Breastfeeding Athletes Are Finally Taken Seriously By Paris Olympics

olympic rings at the paris city hall
Breastfeeding Taken Seriously By Paris Olympics Anadolu - Getty Images

The French Olympic Committee will provide hotel rooms for its breast-feeding athletes during the Paris Olympics this summer.

Traditionally children are banned from entering the athletes’ village where participants and coaches stay for the duration of the Games. It comes after athletes, most notably French judo star Clarisse Agbegneno, have been campaigning for the needs of new mothers to be taken more seriously by sporting governing bodies.

It was confirmed that breast-feeding French sportswomen will be offered rooms in a hotel close to the 10,000 population athletes village, which has been built in the economically deprived suburb of Saint-Ouen in the north of Paris.

The rooms can be used by the athletes to sleep with their infants, or by their partners as passes for children to enter the village are ‘very restricted’. There will also be a special social area for families at the hotel, with a total estimated cost of €40,000 (£34,200).

Astrid Guyart, the French Olympic Committee secretary general, said: ‘It's unprecedented and it's something we want to become permanent, so that's not a one-off because it's the Olympics in Paris.’

Last year to mark World Breastfeeding Week, Olympians shared their experiences of feeding their babies at the same time as being at the pinnacle of their careers.

Cyclist Laura Kenny, 31, who gave birth to Albie a year before the final day of the Rio 2016 Games (where she won her fourth Olympic gold medal) told Metro: ‘Breastfeeding was tricky. I breastfed for six months, so trying to cluster feed him so I could cycle was really difficult.

cycling track olympics day 16
cycling track olympics day 16

Laura Kenny was back competing at the Olympics less than a year after having her son Justin Setterfield - Getty Images

‘He was the hungriest baby ever and he was only going about 10 minutes without wanting to have food. Trying to go out and come back and not feel disgusting and sweaty for him – that was tricky.

‘As athletes, our maternity leave is when you’re pregnant. Afterwards, there’s nothing really holding you back from training, so you sort of just have to get on with it.’

Paralympian Sarah Storey, 46, who has won 28 medals, said it’s definitely possible to be a breastfeeding mum and elite athlete.

She said: ‘It's absolutely possible to breastfeed and be at the highest level of sport because I’ve done it. Your baby is settled, it’s not crying, it’s not upset, and you can focus on the job that you’ve got to do as an athlete.

‘Knowing that I can provide for my child means that when I do this incredibly selfish job of being an athlete, where you have to be so self-centred and so self-absorbed with the hours that you’re training and racing, it gives me that yin and yang.’

And Helen Glover, 37, gave birth to twins at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, breastfed them and then came out of her planned retirement to take part in the Tokyo Games in 2021. She told PBS that mixing her rowing training with feeding two babies was ‘very draining. It was taking every calorie I had. But I could do it because it was my own time and my own choice.’

The Olympics are set to take place from July 26-August 11 followed by the Paralympics from August 28-September 8.

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