Calls for ‘breastfeeding bench’ in south Dublin park rejected

An example of the proposed breastfeeding bench for Dublin's Dodder Valley Park

Amy Blaney

A Dublin councillor has called for a “breastfeeding bench” to be installed in a south Dublin park to offer space and comfort for new mothers.

The specially designed ergonomic bench, with soft padding and a raised back, was proposed in Dodder Valley Park.

However, the idea was met with varying views this week, with some councillors deeming it not “necessary”.

The local authority said “any typical park bench can be used by breastfeeding mothers and these provide a safe and comfortable space for mothers to nurse their infants”.

Councillor Lyn Hagin Meade, who proposed the motion at this week’s area meeting, said: “For those new to breastfeeding it can feel not comfortable sitting on a bench with strangers.”

Cllr Meade said the bench would offer signposting for people to be “mindful” of feeding children and offer comfort to mothers.

Councillor Carly Bailey said that while feeding her own children she experienced “massive problems” with not having appropriate chairs while out in public.

“I actually got to a point where I developed postnatal depression and I avoided going outside because I was having difficulty with breastfeeding,” she said.

She added that many park benches do not have backs which makes it difficult to breastfeed and that Ireland has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe.

“It’s something that is very common amongst new parents who are trying to breastfeed where they feel very isolated and uncomfortable,” she said.

However, there was a difference of opinion with some councillors deeming a specific bench as not “necessary”.

Councillor Pamela Kearns said: “I don’t see how this will work.

“If you have a bench in a park and it’s earmarked for mothers to breastfeed there is nothing to prevent anyone else going onto that bench.

“I don’t think they are necessary,” she added.

Councillor Emma Murphy said the benches would be susceptible for vandalism as they “stick out like a sore thumb”.

“I would be a little bit hesitant to actually have that focus,” she said, adding that the bench could be “attracting the wrong attention towards something that is supposed to be so positive”.

In a reply, the local authority said it “understands the importance of creating a safe, comfortable, and inclusive space for all park visitors and this includes breastfeeding mothers”.

However, it said “there are currently multiple benches available for public use within the park”.

“There are a number of benches that look onto each play space in Dodder Valley Park and this enables parents to sit and supervise their children when using the play equipment.

“Any typical park bench can be used by breastfeeding mothers and these provide a safe and comfortable space for mothers to nurse their infants.

“The council is committed to providing additional park benches in Dodder Valley Park when required as part of the park management plan to promote an inclusive, welcoming family-friendly environment,” it added.