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Mom is 'upset and appalled' after water park told her to stop breastfeeding in lazy river

"I was absolutely horrified."
/ Source: TODAY

A Georgia mom is "appalled" after water park employees said she couldn't breastfeed in a pool.

"I have never in my years of being a breastfeeding mother had one single negative comment made to me about breastfeeding while out in public ... but today was a different day," Tiffany Francis, a mother of two, wrote in a July 14 Facebook post.

Francis explained that she had gone to Rigby's Water World, an aquatic park in Warner Robins, with her 11-month-old son, Landon, and her 4-year-old daughter, Olivia. Before Landon's nap, they entered a lazy river so Francis could nurse while they floated in an inner tube, as she often did at Rigby's.

"He likes motion to sleep," she explained on Facebook. "He sleeps well in the car or swing so he will also sleep in the lazy river."

According to Francis, a lifeguard approached her and said, "Ma'am you can’t breastfeed in the lazy river."

"I kind of laughed because I thought he was just making a joke in very poor taste," she wrote. "Then he got on the radio and had a lady come and tell me I wasn’t allowed. I was trying to pull the baby off but when (the) baby is latched, he’s latched."

Francis said the second employee reiterated the breastfeeding rules, so she exited the water with Landon and Olivia to investigate.

"Of course there was nothing stating anything about children, except for (that) babies needed to wear swim diapers (which he was)," she wrote. Francis said she asked to speak to a manager, who told her, "No food or drinks in the water."

"Imagine all the bodily fluids being excreted into the water but they’re worried about breast milk when the baby was latched, my breast was out of the water, and the milk was only going into baby’s mouth," she wrote. "But really it wasn’t even about him eating in the water — it was about it making other guests uncomfortable."

Tiffany Francis
Georgia mom Tiffany Francis said she was told to stop breastfeeding her 11-month-old son in the lazy river at Rigby's Water World.Courtesy Tiffany Francis

"I’m just so upset and appalled and wanted to give a heads up to all the other moms out there that this is how breastfeeding moms are treated at Rigby’s Water World," she wrote.

Francis wrote that she asked Rigby’s for a refund on her $92.99 season pass, which she was denied. She said she left the facility that day in tears.

Francis cited Georgia law which "allows a mother to breastfeed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be."

Fifty states, including Georgia, allow breastfeeding in public or private places, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which states that 31 of those states exclude breastfeeding from public indecency laws.

Francis tells that she often breastfeeds at Rigby's — including earlier that day in another pool, and no one "batted an eye."

"I was wearing a one-piece swimsuit and my son's head covered more of my breast than just my suit did," she says. "My top was pulled down enough for him to feed but it revealed nothing."

The mom added that the park was packed with people that day, leaving little option for her to breastfeed elsewhere.

Francis says Steve Brown, vice president of operations at Rigby’s Water World, called her two days later to apologize.

Brown tells that Rigby's revised its breastfeeding policy within hours of the incident, adding that staff has been re-educated about the law.

"We had a policy in place that didn't allow breastfeeding in the river that was in line with the health department's standard on no eating or drinking in the pools," he says, adding that breastfeeding in other areas of park has always been permitted.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health's rules and regulations for public swimming pools, spas, and recreational water parks, "Bathers shall not be allowed to eat or drink while in or partially in the water."

Tiffany Francis
Georgia mom Tiffany Francis called out a local water park for preventing her from breastfeeding in a pool.Courtesy Tiffany Francis

Francis was invited to nurse on the pool deck, he says, preferably in the shade on a lounge chair, and added that she was never asked to leave the water park, departing on her own accord.

"When I was made aware of the law that mothers can breastfeed anywhere they're allowed to be, we reviewed our policy, reaching out to other experts who operate aquatic facilities," he says. "From there, we decided to allow our guests to breastfeed in the pools, should they choose."

Brown said he called Francis to apologize for the “misguided" policy.

"We were under the impression it was a health code violation," he says. "It was a misunderstanding ... it was my mistake to misinterpret the law .... there are different opinions on this issue but we want to comply with the law."

Brown confirms that Francis will not receive a refund on her seasonal pass, per Rigby's policy.

"In this case, we didn't tell (Francis) that she couldn't come to the park or ask her to leave the park," he says. "We have not issued a refund because she is more than welcome to return to the park and breastfeed anywhere she chooses."

Francis says she can't imagine returning to Rigby's.

"I don't know what they expected — for me to lay down while they broke the law?" she says. "'Especially for something that moms are shamed for all the time."