at the time, said she had been sitting on the side of the pool feeding her daughter Rori, when an employee told her she wasn't allowed to feed there and asked her to refrain from feeding out in the open.

Ms Webster said she was told to move to the baby change room or to a more secluded area and to cover herself.

"I said that telling me to stop feeding was illegal but the staff member insisted that it wasn't," Ms Webster said.

"I was told I was offending other patrons. I was in my togs and with my kids so I didn't really have a way of covering up."

Ms Webster said the incident made her cry due to the embarrassment of being told in front of her children.

"We were at a pool where people were showing skin in all kinds of directions, it made me feel as though I was doing something I should be ashamed of."

Breastfeeding Friendly Communities manager Alannah Shore, of Gladstone, said more than 90% of Australian women left hospital breastfeeding babies, so it was time the whole community showed its support and made sure mums didn't  feel uncomfortable when their baby needed a breastfeed.

"Just as we socialise when we eat, so babies have the right to be included in their family's normal activities and not be taken away to have their meals or snacks in cars or toilets or under blankets," Mrs Shore said.

The breastfeeding counsellor said it was quite permissable for a mother to sit at the edge of a pool and feed her baby.

"Breastfeeding is such a contentious issue - people either really don't mind or really don't approve," she said.

"But where mums are allowed to be, babies are allowed to be."

A spokeswoman from the Australian Breastfeeding Association said under federal law it was illegal to tell anyone to stop breastfeeding.

A Moreton Bay Regional Council spokesperson said staff at the council-owned Bribie Island Aquatic Leisure Centre had received a complaint about a mother breastfeeding in the pool from another family, also in the pool.

The staff member was concerned about the comfort of the breastfeeding mum and offered her access to the centre's mothers' room or alternatively a chair for the convenience of both mum and baby, the spokesperson said.

The council has since apologised to Ms Webster.

"Moreton Bay Regional Council regrets any distress caused to the mother or her family, and staff have been made aware of the relevant legislation in this area," the spokeswoman said.

Good to know:

  • Under Australian Federal law, breastfeeding is a right, not a privilege.
  • Under the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding.
  • In Queensland, breastfeeding discrimination is explicitly illegal.
  • The Gladstone branch of the Australian Breastfeeding Association's next meeting will be on February 13 from 10am at the Women's Health Centre, 9 Derby St.
  • The Australian Breastfeeding Association's helpline is available seven days a week. Phone 1800 686 268.

Would you be offended by a mother breastfeeding in public?

This poll ended on 17 February 2013.

Yes - 6%

No - 82%

Sometimes - 10%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Topics:  breastfeeding bribie island gladstone parenting


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