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Petition for the right to breastfeed in public

Mon, 2 Aug 2004

Launch of petition calling for the right to breastfeed in public

An Auckland woman is launching a petition calling for a law to protect the rights of women to breastfeed in public.

Liz Weatherly has started the petition because mothers who breastfeed in public have no recourse under New Zealand law or the New Zealand Human Rights Act when they experience hostility and discrimination. Ms Weatherly was forced to withdraw her son from a childcare centre because staff objected to her breastfeeding the toddler in the cloakroom.

A law to protect the right to choose to breastfeed would give women protection and send a clear message that breastfeeding is not only acceptable, but should be encouraged, Ms Weatherly says. Her petition follows the passing last month of Scottish legislation protecting the right of women in that country to publicly breastfeed.

Ms Weatherly points out the World Health Organisation recommends that, when possible, infants should be exclusively fed on breast milk until they are six months of age and breastfeeding should continue with solids until at least two years.

"Young children need to be fed frequently and this means mothers often have to feed in public places. Unfortunately mothers are not always comfortable breastfeeding in public and this forces many women to stop breastfeeding early, or not breastfeed at all."

Health benefits for children who are breastfed include less risk of stomach upsets, ear infections, chest infections, childhood diabetes, asthma, eczema and allergies. Ms Weatherly says recent research has shown children who have been breastfed also have a significantly reduced incidence or obesity, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"Among the many benefits for mothers are a decreased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer."

In New Zealand less than 20 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed by the time they are six months old. Ms Weatherly says this is of great concern with climbing rates of child obesity, diabetes and infections.

The petition will be launched during Breastfeeding Week: When: Wednesday, 4th August 2004 Time: 12 noon Where: At an event in Aotea Square in Auckland called Breastfeeding at the Edge

The petition The Petition: (the petitioner)... "Respectfully requests that the House takes action to address the lack of protection for the rights of breastfeeding women and children."

ENDS

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