The Devon Positive about Breastfeeding scheme recognises that every parent should be welcomed, however they feed their baby. Parents often feel pressured by society to be accountable for feeding choices, however we want to ensure that we remove any judgement around feeding and support all parents to feed in your venue.
The Devon Positive about Breastfeeding scheme aims to facilitate mothers to feel supported to breastfeed their baby in public. We want to encourage commercial, health and community settings in Devon to facilitate greater acceptance of breastfeeding alongside other feeding methods; supporting mothers to feel comfortable feeding their baby in public, building their confidence and showing wider acceptance.
We will do this by:
- supporting parents to feel comfortable to feed their baby in public
- supporting organisations to recognise that breastfeeding a baby has significant, unreplicable health benefits to both mother and baby and our wider communities
- ensure all organisations are aware that a mother is legally allowed to breastfeed or bottle feed their baby in public. In neither case should she be asked to stop – for many reasons, including that it would be unlawful.
It’s important to understand that any judgement on feeding methods is not only inappropriate but also unacceptable – feeding a baby is multifaceted and not always a straightforward easy decision for parents and can often leave parents feeling judged.
Why do we need the Devon Positive about Breastfeeding scheme?
Unlike many of our European and global neighbours, since the industrial revolution our society has become a bottle feeding culture. This leads to a huge inequality not only in the health outcomes within our society but also in our confidence to feed babies when out and about in public.
In restricting how a mother can feed her baby in public either through emotional judgement or through lack of feeding venues, we are not only being unlawful but also unkind. This can isolate parents and restrict them from leaving their homes. It also causes women to give up breastfeeding sooner, which we know impacts on health outcomes. This scheme aims to enable all parents to be able to have confidence to feed their baby when out and about in public areas.
What are the challenges families feeding their baby might face?
- a mother who has a hungry baby is likely to feel anxious and want to be able to settle her baby through feeding him or her. Finding a space where she feels comfortable to feed her baby is important
- mothers feeding their baby might like a friendly welcome and a smile, perhaps a glass of water while she feeds her baby and then she can concentrate on refreshing herself
- mothers might like a little privacy where they are not stared at or made to feel uncomfortable from unhelpful glances. Equally they won’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable through being ignored. Remember they are a mother feeding their baby – so treat them as any other customer with respect and care.
In signing up to the scheme you promise to:
- welcome mothers to feed their baby in your venue
- ensure all employees and volunteers are aware of the scheme and read this staff and volunteers guidance page
- display the Devon Positive about Breastfeeding certificate of commitment in your premises (if appropriate)
- make sure all staff are aware of the law in relation to mothers breastfeeding in public and recognise that a mother is entitled to breast or bottle feed her baby in public and in neither case should be asked to stop.
What do we need to do to meet our promise?
- where possible support mothers to find a seat where she feels comfortable to feed her baby
- welcome all mothers with a friendly welcome and a smile and perhaps offer a glass of water
- allow a little privacy without staff staring or giving unhelpful glances. Equally do not ignore them – just treat them as any other customer with respect and care
- display the Devon Positive about Breastfeeding commitment certificate within your venue.
What if another customer complains about a mother feeding her baby?
If someone approaches you or a member of your staff to complain about a mother feeding her baby or to request that you to ask them to stop there are steps you can take:
- it is important to gently and politely inform them that in England and Wales it is legally considered an act of sexual discrimination to treat a women less favourably because she is breastfeeding. Therefore it would be against the law to request her to stop feeding her baby. They might like to know that in England and Wales mothers are legally protected by the Equality act 2010
- they might benefit from knowing that for many mothers breastfeeding in public can take a lot of courage due to other people’s reactions, leading to a loss of confidence or feeling intimidated
- for some mothers who aren’t breastfeeding they can also feel judged; therefore it is really important that every parent feels comfortable to feed their baby in public
- a customer who is complaining about a mother feeding her baby might benefit from knowing that you are part of the Devon Positive about Breastfeeding Scheme and you could perhaps provide them with this information sheet
- Breastfeeding a baby or giving a baby expressed breast milk is proven to have significant health benefits to both a mother and a baby as well as the community. Breastfeeding reduces the risks to both mother and baby of certain cancers, and type II diabetes. For the baby it also reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as well as reducing the risk of stomach bugs, ear infections, some childhood cancers and some respiratory infections – all of which can be very serious conditions. It can also protect the baby against obesity risks later in life alongside many other protective factors. Furthermore, the benefits of breastfeeding not only support relationship building in the future but also research shows that the benefits continue and increase the longer we breastfeed a baby for; therefore there are significant benefits for ongoing duration of breastfeeding.
Babies will need to feed regularly. Every mother should be supported to feed their baby when out and about. A mother should not be made to feel uncomfortable when feeding in public and should never be asked to feed their baby in a toilet area.
Thank you for supporting women by ensuring Devon is Positive about Breastfeeding!