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



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