parents

Telling an MP to express more milk if she wants to vote is "insulting" and "badly out of date".

Kelly O’Dwyer was told to express more milk to avoid missing parliamentary proceedings. Catherine King MP is knows what that is like…

The advice to Liberal MP and new mum Kelly O’Dwyer to “express more milk” so she could add one more vote to the government’s 30 seat majority was not only insulting, but badly out of date.

For seven years the parliament has had an agreement that nursing mums can simply advise the whip they are breastfeeding and not cost their party a vote.

Parliament’s standing orders – rules which govern behaviour in the chamber – allow new mums who are breastfeeding to be given a proxy vote in the Parliament.

This means their vote is counted even if they are not physically in the chamber.

breastfeeding in parliament
Catherine and her son Ryan (Image: Supplied)

I know this because it was the birth of my son in 2008 that prompted a push for this change so, like thousands of other mums, I could do my job, and still breastfeed.

To their great credit, the whips on both sides quickly agreed to the suggestion. It assisted me greatly, as it has other mums in the past seven years.

But if we are serious about wanting more women MPs and Senators, then we have to make sure Parliament is a breastfeeding friendly workplace.

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I was the first MP to use the parliament’s creche regularly but it was still far from ideal, given parliament, on some days, sits from 9 in the morning until 9 at night.

breastfeeding in parliament
Catherine King with her family and Julia Gillard. (Image: Supplied)

Most nights, when he was here, I’d pick Ryan up at around 5 or 6, and do dinner and bath in my office. However, on more than one occasion I had to take him into the Chamber.

Being an MP does require lots of travel and lots of time away from home, so trying to keep your baby with you so you can breastfeed is difficult enough.

Hopefully, the publicity around this week will send the message to women on all sides considering a political career that they don’t have to choose between being a mum and being an MP.

We need all workplaces to be breastfeeding friendly and mine is no different.

All mums must have the best possible support to breastfeed their baby in that first year and that includes support from their workplaces.

For those looking for advice, the Australian Breastfeeding Association has some fabulous information to help employers and mums.

Catherine King is the federal member for Ballarat and Shadow Minister for Health

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