US Elections Editor

Britons think it's acceptable to breastfeed by the side of a swimming pool, in the park or at a restaurant – but breastfeeding in a public pool is a no no

Last week 22-year-old mother Stephanie Wilby became the centre of a debate over where it is appropriate for mothers to breastfeed their children, after speaking out publicly against the ‘embarrassment’ she endured at a pool in Manchester. Ms Wilby said she was waist deep in the pool and had begun breastfeeding her 4-month-old when, ‘in a matter of seconds’ a lifeguard told her she would have to stop and accused Ms Wilby of ‘indecent exposure’.

New YouGov research reveals that Britons are mostly accepting when it comes to breastfeeding in a range of public places, but they draw the line at breastfeeding in a pool.

The British public are most permissive of women breastfeeding on the beach, something which fully 84% think is ‘generally acceptable’. 79% say the same for breastfeeding on a bench at the park and 59-66% don’t object to women breastfeeding in restaurants, on public transport, at a swimming pool or in a public toilet. 

Despite rules about breastfeeding naturally affecting one gender more than the other, there is generally little difference of opinion on public breastfeeding between men and women; the only significant difference is for breastfeeding in a public toilet, which 74% of men think is acceptable compared to only 60% of women.  

Another survey for the Sunday Times, taken after the controversy arose about Ms Wilby, distinguished specifically between breastfeeding a baby ‘in a public swimming pool’ and “by the side of a public swimming pool’. This poll found that 65% think the latter is acceptable, but about the same proportion of the public (64%) think it is unacceptable for women to breastfeed ‘in a swimming pool’, like Ms Wilby did.  

Also, when asked specifically whether the lifeguard was right to ask Ms Wilby to leave the pool, a slimmer majority (52%) say yes.

Ms Wilby said, ‘if [the Manchester Aquatics Centre staff] did not like it they could have asked me quietly to stop’, but added: 'I would have still questioned their reasons but it would not have been as inappropriate.' 

'I should be allowed to breastfeed wherever I want.’ 

Image: Getty

See the full breastfeeding results

See the full Sunday Times results

Related Content