Monthly Archives: February 2016

A response to offensive remarks published in the Irish Independent article: “The sight of toddlers being breastfed unsettles me”

To The Editor of The Irish Independent:

On Tuesday 23/02/2016, your newspaper published an opinion piece by Amanda Brunker entitled “The sight of toddlers being breastfed unsettles me”. This article related Amanda’s experience trying to breastfeed her own child, and she also told readers about her feelings towards breastfeeding and breastfeeding mothers in general.

We, at Friends of Breastfeeding, were extremely saddened and disappointed to read Amanda’s article. We felt that Amanda’s comments were nothing short of demeaning to breastfeeding mothers. We recognise that every mother has the right to choose how to feed her child. This means that a breastfeeding mother is as entitled to have her decision respected as a mother who decides not to breastfeed. Why is a mother’s personal breastfeeding relationship with her child open to such ridicule? Would this be considered appropriate regarding any other health issue? Would you publish discriminatory comments about anything else? We do not believe the publication of such comments is acceptable.
In Ireland, 56% of women initiate breastfeeding. Numbers plummet as time goes on. By 6 months, less than 5% of babies born in Ireland are exclusively breastfed. As you can imagine, this means that breastfeeding mums are very much in the minority, which can result in them feeling isolated and ostracised, ironically for feeding their child in a biologically normal way that is recommended by health authorities all over the world. Both the HSE and the World Health Organisation recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and to continue breastfeeding in addition to solid food to 2 years and beyond.

We believe in women’s right to make a choice regarding infant feeding. If they do choose to breastfeed, they need to decide when the time is right for them to stop. It is important that their choice is informed, and they deserve the right to access accurate, unbiased information. They also deserve respect whatever path they may choose. Today we feel that you, as a provider of information, have failed the breastfeeding mothers of Ireland, by allowing misinformation to be spread, and by letting Amanda Brunker publicly humiliate and make a mockery of breastfeeding women.

We would like to highlight some specific issues we have with Amanda’s comments:
Amanda states “Honestly folks, any child that can ask for the breast, (and that has teeth!), should have moved onto drinking from a cup, because the sight of toddlers being breastfeed unsettles me.” Firstly, it is absolutely possible, and biologically normal, to breastfed a child that has teeth. Secondly, babies ask for milk from birth, so this is a moot point. Finally, suggesting that we should feed children in a cup simply because it unsettles another person is ridiculous. Can you imagine how a breastfeeding mother, already feeling isolated, would feel after reading this comment? It is uneducated, insulting, and makes fun of breastfeeding mothers.
Amanda also states that “…while pro-breastfeeding groups link this to all kinds of health issues, I think it’s fair to say that those of us who are obese and drinking too much wine have no one to blame but ourselves – it is nothing to do with our mothers playing hide the nipple”. Many scientific studies from reliable sources will tell you otherwise. Not breastfeeding increases the risk of obesity. There are other factors, but not breastfeeding is one of them. To say that it isn’t is factually incorrect.
Amanda also speaks negatively about breastfeeding support and advocacy, which presumably includes organisations such as Friends of Breastfeeding. Amanda seems to think that they are pressuring women to breastfeed. We question the truth in this statement. Breastfeeding advocates are genuinely trying to get accurate information into the public domain so mothers can make an informed choice and provide non-judgemental support and advice to enable women to have the breastfeeding experience they desire. We believe pro-breastfeeding groups are being unfairly targeted in this article.

We are deeply disappointed with this publication and we feel that the breastfeeding women of Ireland, and their children, deserve an apology. Breastfeeding in a society where bottle-feeding is seen as the norm is hard enough without having articles such as Amanda’s one making women’s journey as a parent even more difficult. Friends of Breastfeeding aim to act as advocates for breastfeeding mothers. We work to ensure that women in Ireland achieve their desired breastfeeding experience and try to make their breastfeeding experience a positive one, whether they choose to breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months, 2 years, or more.

We are very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter and we are available should you ever need any information or input in anything related to breastfeeding in Ireland.

A letter to RTÉ & The Today Show in response to poll on breastfeeding in public.

Maura, Daithi;

On 23/02/2016, a poll was posted on your Facebook page, to be discussed on your show: “Breastfeeding in Public. Yes or No?”. As you are surely aware, the law has already answered this question: breastfed babies are of course as entitled to eat in public as anyone else, and preventing mothers from doing so, or making them feel unwelcome is an offence in Ireland. Suggesting otherwise is nothing short of discriminatory and we were absolutely shocked to see this poll on your page. Even asking such a question implies that there might be something wrong with a baby eating in the company of others, and encourages hateful comments towards breastfeeding mothers. I am sure we all agree that it is ridiculous to think that nursing babies ought to be kept out of sight, let alone to have that opinion shared for all to see on social media. We feel that your poll incites discrimination and gives the public the impression that it is perfectly ok to think that a “No” response is in any way acceptable.

Would you run a poll to ask if it was ok to bottle-feed in public, if women should be able to vote, if same-sex couples should be allowed hold hands in public? Why would you even question the right babies and children have to eat when out and about, without having to be hidden from view?

As recent studies have shown, breastfeeding rates in Ireland are extremely low, among the lowest in the world. This is a serious health issue, as acknowledged in the National Maternity Strategy and the National Breastfeeding Strategy. As a result of these poor rates, breastfeeding mothers are in the minority. Being the mother of a young child can be a very lonely and challenging time, and the last thing a mother needs is for their right to go out and about with their child to be questioned on Ireland’s national television station. Statistics show that a common reason for a mother choosing not to breastfeed or stopping breastfeeding in Ireland is due to embarrassment or social stigma. We believe that the media and their portrayal of “breastfeeding in public” is an issue and has a huge part to play in this.

We at Friends of Breastfeeding endeavour to help mothers achieve the breastfeeding experience they choose. We strive to make their journey as positive as can be. This type of discussion is counter-productive; it provokes unnecessary disputes and causes distress for the sole purpose of entertainment. We are disappointed that this was allowed to happen. We hope that the next time you choose to cover the topic of breastfeeding that it will be in a more positive and less divisive context.

We are very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter and we are available should you ever need any information or input into anything related to breastfeeding in Ireland.

Your Sincerely,

Friends of Breastfeeding