So with it being World Breastfeeding Week, and having been one of the 14,536 mum/baby teams helping this year’s Big Latch On be the biggest ever, it seems apt to write a piece about Breastfeeding in Public.
Fear or lack of confidence about breastfeeding in public can be enough to put some women off breastfeeding altogether. For others who choose to feed their babies themselves, it is enough to tie them to the house, send them to feed their babies in toilet cubicles, or to prompt them to give up nursing earlier than they otherwise would have liked.
For the talented few, it can be enough to prompt the writing of great poetry (language warning!)
It’s worth knowing that the law is on your side. Since 2010 when the Equality Act came into force, it has been sex discrimination to treat a woman differently because she is breastfeeding. Service providers must not discriminate, harass or victimise a woman because she is breastfeeding. Discrimination includes refusing to provide a service, providing a lower standard of service or providing a service on different terms. Therefore, a cafe owner cannot ask you to stop breastfeeding, refuse to serve you, or ask you to move (e.g. to a toilet) without breaching the Act. maternityaction.org have a great factsheet if you want more info:
Breastfeeding in Public Places (167.0 KiB)
Even so, the fear of encountering negativity around breastfeeding in public, and a lack of confidence in our bodies in general has been mooted as a potential influence for bigger mums being statistically less likely to initiate breastfeeding, and statistically more likely to stop feeding sooner.
It doesn’t have to be a negative experience; for the record I have never received a single negative comment about breastfeeding in public, and I’ve done it aplenty. That includes feeding a baby 12m+, in locations as random as a rowing boat, on a swing seat in the middle of a large shop, and stood up while on a walk with the baby carried by Daddy in a front-facing sling – as people strode by. I’ve lost count of the number of cafés, museums, libraries, and public benches here, there and everywhere I’ve fed on.
I’ve only ever registered a couple of disapproving looks – most people are completely unaware that you aren’t just cuddling your baby, and anyone who is aware usually gives you a beaming smile. But I’ve always had the confidence to just do it, and I understand that not everyone feels that way.
It might help to have the reassurance of a list of places wherever you’re going where you know you are welcome (rather than tolerated) and where there are facilities to make your life easier?
A new, free mobile app, available on both android and iphone is looking to help with this. The idea is that us mums rate nearby places suitability for breastfeeding, somewhat like tripadvisor, so you can then look at a map and find rated locations near to you. The developers have even had the good sense to make it possible to use the app entirely one-handed, so you might rate a location while actually there.
It’s clearly in it’s infancy right now (only 4 rated locations in Birmingham when I looked, for instance) but I have the feeling that it has the potential to be genuinely useful if it can get enough mums behind it. Check it out here: http://feed-finder.co.uk/
Text from Google Play:
Discover Places to Breastfeed
FeedFinder has been designed with breastfeeding mothers to provide an easy and convenient tool for finding and sharing good places for breastfeeding. We’ll show you on a handy map all of the places near you that have been reviewed by other mothers. We’ve also carefully designed FeedFinder so that it can be used one-handed as much as possible so that you can even be adding a review of a breastfeeding place as you breastfeed your little one.
Join the Community
You can use FeedFinder to find places around you where other mothers have had positive breastfeeding experiences. Every recommended place on the map will have been reviewed by someone who’s breastfeeding. You’ll be able to see not only how they have rated that place, but also any handy comments that they have added about their experience or the location, like whether they have toys and a menu for toddlers, or where the breastfeeding room is if it’s a bit difficult to find.
Share New Places with the Community
If you can’t find somewhere near you, or have found a new gem be sure to add the new place to the map. You’ll find the process easy and convenient with FeedFinder doing most the hard work, like locating the place on the map, or adding the address details – all you’ll need to do is add a star rating and your own comments.
FeedFinder is part of a project based at the Digital Interaction group in Newcastle University, UK.