Mothers’ reasons for not breastfeeding are complex and varied. Women stop breastfeeding before they would like to stop, saying they feel unsupported to do so or that they feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public.
Although Polls reveal that seeing a woman breastfeeding does not bother 85% of adults, 63% of breastfeeding women report that they have been on the receiving end of unsupportive comments or behaviour while breastfeeding in a public place.
Half of new mothers report that they never attempted to breastfeed in public for the first few weeks of their babies’ lives. Furthermore, only 39% of breastfeeding women have fed their baby in public by the time the child is 4-6 months old, compared to 67% of bottle-feeding women.
By actively involving businesses, we can foster an external environment that embraces and supports breastfeeding mothers.
Views of mothers
In a recent survey this is what mothers told us affect them:
- Not being able to find a comfortable chair – it is difficult to feed at benches that are close to tables as there is not enough room
- Lack of somewhere to sit down or, if outside, no sheltered seating that is not facing onto a main road/path (i.e. lack of minimal privacy)
- Unsuitable environment e.g dirty, too cold, too exposed to sun
- Lack of changing facilities
- People making comments
- Struggling to latch baby because of uncomfortable environment
- Busy, male dominated staff; no where discreet enough, cleanliness
- Music too loud or lights too bright.
- The looks people give you when you breastfeed in public: restaurants, park, in a cafe, it made me feel awful and I felt I was doing something wrong
What if I run activities in lots of different venues but don't have my own premises?
If you run activities like baby music, yoga or massage and move around different venues you can still sign your centre, organisation or business up to show that you are breastfeeding friendly and that you welcome breastfeeding parents.
What do I do if another customer asks me to tell a mum to stop breastfeeding her baby?
The law in both England, Scotland and Wales (The Equality Act) means that a mum cannot be stopped from breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) her baby in any place that she is legally allowed to be. You may be responsible if other customers’ behaviour is brought to your attention and you fail to act. You have an obligation to ensure that a customer who is breastfeeding while receiving a service you provide, is not treated unfairly. You could ask the person who raised the concern if they would feel more comfortable moving to sit somewhere else if that is appropriate (you must not ask the mum to move). The Equality Act 2010 aims to give women complete confidence to breastfeed while going about their day-to-day business. Businesses must facilitate this.
The staff information sheet has some brief information about the law that protects breastfeeding, why breastfeeding is important and why the scheme is needed. Asking staff members to read the sheet and to be aware of what to do if a breastfeeding family come into your premises is sufficient. Perhaps you’d like to keep this on the agenda in team meetings as a check/refresher. If you want more training or information please contact email@example.com.