Despite significant progress in trying to normalise breastfeeding, many people are still offended by women feeding their children in public if they’re attached to a breast.
But a scheme that has been rolled out in Newport, Wales, is hoping to change the stigma surrounding breastfeeding and make it easier for women to breastfeed in public places.
The Newport Breastfeeding Welcome Premises Scheme aims to make shops, cafes and other public places more welcoming to nursing mothers, with each establishment that partakes in the scheme displaying window signs to make it clear that they support it.
Staff from the premises will also undergo ‘awareness sessions’ so they know and understand the reasons women choose to breastfeed.
The hope is that the council’s scheme will encourage more mothers to breastfeed beyond a baby’s first few weeks in a bid to cut the risk of them developing obesity in later life.
But Helen Rogers, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Wales, said that a nationwide initiative should be put in place following the Welsh Government’s own scheme – the National Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme – ending in 2015.
‘We need women to be able to breastfeed in public without having a sense that people will complain’, she said.
‘We know that a number of women still find it difficult and there is a view that women’s breasts are a sexual object and it’s fine to treat them like that, but it’s not fine to breastfeed your baby in public.
‘It’s not seen as something that’s mainstream and it should be.’
Businesses have a responsibility, under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that a woman breastfeeding while receiving a service they provide is not treated unfairly, including by other customers.
A Public Health Wales spokesman said: ‘Negative feedback when breastfeeding in public can deter many mums. The introduction of the Breastfeeding Welcome scheme in Newport is a very helpful contribution to overcoming this.’
Many mums seem to welcome the idea of a pro-breastfeeding scheme, as it could help them avoid awkward situations.
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Alexandra Jenkins, who has a one-year-old son, told the BBC about the negative experience she had while breastfeeding her baby: ‘An elderly lady was eating lunch and asked me to stop feeding as she was eating her lunch with her husband.
‘I politely told her that was my son and if she didn’t like it, she could take her food home. I was absolutely furious to say the least. It totally knocked my confidence.’
Do you think this scheme or similar initiatives could help normalise breastfeeding? Let us know in the comments section!