Breastfeeding in public: Advocacy group reminds Alberta moms it's OK
Published Tuesday, June 4, 2013 10:04AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 4, 2013 10:39AM EDT
An organization that promotes breastfeeding in Alberta has launched a new campaign aimed at reminding mothers they have the right to bare their breasts when they nurse their babies in public.
The Alberta Breastfeeding Committee’s campaign follows a string of incidents in which nursing mothers were asked to leave a place of business or cover themselves because of issues with their partially exposed breasts.
ABC’s Jodine Chase wants women to understand that their right to breastfeed is protected by both federal and provincial legislation.
"We have the right to breastfeed our babies in Canada anytime, anywhere," Chase told CTV Edmonton Monday.
Edmonton mother Kayla Andre didn’t realize nursing in public was even an issue until last month when her husband tried to get a professional photo of her breastfeeding her son printed at Walmart for Mother’s Day.
"They refused it on the grounds that it was nudity," Andre said.
After CTV News brought the incident to Wal-Mart’s attention, the retailer apologized, saying its photo lab staff had made a mistake interpreting company policy against the printing of nudity.
Wal-Mart spokesperson Alex Roberton said after the incident, the company sent all Canadian outlets an addendum to their policy clarifying what constitutes a pornographic or inappropriate photo and what doesn’t.
The Alberta Breastfeeding Committee says the incident was indicative of a culture that says it encourages mothers to breastfeed their babies, but would prefer it be done in private.
The group says women still face harassment whenever they are asked to cover up in public, or have their photos of breastfeeding deleted off social media sites, or told they need to leave a place of business.
"In Alberta over the last year or so, there have been over a dozen incidents where women have been told they can’t breastfeed in shopping malls, in swimming pools, at the library," Chase said.
The group says the result is that women feel intimidated and reluctant to nurse at all.
According to ABC, 90 per cent of Alberta mothers begin breastfeeding their babies after they are born, but the rate declines sharply afterward. By the time babies are about six months of age, fewer than 30 per cent of them are still being breastfed.
In Edmonton, only 9 per cent of six-month-old babies were still being exclusively breastfed in 2008, the group says.
This week, the Alberta Breastfeeding Committee launched new business-sized cards that nursing mothers can take with them when they’re out in public.
The cards read: "My child has the right to breastfeed here. Asking us to leave, cover or move is a violation of my rights and those of my child. This may be considered discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Chase hopes the new card campaign will help mothers continue to breastfeed.
"If you’re ever harassed, you don’t have to do anything other than hand someone the card," Chase explained.
She says it's an important message, especially in light of the Alberta baby boom that’s seeing more and more mothers out breastfeeding their babies.
Chase hopes the cards will help Alberta women understand their rights and feel comfortable feeding their children how they like.
"I don't think that people realize it’s a discrimination issue," she says.
With a report from CTV Edmonton’s Susan Amerongen