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Swimmer calls on Olympics to adopt ‘drastic’ breastfeeding rules

Earlier this month, the Tokyo Olympics committee announced a waiver of its COVID-related safety precautions that would allow breastfeeding athletes to bring their babies with them. While many athletes were relieved to be able to continue breastfeeding their babies while performing at the Olympics, Spanish synchronized swimmer Ona Carbonell said ‘lifting’ restrictions was not as simple as it seemed – and therefore left her baby at home. .

Carbonell shared her decision to leave her infant son, Kai, at home in a video she shared on her Instagram page.

“Despite the appearance of some news suggesting the possibility that we, the athletes, can go to the Olympic Games in Tokyo accompanied by our babies or young children, we have been informed by the organizing entities of certain extremely drastic measures which make this option impossible for me,” she says in the video.

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Carbonell explains that her husband and son would have to stay in quarantine at a separate hotel and could not leave their rooms for about 20 days while in Japan. This not only presents a problem for her husband and son, but she says it also puts her team at risk.

“In order for me to go and breastfeed Kai whenever he needs it during the day, I would have to leave the Olympic Villa, the team bubble, and go to the hotel, risking my team’s health” , she says. “I had to make a very difficult decision…because the impositions from the Japanese government are not compatible with my sports performance and being with my family at the same time.”

Tokyo Olympics organizers said in a press release that they were “committed to doing everything possible to allow athletes with breastfed children to compete”. There is a designated area in the Olympic Village for athletes to spend safe time with their breastfed babies, but they must stay in “private accommodation”.

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Carbonell said that although she was encouraged to take Kai with her, the restrictions in place filled her with ‘disappointment and disillusionment’ – enough that she decided it was better to go to the Olympics without him. .

“Our only option is to wait out this pandemic for normality to return, and with it the necessary steps to ensure that the reconciliation of motherhood and elite sport is no longer something extraordinary and virtually impossible to achieve. achieve,” she concludes. “Thank you all for your support.”

Having to choose between your breastfed baby and your career is, unfortunately, a universal experience for working moms everywhere, regardless of your career path. While it’s commendable that mothers like Ona Carbonell use their platform to talk about what she’s facing, it’s unfair that she was ever put in that position to begin with.

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