Breast-feeding conflict

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WARRENSBURG - Warrensburg reaffirmed Friday afternoon it will not allow mothers to breast-feed in or around a pool. Some say the rule is illegal.

The debate stems from a sanitation standpoint. Warrensburg Parks and Recreation feels if an infant gets sick, the facility will have to clear the pool and inconvenience crowds. However, one lactation nurse, Mallory Mudd Pomerville, said babies do not get sick as easily from breast-feeding as they do with formula. 

"If [Warrensburg Parks and Recreation] knew about breast-feeding, they would know breast-fed babies don't tend to have regurgitation like infant-fed formula babies do," Pomerville said.

Pomerville said this policy essentially bans mothers from being poolside. 

"If you look around this pool area, you'll see there is no place else except the pool and the concrete to discretely breastfeed, except in a public restroom," Pomerville said. "That by Missouri law is not acceptable."

Missouri law says, "Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a mother may, with as much discretion as possible, breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be."

Critics say the ordinance and the state law do not line up. The Warrensburg Park board Resolution says, "With the concern for the general sanitation of the aquatic facilities, that there shall be no breast-feeding in or immediately around any pools run by Parks and Recreation of the City of Warrensburg."

Warrensburg Parks and Recreation President Judy Vickery said the facility will not give mothers special treatment.

"We're treating breastfeeding mothers just like we treat anyone else who wants to eat or drink by the side of the pool," Vickery said. "We're not carving out a special section for them."

One mother, Jessica Belevens, said she would be offended if she was asked to leave the pool if breastfeeding, and it hurts the baby more than anyone else.

"There's no reason why I would have to leave the pool in order to feed my baby," Belevens said. "He shouldn't have to wait for his food if he's hungry."

Vickery said despite what concerned parents and residents may think, the ordinance is legal. In the past, breast-feeding has been categorized under the nudity ordinance. On Monday, the city council will discuss whether this should remain in the same category as nudity. 

"Missouri General assembly changed its law at their last session pertaining to public nudity and with it the city of Warrensburg will change its ordinance, and we would then change our policy pertaining to breast-feeding," Vickery said.