Swiss Cottage Marriott issues apology and admits responsibility for ‘breastfeeding ban’

Marriott Swiss Cottage

Marriott Swiss Cottage - Credit: Archant

The Marriott Hotel in Swiss Cottage has issued an apology after a member of staff told mums attending a Water Babies class that they could not breastfeed by the pool.

Bianca Zeff with her son, Gabriel.

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

The mums and babies swimming class was told that if they “broke the rules” about breastfeeding and using the hotel’s poolside chairs they would be banned from using the pool in future.

The Marriott Hotel Regents Park, in Swiss Cottage, initially denied responsibility but has since released a new statement saying: “Marriott Hotels sincerely apologises for this situation.

“Following investigation we have learnt that an associate of the London Marriott Hotel Regents Park erroneously gave the instruction to one of the groups who use the pool facilities to not allow mothers to breastfeed in the Fitness Club. This instruction is not hotel or company policy. We welcome breastfeeding mothers in all areas of the hotel. We will continue to look into the matter with the associate involved.

“Additionally, we will use this opportunity to reiterate to all our associates the local laws allowing guests and visitors to the hotel the right to breastfeed wherever they choose.

“We apologise for any distress or offence caused as a result of this unfortunate situation.”

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.

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Bianca Zeff, mum-of-two from Belsize Park, pointed out that using the chairs was necessary to dry her son, Gabriel, before walking down the changing rooms.

She said: “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!”

In response to her comments, a Marriott spokeswoman said: “There is a provision of six chairs and two benches for our swimming lesson guests. The six loungers on the poolside are therefore ‘reserved’ for the Fitness Club members and in-house guests who also use the Fitness Club facilities.

“The changing rooms are all located downstairs and they are for members, in-house guests and swimming lesson guests - I believe that the changing of nappies was requested not to take place poolside - for obvious Health and Safety reasons.”

The incident has fuelled plans for a “breastfeeding protest” outside The Marriott Hotel and conservative councillor, Oliver Cooper, told the Ham&High he will be writing to the hotel.

He 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.”