Monday 26 September 2016

Call for breastfeeding tolerance

Published 25/06/2015 | 10:11

MPs have called for greater public tolerance of breastfeeding
MPs have called for greater public tolerance of breastfeeding

Mothers in Towie and soaps should be shown breastfeeding "naturally and happily" to reverse its middle class image, Labour has said.

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Sharon Hodgson, shadow minister for children and families, warned a "growing cultural obstacle" is preventing new mothers from breastfeeding their children - particularly in working class communities.

Some mothers believe breastfeeding is for a "certain type of people" as when shown it is usually by " middle class, professional, older mums", the Labour frontbencher said.

Ms Hodgson, whose shadow ministerial brief also covers women and equalities, added TV producers, soap writers, celebrities and reality stars on The Only Way Is Essex should "get to it" and help more mothers see breastfeeding.

Her remarks came as SNP MP Alison Thewliss suggested breastfeeding should be allowed in the Commons chamber, noting she had previously been welcomed when feeding her children in council meetings and at a football game.

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate, Ms Hodgson told MPs: "I n some communities today, there seems to be an anti-breastfeeding culture among young mothers, which we need to challenge and reverse.

"National Breastfeeding Week and this debate are great ways of starting to do that.

"Breastfeeding must be seen as normal and natural, and new mothers should feel utterly comfortable doing it.

"We need to focus on the areas and communities in which new mums do not even consider starting to breastfeed because it seems so strange or even repulsive to them. Government support is required.

"Role models must come forward to extol the virtues of breastfeeding and we need more mums on TV - honourable members may laugh.

"We need mums in our soaps and even on The Only Way is Essex, breastfeeding naturally and happily.

"We rarely see breastfeeding, and if we do it is usually by mums such as us - middle class, professional, older mums - which reinforces the image in some young mums' minds that breastfeeding is something for a certain type of people, not for them and their friends.

"We need to work to reverse that image and let new mums and young mums know that breastfeeding is not only good for their health and that of their babies, but it has immediate benefits, such as helping them lose their pregnancy weight much faster."

Ms Hodgson added: " Come on, TV producers, soap writers, celebrities and Towie stars watching this debate - get to it. Get breastfeeding on TV and get mums seeing it.

"I want mums to feel comfortable in public - even in Claridge's, for goodness' sake. We need to show that it is totally normal, natural and acceptable, and that those who have a problem with it simply need to get over it."

Glasgow Central MP Ms Thewliss said she had breastfed while in the stands at Hampden Park - Scotland's national football stadium - noting: "I have been lucky in securing the backing of the Tartan Army for giving the wee man his tea at the game."

Ms Thewliss, who led yesterday's breastfeeding debate, added: " My colleague and good friend Aileen Campbell MSP, Scotland's minister for children and young people, has taken her own children, Angus and Crawford, into the Scottish Parliament Chamber; her youngest was with her during a stage three debate just the other week.

"Aileen and I are lucky, as not many mothers can do that at their work.

"I understand from speaking to colleagues that doing something similar in this place would be frowned upon.

"I seek to gently challenge that. We should take a lead and seek to be creative in how we support women to continue breastfeeding in all workplaces once they return from maternity leave."

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