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Breastfeeding Friendly Places in Simcoe Muskoka

Oct 27, 2015
Across Simcoe and Muskoka, businesses, organizations and municipalities are being encouraged to participate in a campaign to support parents to breastfeed in public by becoming a breastfeeding friendly place.

Dr. Lisa SimonAcross Simcoe and Muskoka, businesses, organizations and municipalities are being encouraged to participate in a campaign to support parents to breastfeed in public by becoming a breastfeeding friendly place.

In Ontario, breastfeeding parents have the right to breastfeed their child anytime and anywhere. They are protected to breastfeed in all public places, without being asked to stop, move or cover up. Parents are, in fact, legally protected from discrimination and harassment related to breastfeeding. As well, parents know that a child’s hunger—or need for comfort—isn’t scheduled and doesn’t wait, so breastfeeding in public is simply a part of real life.

However, studies have found that parents can feel reluctant to breastfeed in public places. The primary reasons identified are embarrassment, fear of disapproval and lack of comfortable facilities.

It calls for more than the support of family and friends. Studies suggest that living in a community where businesses, organizations and municipalities support breastfeeding in public can influence whether a parent decides to breastfeed at all and how long they breastfeed if they begin.

In Simcoe and Muskoka, 1 in 4 adults surveyed still say it is not acceptable for a parent to breastfeed at a restaurant or mall. Recent media headlines, both locally and elsewhere, also highlight some negative attitudes about breastfeeding in public, both locally and abroad.

  • “Breastfeeding Mom Is 'Humiliated' After Being Told To Nurse In Marshalls Bathroom Stall” (Huffington Post, Sept 2015)
  • “Mom says she was asked to leave Wiarton restaurant for breastfeeding” (Wiarton Echo, July 2015)
  • “Stranger tries to shame breastfeeding woman with online post” (AOL.com, June 2015).

The health unit is distributing “Breastfeeding Welcome” decals to help identify places that are participating. You might also see life-sized cutouts of local parents breastfeeding their children to increase the visibility of breastfeeding in public and to create awareness of the rights of parents to breastfeed their children in public. This is modeled on similar, effective campaigns in Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere in Ontario.

We all play a role in supporting parents to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. They need encouragement, recognition and reassurance. Consider offering a comfortable seat, share a positive comment, or a smile. Any of these small actions can make all the difference to a breastfeeding parent.

While the focus of this campaign is on creating breastfeeding friendly environments, all parents should feel comfortable feeding their children while they are in a public place. Communities need to provide all parents the information and support they need to feed their children safely. They are, after all, nurturing our next citizens.

If you would like more information about feeding your child, breastfeeding in public or about becoming a breastfeeding friendly place, call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, or visit our website at http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org

Dr. Simon is one of the associate medical officers of health in Simcoe Muskoka.

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