It still surprises me to read questions like these on Facebook parenting pages
“Does anyone know where I can breastfeed my baby at Sydney airport?”
“I am hoping to go shopping at Woden Mall I am worried my daughter will be hungry. Is there a breastfeeding room?”
“Can anyone tell me the nearest place to breastfeed near Southbank?”
What surprises me about it is that the answers are usually along the lines of directions to bathrooms, or baby change facilities. What surprises me is that the questions are asked at all because the answer to all three questions above is simply the same.
Breastfeeding mothers in Australia have the right to feed their children literally anywhere.
According to Slater and Gordon Lawyer Vicky Antzoulatos if a person is legally allowed to be in a certain place, they also have the right to breastfeed there.
“A mother’s right to breastfeed any time or place they need to is now well established and protected by federal law,” Ms Antzoulatos said.
You would think that by 2015 we would just take it for granted wouldn't you? Hungry kid? Feed them. Simple.
But it isn't that simple sadly. And never has been.
Do you remember back in 2003 when Victorian Labor MP Kirstie Marshall was asked to leave State Parliament because she was breastfeeding her 11-day-old daughter?
At the time I remember watching the debate about her ‘right’ to breastfeed with detached interest as I was a journalist with the Today Show.
At the time for me it wasn’t a debate that had yet touched my world.
Twelve years later, and three kids later I now look back amazed that in that stretch of time so little when it comes to attitudes towards breastfeeding seems to have changed.
Here are four very funny reasons why women should NEVER breastfeed in public. Do you agree? (Post continues after video.)
Still week after week we hear stories of women being asked to leave cafes, shopping centres even sporting events because they were simply feeding their babies.
This week, the UN has marked World Breastfeeding Week with a call for stronger workplace policies for nursing mothers.
Mums need to know and feel comfortable in their rights. It is time to knock breastfeeding discrimination on its head. So let’s dispel a few of the myths around about where you can and can’t breastfeed.
Here are five places you may not know you are allowed to breastfeed:
1. All workplaces and offices, including during meetings.
If you had the ability to take your infant in to the workplace you don't have to hide in a supply closet to nourish her. Feed her wherever you are.
Though according to Vicky Antzoulatos the obligations on the employers to facilitate breastfeeding are still unclear and many women are reluctant to make a fuss to exercise their rights.
“Some mothers find themselves expressing in their cars for want of an appropriate and private space, while others find it difficult to juggle scheduled breaks.”
The Pope himself earlier this year set out to encourage mothers to feed their infants in Church if the babies were hungry.
“If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice, because they are the most important people here” he told the congregation at a baptism mass at the Vatican.
3. Pubs and clubs.
Earlier this year a breastfeeding blue took place over a Newcastle mother who says she was asked to leave a pub because her breastfeeding “bothered” other patrons.
The mum, Chantal Parslow had a mixed reaction when she went public with her story with, sadly many people saying she should find somewhere “discreet” to feed her baby.
Australian Breastfeeding Association NSW branch spokeswoman Nicole Bridges told The Newcastle Herald women were entitled to breastfeed in restaurants. She said under the Sex Discrimination Act it was unlawful to discriminate against a person breastfeeding, directly or indirectly.
4. Public transport and airports, including while boarding a plane (as long as safety is not compromised).
If you can walk and feed you are totally allowed to do it.
If you can juggle your kindle, your meal tray and a hungry baby on a plane then you are not only Uber-Mum you are totally legally within your rights.
5. State and federal parliament.
In parliamentary speak, a baby in his mother’s arms, when the mother is on the floor of parliament, is referred to as a “stranger in the house” – and slowly the standing orders are changing to allow nursing babies in the chamber.
Currently the Senate, ACT Legislative Assembly and NSW Legislative Council are the only chambers of parliament in Australia to specifically exempt nursing infants from standing orders. In all other parliaments, the admittance of strangers is at the discretion of the Speaker or President, meaning that the mother must first seek the permission of someone else in order to feed her baby.
The Federal House of Representatives makes special allowances for breastfeeding members to vote by proxy in divisions if they cannot be present in the Chamber, but does not specifically exempt nursing infants from the standing orders.
So if you are breastfeeding a “stranger”.. well er, good for you – but rest assured that in most cases you are A-OK to continue.
Have you ever faced breastfeeding discrimination?