In the latest example of a grassroots campaign to make mothers feel comfortable about breastfeeding in public, Barnstaple Town Council recently unanimously backed a motion calling for the council to let the public know that breastfeeding is welcome in their public buildings and parks.
The motion proposed by Councillor Mel Lovering called for signage to be displayed within all council buildings stating that breastfeeding is welcome all public buildings and open spaces, a message which will be reinforced through the council website.
Addressing the Council Cllr Lovering said:
“Too many women feel uncomfortable with their choices and are often consigned to dirty and unhygienic places to feed their babies.
“We want Barnstaple to show the public we are forward-thinking and inclusive, and signage in our public buildings and spaces will reflect that.
“For too long, women have felt the only place they can go to breastfeed is in a public lavatory. You would not want to eat your dinner in a public lavatory, so why should babies be fed there? They are dirty places.
“Breastfeeding is how we have all survived.
“I’m not advocating that we have it on the welcome to Barnstaple sign, certainly not just yet, but how we promote this on a larger scale is something to bear in mind in the future.
“I am asking for you to support my motion that we put signage around the town to say, please feel welcome to feed your baby however you wish to choose to feed your baby within our premises.”
The move follows Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council who earlier this year went one step further and actually have included the “Believing in Breastfeeding” campaign on their welcome sign.
A team of local infant feeding support volunteers have fronted the campaign, which actually began pre-pandemic back in 2018, when Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust joined forces to encourage mums to breastfeed while out and about.
Darwen Councillor Jane Oates said the response from town centre traders, pre-Covid, had been incredible.
“The traders want to highlight that we do welcome people and we will provide areas where mums feel comfortable feeding their babies as well as bottle-warming facilities,” she said.
“It is difficult at the moment, with Covid, but we want to encourage mums to use a number of areas spread out.”
Recognisable locations in Darwen which will provide separate areas include the town hall and library.
“We wanted the town hall to be a central point, where mums can go and use the facilities, as well as find out where else in town is supporting the campaign,” Cllr Oates added.
“We agreed the sites for the billboards and then lockdown happened. We’re hoping that once things return to normal we’ll be able to continue that work.”
Angela O’Toole, Head of Maternity Services for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Breastfeeding rates in Blackburn with Darwen have never been higher, with most new mothers breastfeeding their babies in the days and weeks after birth.
“We fully support a high profile campaign such as #BreastFeedingFriendlyBwD which lets everyone know that the borough is 100 per cent behind breastfeeding.”
We look forward to seeing where the next grassroots public breastfeeding campaign springs up.
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