A cafe owner in Timaru asked a mother who was feeding her 3 month old baby to cover up. The mother didn’t have a blanket or shawl with her, so the cafe owner offered her a clean teatowel. The mother posted her experience on Facebook, and since then, the cafe owner has been subject to what she describes as abusive calls, and she has had to shut down the cafe’s Facebook page because it was getting so many negative comments.
The story is here: Breastfeed incident goes viral with abuse
Abuse is never pretty, and no doubt the cafe owner is very shaken and worried. To be clear, I do not support abuse of the cafe owner at all. However, I most certainly do not support her actions towards the breastfeeding mother. All the more so when under New Zealand law, no one may stop a mother from feeding her baby in public.
The newspaper article sets out “Mothers’ Rights”.
* It is illegal under the Human Rights Act for someone to stop you breastfeeding in public.
* The Health Ministry recommends exclusive breastfeeding until babies are about 6 months old.
* It also recommends that breastfeeding mothers should research the places they are going ahead of time, or take pieces of muslin and shawls to shield the breast and baby.
* In 2009, Plunket said 16 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfed babies until they are 6 months old.
It’s wrong about that third point. The Ministry of Health does not recommend that breastfeeding mothers research the place, or take muslin and shawls to shield the breast and baby.
Any woman reading that third point might feel that she is entitled to breastfeed in public only if she complies with certain behaviours. In fact, the Ministry of Health offers this advice for people who are feeling unsure about breastfeeding in public. It’s not advice for everyone who breastfeeds, just advice for people who feel unsure.
Plenty of new mothers feel iffy enough about breastfeeding in public without being told that the Ministry of Health recommends that they cover up. A small slip by the journalist, no doubt, but an unhelpful and misleading one.
On the positive side, it seems that although at times people in New Zealand can be deeply critical of parents with small children, there’s plenty of support out there too. I just wish that support was expressed in positive actions, rather than heaping abuse on someone.