This week sees the return of National Breast Feeding Week and although the government has pulled all funding for the campaign, celebrity Mum of the Year 2003 – Melinda Messenger is backing a new drive to get more mums breast feeding in public.
It is the law that mothers have the right to breast feed their babies anywhere they like in public but the recent survey of the 1,200 women who took part in an online poll run by Mother and Baby magazine and supported by the National Childbirth Trust has shown that – 60 per cent felt that the UK frowned on breast-feeding mothers and 65 per cent intended to not breast-feed in public for fear of being stared at.
Two thirds maintained that feeding their baby in public had been a stressful experience, and more than half of these had been asked to move out of a restaurant, cafe or coffee shop when they were feeding.
To encourage more mums to breast feed in public, a flash mob event was set up in Central Leeds to publicise National Breast Feeding Week in which hundreds of women showed up and proudly breast feed their babies in public. Similar events have been staged around the UK, the latest one being held at Paddington station.
The originator and main organiser of the flash mob, Sharon Spink, says “I was shocked and angered that Government funding had been cut for Breast feeding Awareness Week and felt compelled to do something to make more people aware of the benefits of breast-feeding. The UK has the second lowest breast-feeding rates out of 36 European countries and I find this appalling. If we can encourage even just one more mum to breast feed then it will be worth it. Unfortunately, society has a very prudish attitude to breast-feeding and yet it should be seen as normal. We are holding this event to show Leeds that we are normal and that breasts are first and foremost designed to feed our children.”
Sharon recruited the breast-feeding mothers through Facebook and by posting on various parenting and pro-breast-feeding websites. Some of the mums in the flash mob have been made to feel acutely embarrassed by ill-judged comments from staff in hospitals, famous high street stores and coffee shops, yet a new Equality Act, passed in 2010 allows all mums the freedom to breast feed their baby of any age, anywhere she likes. Melinda Messenger, who appeared on last night’s OKTV programme, said that the campaign was not about trying to get more mothers breast feeding but to increase the confidence of those who do breast feed in public and raise awareness of society by helping those who do not feel comfortable around nursing mothers to feel more at ease. The campaign calls for a more open- and healthy-minded attitude to breast feeding for future generations.