GAA steward told mother that breastfeeding belongs ‘in the toilet’
A MOTHER of four who arrived to St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, early on Saturday to breastfeed her baby was told by a GAA steward she was not allowed to ‘do that here’.
Iseult Mangan from Hollymount arrived to the All-Ireland Round 3 Qualifier between Kildare and Mayo on Saturday last with her family two hours early in order to feed her five-month-old baby before crowds arrived.
“We’ve been to all the Mayo matches since the start of the league, except for the two around when the baby was born. We’re well used to travelling. We went to Semple Stadium and Limerick. Our plan is always to get in really early and settle the baby. I try to have him fed before people start to arrive [at the grounds] because I really don’t like feeding in public and do anything to avoid it if I can.”
While trying to locate a seat with her baby boy, Senan, in order to feed and settle him before the game, she was approached by a steward. He told her she could not sit in a seat to breastfeed, saying, “You can’t do that here,” adding, “You can do that in the toilet. That’s where that belongs.”
Ms Mangan told The Mayo News the ladies’ toilets were ‘absolutely horrific’ at the grounds, and that she would not have had the room to feed her baby in them.
A stunned Ms Mangan asked the steward if he was serious. However, he turned away and did not engage with her again.
In shock, Ms Mangan started to make her way over to her husband and children with the buggy when another steward stopped her.
“Another steward said to me ‘You can’t go up there with the buggy’, and I burst into tears in front of that steward … The baby was starting to get hungry.”
Once the situation was explained to this steward, Ms Mangan was brought to where her family was and accommodated. “I wanted to just die at this stage,” she admitted.
The issue was brought to the attention of the head steward, who apologised to Ms Mangan for how she had been treated. She remains unsure about whether the first steward had been spoken to by a superior.
“The stewards apologised and said they were really sorry for what the other steward had said. They were really nice about it. I wanted the ground to swallow me up.”
Ms Mangan said, while she eventually got to feed her son in the stadium, the incident ruined her day and said she would not be returning to the grounds ever again.
“No matter what happens I will never set foot in that park again. That’s no begrudgery because of the result; I was delighted seeing Kildare supporters and how happy they were. Mayo will have their time again.”
She said she is not aware of any official GAA ban on breastfeeding in the stand and believes that while it was likely the personal views of the steward, he was still representing Kildare GAA and the GAA as a whole.
“In this day and age you don’t want to make anyone feel put out by you doing it [breastfeeding] and you don’t want to rub it in people’s faces if they do feel uncomfortable but I try to do it before people arrive.”
Ms Mangan doesn’t believe she would have gone to any future games if Mayo had won, for fear of encountering a similar attitude.
The Mayo fan believes change needs to happen within the GAA and that officials at grounds nationwide should be told to make allowances so that mothers do not have to encounter such conflicts again.
“I doubt I’m the first person it was ever said to or happened to. You don’t see a lot of mothers at games and that’s their own choice; it’s a big decision, it’s not easy to bring a baby to a match, especially if you’re feeding and conscious about it. It should be welcomed more. GAA stands for family and community.”
Ms Mangan has previously commended officials at GAA games. Just three weeks ago ahead of the Limerick Mayo clash, stewards helped lift her buggy into the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.
“They were brilliant in Limerick. I had a season ticket and I wanted it scanned but to get in with a buggy you couldn’t go near the scanning places so you have to ask them to bring you down and they couldn’t have done enough, lifting the buggy for me.”
Ms Mangan plans on writing to Kildare GAA to comment on the matter.
Kildare GAA could not be reached for a comment when contacted by The Mayo News last night.