Regents Park Marriott Hotel ‘bans’ mums from breastfeeding at Water Babies swimming class

Bianca Zeff with her son, Gabriel.

Bianca Zeff with her son, Gabriel. - Credit: Archant

A group of furious Hampstead mums are threatening to stage a protest after they were told they could not breastfeed at a ‘mums and babies’ swimming class in Swiss Cottage.

The class, held at the Marriott Hotel Regents Park, in Swiss Cottage, was reportedly told by the hotel that mums should not feed their children or use chairs around the pool area as they are “not members”.

If the swimming group, run by Water Babies, fail to comply, they will be banned from using the pool.

Bianca Zeff, mum-of-two from Belsize Park, attends the group with her 11-month-old son Gabriel.

Ms Zeff said: “I have been taking my son there for the last few months. At the end of the class yesterday the teacher called us together and said there could not be any breastfeeding in the pool area.

“I pointed out that the Marriott is not above the law but our teacher just responded that it was the rule she had been given and if we did not abide by it then we would lose the use of the pool.

“The managers who told her we can’t breastfeed are just awful people who are happy to break the law. I actually stopped breastfeeding my son a couple of months ago but that is not the point, a lot of the mums still do and I am very angry.”

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The mums were also told they should not use the chairs and sun-loungers surrounding the pool, which they normally used to dry and dress their babies after the class.

Ms Zeff added: “We have to use the downstairs changing rooms, down hard, steep, slippery steps. Carrying a wet baby down the stairs is dangerous so normally I dry and dress him on the chairs. Now we can’t even sit on them!”

The incident has fuelled plans for a “breastfeeding protest” outside The Marriott Hotel.

Conservative councillor for Hampstead Town, Oliver Cooper, condemned the old-fashioned discrimination and told the Ham&High he will be writing a letter to the Marriott.

Mr Cooper said: “I’m appalled to hear that customers might be treated unfairly anywhere because of their sex. This is 2016, not the 19th century. Women should not be made ashamed of caring for their children, and I applaud Bianca for not taking this lying down.

“The Equality Act, s13(6) is very clear that it is unlawful to provide a lesser service to women for breastfeeding, except for exceptional circumstances. Even if it weren’t required by law, businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, should show courtesy to customers. I will be writing to them to ask for them to do that.”

The London Marriott Group has denied any responsibility and released a statement saying: “The London Marriott Hotel Regents Park welcomes mothers to breastfeed in any area of the hotel.

“When we learned of the report that a mother was allegedly asked not to breastfeed her child in the hotel we immediately looked into the situation.

“We learned that a representative of a group that uses our pool facilities erroneously told a member of the visiting swimming group that she was not allowed to breastfeed her child in the hotel. At no time did an employee of the hotel instruct the mother she was not able to breastfeed in the hotel.”

Water Babies, however, have rebuked this and have said it was not their decision to ban breastfeeding in the area.

A spokeswoman said: “The decision to ban breastfeeding in the pool area at The Marriott Regents Park was not made by Water Babies. “It has never been our policy to prevent or discourage breastfeeding in public, and Water Babies fully supports every mother’s right to breastfeed wherever she wishes. We regret this incident took place and apologise for any distress caused.”