The Centers for Disease Control have been working for a number of months on a statement about this topic for the healthy swimming website and for state health department use. It is not quite finished, and as of the last draft I saw, I am not quite sure what position they are taking, it looks like the lawyer got a chance to rewrite it.
In our state they are protected by the law and can breastfeed any place, any time, in front of anyone. It is causing problems with our pool operators when they don't know how to handle it. Young staff are particularly prone to doing or saying something improper. The correct approach is probably to in-service staff with information on how to handle the other people in the pool who want something done.
If Time magazine can put it on their magazine cover, you will see it in your pool.
stephen is right it's pretty much allowable anywhere. I would contact your health department and ask for their opinion. Our state code allows for breastfeeding to take place anywhere in public, however it prohibits food or drink other than water to be consumed in the pool, and breastmilk is by definition a food. i'd be interested to see the CDC's official ruling as i'm pretty sure breastmilk is capable if transmitting pathogens, and chlorine or other disinfectants don't kill all pathogens right away.
I'm pretty sure you will be surprised. The person writing the statement for the CDC promised to try to have something out this week. Unfortunately this has encountered a lot of strong opinions and politics. I appreciate the difficulty that the person delegated to write the statement has gone through since they started the process. There is little scientific information about breastfeeding and pool water exposure, but the topic is long on strongly held opinions and is very emotional.
Don't be surprised to see the food and drink prohibition violated.
Be careful with this one! About 8 years ago I tried the whole "no food or drink on deck" with a nursing mother and she was not happy. I received angry phones calls and threats of a breastfeeding sit in at our facility. Luckily that did not happen. Even though I was as nice as I could be I learned to handle it differently in the future! Most states have laws that a mother can breastfeed anywhere. Personally I would never say anything to a nursing mother again. If someone complains about it I would talk to that person individually. It would be nice for the CDC to have something we could use as a reference.
We had an incident last summer where a new Pool Supervisor was unaware that the law protected breastfeeding and asked a nursing mother to cover up. This led to several angry facebook posts and we also heard rumors of a possible breastfeeding sit-in at our facility. We immediately apologized to the mother, sent an explanation memo to all members of our staff, and contacted the head of the Health Department's Breastfeeding education program. She helped by spreading the word that we were very sorry for the mistake and were not ant-breastfeeding, she also gave us a few window decals to show we were a breastfeeding friendly facility. With that being said I still don't believe it would be acceptable for a mother to breastfeed in the pool. I think it opens a door for other violations of the food & drink regulations. If the regulation requires a mother to bottle-feed her baby away from the pool, then obviously the same should apply to breastfeeding.
We just had our 4th child (3 months old). My wife has figured out how to quietly and discreetly feed all of them every where we go. There are plenty of ways of doing it. My wife has a super big apron that covers the whole feeding. First time I saw one was with some friends, the mom was sitting there with this thing on and I could not figure out why she was wearing a shawl.
The only problem I have is with that 2am feeding, both of them need to figure out how to be quieter.
Has anyone ever approached it as a "bodily fluid" situation, as opposed to a food/drink situation? I'm just curious if that has helped keep them from doing it in the pool. We have never had a problem with it at any of our facilities, but I've heard similar stories from others. The bodily fluid situation comes more from the baby spitting up after the feeding (as my son loved to do) than from the feeding itself, but it may make more sense to feeding mothers.
There was a lawsuit filed over this very type of incident here in Washington State a few years back when a LG asked a woman to not breastfeed while sitting on the edge of a shallow instructional pool. Settled out of court but was a big to do in the papers and news.
Am I the only one that finds this funny? Seriously? I guess I am just geting old, because my gut feeling is who cares if they feed their child in the pool. We have way too many regulations in the industry already.
The only legitimate concern, in this case, is safety. An adult carrying an infant in a pool is generally considered to be safe if standing or sitting. Nursing doesn't change anything. The risk of pathogens entering the water from breast milk is trivial compared to that from fecal residue on most swimmers. Concerns about the infant ingesting pool water are the same as for any young child in the pool, if not less.
You would be justified in asking the nursing mother to do only what you would ask any adult carrying an infant to do.