This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.
Currently approximately 47% of mothers in Ireland are breastfeeding at discharge from maternity care. This is compared with 99% in other countries such as Norway and Sweden. Breastfeeding duration rate figures are not currently collected at national level, however, research studies indicate the fall-off in breastfeeding following discharge is worryingly high with less than 10% of infants still breastfeeding at 6 months of age. Reasons cited for weaning include lack of support and embarrassment of feeding in public. The national policy and strategy for improvement of breastfeeding rates is available here. http://www.breastfeeding.ie/policy_strategy Breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to seek support from local voluntary groups such as Ciudiu and La Leche League.
Our local La Leche League group hosts an informal coffee morning in a busy coffee shop in a shopping mall. It started as a once off to celebrate National Breastfeeding Week in 2007 but so many mothers, who came along, spoke about how they felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because they felt like they were doing something strange, that the LLL group decided to make it regular. Every month, new moms come along and the relief is sometimes evident on their faces simply to see other moms breastfeeding. There is a leaflet available for mothers to take. It contains tips for breastfeeding discreetly, the law that protects our right to breastfeed in any public place and some kind words of encouragement. Mothers see other mothers nursing babies, toddlers, sometimes both and sometimes multiples. The chat ranges from nursing clothes to slings, baby development to housework, childcare to employment. LLL Leaders are available for information on breastfeeding but mostly people go for the company. Some mothers have initially met there and meet each other more frequently as they became friends. These mothers, given confidence by each other, now breastfeed anywhere. Some mothers have also said that they seek out that coffee shop even when the meeting isn't on because they feel comfortable nursing there in the knowledge the staff won't stare.
The more breastfeeding is seen in public, the more likely it is to become a norm. In a city with low breastfeeding rates, seeing other people breastfeed in public is vital to a mother who may lack the confidence. It is also important to young women who have yet to become mothers. Many women nowadays have their first baby without ever having seen a baby breastfeed. Experiencing the subtle differences in how a nursing mother holds her baby may make all the difference to them when their time comes and they try to achieve the proper positioning. Others benefit too. Family members may be more supportive of a breastfeeding relation when they realize she is not alone in her choices. Image stigmas of breastfeeding mothers may be removed for some people when they see normal, even glamorous moms happily breastfeeding in their local coffee shop. Strangers have often commented on how happy the babies at the group seem. A baby is rarely distressed for long. This can only be good publicity for breastfeeding.
Perhaps you could organize a similar meet up in your area. It could make all the difference to a new mom and it might make all the difference to breastfeeding rates in your community. At the very least, a few breastfeeding moms will have a good morning's chat and make some new friends.
To find a La Leche League group in your area and for breastfeeding information see http://www.llli.org/
Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public
Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.
Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.
This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It