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Liberty Belle 17 June 2005

Liberty Belle Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

Stop the car, I need to be sick. The Health Select Committee has recommended a law change to ban discrimination against breastfeeding women. I mean, mothers who breastfeed their babies, toddlers or children.

Apparently a mother was asked not to breastfeed her toddler at an early childhood education centre, complained to the Human Rights Tribunal, but the complaint was outside their jurisdiction. So she petitioned the Committee which has decided that women have the right to breastfeed wherever they legitimately find themselves when baby’s hungry. That includes restaurants, cafes, bars, churches, offices, shops - almost anywhere, I suspect, apart from someone’s private home.

I’m not sickened by breastfeeding. On the contrary, I breastfed all my four children and was never discriminated against. I did it discreetly and with tact. If I was among people I thought might be embarrassed or uncomfortable, I went to another room. Very few were, and that was 30 years ago.

When my eldest was born I took her on the train from Masterton to Hamilton, via Wellington, to see her grandparents - a full day’s journey which probably required numerous feeds. Across the aisle were an elderly couple who I thought I might have embarrassed. However, when we reached Hamilton the gentleman leaned over, admired my darling girl, and said, referring to the breastfeeding, “Best way to keep them quiet, isn’t it?”

I’m sickened by Parliament setting itself up as the busy-body once more, interfering in people’s lives and dictating what they have to be nice about. It’s the restaurant owner’s right, or the daycare centre proprietor’s right, or employer’s right to ban breastfeeding on their premises.

They pay the overheads, salaries, rents, power etc. In not allowing their customers, staff, or clergy to breastfeed they might be short-sighted, bigoted or even stupid, but since when has that been a crime? If it were, every MP would be prosecuted at some stage of his or her career.

And for the Government to state that this might encourage more women to breastfeed is just sophistry.

The main reason many women don’t breastfeed is because they’re chucked out of hospital within hours of giving birth and aren’t properly taught how to breastfeed, bathe baby - all the vital skills needed to ensure mother and baby are bonded and confident. Domiciliary midwives can’t be with mum 24 hours a day in the way nurses can in the maternity ward.

If this Government was serious about supporting breastfeeding mothers it would fix the hospital system instead of chucking babies out with the bathwater.

Yours in liberty,

Deborah Coddington.


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