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.
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.
Friends of Breastfeeding
Friends of Breastfeeding are hosting an Open Meeting on Sunday 21st Feb 2016 3pm-4pm at The Ashling Hotel, Parkgate Street. This meeting is open to anyone who would like to make a difference in supporting mothers to have the breastfeeding experience they choose. You are welcome to attend whether you are breastfeeding or not, with family. There will be opportunities to discuss the many activities of the organisation or have a chat with other breastfeeding mums so please come along if this is something you’d be interested in.
For directions and more information contact: Sarah at email@example.com
Annual General Meeting 2016
Friends of Breastfeeding are pleased to be holding our 2016 Annual General Meeting on Sunday 21st Feb, 2pm-3pm and we would like to invite all members to attend.
1) To approve the Annual Accounts in the Annual Report
2) To approve the Annual Report from 2015
3) To elect members to the National Committee
The AGM will be held in the Ashling Hotel, Parkgate Street.
Refreshments will be served so please confirm by return email or text as soon as
possible if you plan to attend to ensure all are catered for.
We hope to see you there!
General Secretary – firstname.lastname@example.org
At last it’s happening!
The Breastfeeding Buddy System is coming to Cork!
The Buddy System has been active in Dublin for the last number of years, with two rounds of training and over 30 buddies trained. It has been a wonderful success, and we’ve received great feedback from mums who have used the system.
But it’s time to EXPAND! We’ve been talking about it, and talking about it, and now we’re DOING IT!
Applications to attend Buddy Training are now closed, and we are now taking applications for mums who would like to be paired with a Buddy and are due their baby from the end of November 2015 on.
CORK Breastfeeding Buddy Application Form.
For more information, please email email@example.com
If you would be interested in starting a Friends of Breastfeeding group in your area please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Athlone Springs Hotel, Athlone, Co. Westmeath.
First Tuesday of the month, 10am-12pm. Contact Emma on 087 2870838
Calling all breastfeeding mothers, are you ready to rise to the Challenge? On Saturday, October 5th 2013 at 11:00am, breastfeeding mothers in Ireland will gather together in venues across the country to take place in the Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge, a worldwide initiative that aims to highlight the importance of breastfeeding and breastfeeding support. This year will mark the fourth year that Ireland will participate in the event. The first Challenge event in Ireland took place in Mahon Point Shopping Centre in Cork in 2010 where there were 106 children and 98 mothers, Last year’s event saw over 500 mothers in Ireland sitting down to nurse their children together.
The Challenge first took place in the Canadian province of British Columbia in 2001. In 2012 there were 3,934 children in 9 countries who took part in the Breastfeeding Challenge. In both 2011 and 2012, Ireland took both first and second place for the highest number of nursing babies latched on simultaneously on one site in Dublin and Cork respectively. In 2011, there were 8 sites in Ireland with 392 babies, and in 2012 there were 12 sites with 536 babies.
This year, Friends of Breastfeeding are hoping to have an even greater number of sites with even more mothers and babies!
So far there are Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge events being hosted in the following sites:
SMA Parish Hall, Wilton, Co. Cork. Contact Martina, email@example.com
Frangos, Dundrum TC. Contact Lisa Finnegan, firstname.lastname@example.org
City West Shopping Centre. Contact Karen, email@example.com
Esquires Café, Airside, Swords. Contact Abina, firstname.lastname@example.org
ALCI Conferece, Green Isle Hotel, Clondalkin, Dublin 22. Contact Margaret,
Spraoi agus Sport, Carndonagh, Co. Donegal. Contact Helen, email@example.com
Costa Coffee, Forte Retail Park, Letterkenny Contact Joleen firstname.lastname@example.org
Oranmore Community Centre, Oranmore, Co. Galway. Contact Claire/ Erin,
Knocknacarra Community Rooms, Galway
Little Star Baby Shop, New Street, Killarney, Co. Kerry. Contact Eibhlin, email@example.com
The Osprey Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare. Contact Nicola, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mill Centre, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. Contact Carrie, email@example.com
The Parent and Child Resource Centre, Eastway Business Park, Co. Limerick. Contact
MaryAnne/ Oonagh, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
DKIT, Dundalk Contact Jennifer/ Heather firstname.lastname@example.org
The Book Centre, Waterford City. Contact Marika,
Community House, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. Contact Ciara, email@example.com
Further potential venues include Letterkenny, Navan, Athlone, and more!
If you would like to organise a venue in your area, please email
Pre Registration Form
Please fill out the following form to let us know if you are planning on attending one of our events. Don’t worry if you do not pre register though! You are still welcome to participate on the day.