Breastfeeding in public has been a taboo subject which is slowly being broken by the growth of feminism and women empowerment campaigns.
In most countries, it is legal and uncontroversial to do so. In the UK, breastfeeding in public is a right covered by The Equality Act 2010 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The former considers it unlawful to discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding.
The UK Department of Health conducted a survey in 2004 and found that five out of six people accept discrete public breastfeeding. However, two out of three mothers are still reluctant to feed in public due to all the harassment and negative comments they are subjected to.
Students and staff commented on the topic. Most of them seem to agree that everyone should have the right to breastfeed and to feel comfortable doing so as it is natural and should not be covered up.
Mike Mayes, Vice President of Media and Communications at the Student Union, said: ‘I encourage it. If a baby needs feeding, a baby needs feeding, it’s as simple as that. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Frankly, I would consider the people who sexualize the act of feeding a baby to be the ones at fault, not the mother simply trying to look after her child.’
Students explained why the topic is so stigmatized. Kate, a student at DMU, said ‘Probably because breasts can be seen as quite sexual, so as soon as something sexual appears in public it is seen as inappropriate for young children to see, something that should be kept indoors.’
Cafés and restaurants often wonder if they need to create a separate facility to allow women customers to breastfeed. At DMU, mothers can find toilets which have a space to change diapers, but not to breastfeed. Does the university need spaces like these?
Kate and Sukhi, another DMU student, confessed they do not know or have not seen anyone who has got a child, but they would not be opposed to the creation of such spaces.
Mike added ‘I would definitely be in support of an area if that would help someone feel more secure or comfortable. But as a society we need to make strides to accept it wherever it happens than simply having to create a separate area. The bigger focus is reducing the stigma’