When women breastfeed in public (especially in places where traditionally women weren’t involved) they are reclaiming the public spaces for all mothers and babies. No mothers of young babies should be forced to separate from their baby in order to participate in public life – whether that is helping to govern the country or join their friends in a park or restaurant. If women are forced to separate from their babies in order to be in the public space then that is sex discrimination. Women breastfeeding in public in the UK are protected to do so by the legislation on sex discrimination. Basically women can’t be discriminated against because they have had a baby and need to look after that baby. It can even be argued that actually questioning a woman’s right to breastfeed in public is sex discrimination. This protection for mothers and babies should extend to all mothers and babies for although babies being fed by bottle aren’t directly relying on their mother’s body for food we now know from recent neuroscience research that all babies benefit from being held and are least stressed allowing for maximum brain development and emotional and relational outcomes. In other words all babies are dependent on their mothers body for security, attachment and bonding.
If our public representatives in Northern Ireland truly wish the best for their constituents then they will support all measures that help their youngest constituents reach their full potential including their health and educational potential. In this way they will save the government money in costly interventions later on in the child’s life. If a government wants a well-adjusted, smart workforce then they need to invest in programmes and initiatives that allow mothers and babies to stay together and have the choice to breastfeed. Currently too many women are deprived of the choice to breastfeed because their family, friends, the culture around them and their government representatives just don’t see breastfeeding as worth supporting. Sadly this then extends to the importance of keeping mothers and babies together and supporting mothers to hold and respond to their babies especially in the public space. Keeping mothers and babies together and supporting mothers to breastfeed and breastfeed in public is an investment in the future of our country.